Painting A Picture: Art, Journalism, & Truth


Listening to the retraction from This American Life, I was annoyed as I listened to Mike Daisy squirm under the questions of Rob Schmitz and Ira Glass. It was as if a child was caught stealing from a cookie jar and was trying to justify why he still deserved the cookie, or why his work should still be deemed credible. He was clearly uncomfortable during both interviews and rightfully so in my opinion. Daisy’s believes his lies are the truth and that it’s okay because his show was about making people care. This irritated me. Lies are lies and they should not be displayed to others as the truth.

Before listening to the original, non-retracted podcast, I was aware of the human rights violations and harsh labor conditions Chinese workers endure. After the podcast however, my opinion of the Chinese government and laws drastically changed. I formed an unfair opinion of the Chinese government, society and their modern culture. Daisy led me to believe the Chinese government seemingly does not care about underage workers or believe in workers compensation. This paints a picture that China is still in early developing stages of its industrialized society, versus a more modern China. After hearing the retracted version and hearing the translator Kathy state that she would be very surprised if she saw underage workers and Charles Duhigg list facts creating a very different picture of Chinese culture, I felt duped.

Theatre and journalism are not the same – the credibility is very different. Mike Daisy agreed with Ira Glass on this point. Daisy continued to annoy me, however, as he pushed the limits of the conversation with Glass by stating he did not see it as a piece of fiction. He goes on to say “I think you can trust my word in the context of the theatre.” What does he mean by this, because my confidence in him to speak the truth is low. I think most people would agree with Glass that this should have been labeled as fiction with elements of truth. I understand Daisy’s goal of making people care but I think he goes about it in the wrong manner. There are ways to make people care without lying to them and shaping people’s opinion off of false information. Additionally, it discredits human rights organizations and movements who understand the real issues.

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4 thoughts on “Painting A Picture: Art, Journalism, & Truth”

  1. I think you hit on some great points. You mentioned that you felt duped after hearing Daisey during the Retraction piece. Would you have preferred to have heard nothing and kept your opinion or are you happy that at least now you know the truth about the Foxconn plant? Do you think Daisey was pressured at all by TAL or his fan base to come on for the Retraction?

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  2. Before reading your post I had not considered Mike Daisey’s information as being untruthful, but just not something he actually experienced. Your post helped me think about the possibility that Daisey was unfairly exaggerating labor problems in China. Whether he was exaggerating or using information he gathered elsewhere, Daisey may have thought that the more extreme he could make his story, the more people would feel strongly towards it. This does seem to be unethical like you said as Daisey is helping people form an opinion about a subject that they are not properly informed on.

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  3. Ok, but did Ira Glass really own up to his mistake enough? Maybe, once he had Daisey sounding so bad on the tape, he saw a good way to make someone else look even worse. Glass is the arbiter of journalism here, not Daisey.

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