So Whose Fault is it?

Following the release of the excerpt of Mike Daisey’s performance on This American Life in 2012, both TAL and Mike Daisey received tremendous backlash from fans around the country. For this blog post, I want voice my opinion on where I think the blame should be placed, and if the reactions by either Daisey or Ira Glass were warranted in the Retraction piece. 

After listening to the Retraction by Ira Glass with contributions from Rob Schmitz, my thoughts were “OK, now what?” It had been obvious to me after listening to Mike Daisey’s piece that his story was fabricated. Why was TAL so concerned about proving that Daisey’s story was false?

If TAL is really the “journalistic non-fiction” type of radio show that they identify as, then they did a pretty horrible job “fact-checking” Mike Daisey’s story.  For example, in its 2012 progress report, it found that 97% of the factories audited were in compliance with the “prevention of child labor practices” policy. Yet Daisey claimed to stumble on a handful of underage employees hanging around the gates in Shenzhen? It would have taken very little effort on the part of TAL to figure this out.

Daisey reports meeting victims of hexane poisoning when the only reported instances occurred 1000 miles away. As noted, he reports that Foxconn’s security guards are armed. Yet TAL decides to air these wildly unlikely charges without any corroborating evidence. Their “fact checking” apparently consisted in asking Daisey “are you sure?” While I am not in support of what Daisey did, I think what this comes down to is the fact that Mike Daisey is not a journalist. He is, at his core, an entertainer. When Daisey was answering Schmitz & Glass’ questions, it almost seemed to me like he was playing dumb. He did not take their “interrogation” seriously at all.

To conclude, I think Apple has a case against Daisey for providing misleading material to a wide audience in what was advertised as “journalistic non-fiction.” I also think that TAL did a terrible job of placing their trust in one man’s reputation and not doing their due diligence.




7 thoughts on “So Whose Fault is it?”

  1. Although some of the information Daisey talks about is misleading, he still has some viable points. He is generating commotion about Apple’s harmful manufacturing processes. Isn’t a good thing that he is exposing Apple although not every little aspect checks out?


  2. I think you bring up a great point about how there is big blame to put on TAL. If their fact checking process only consists of asking the guest “Are you sure?”, then there is clearly something wrong about it. I think now the integrity of the whole show is in question, since who can say that they didn’t go through the same process for other episodes of TAL? What if the guests in half of their shows “fabricated” stories, but TAL never discovered this? Yes Mike Daisey was wrong about lying to TAL, but if they are a reputable “journalistic non-fiction” radio show like you say, then shouldn’t their protocol about fact checking be way more strict?


  3. China Labor Watch, an outside watchdog group, did surveys across many factories in 2010, about when Daisey would have visited China, which he did, so that isn’t “false.”

    Here is what they reported:

    Of the survey results and the gravest classes of labor violations, the following statistics are notable:

    A) The ability for workers to organize and express their grievances is extremely limited, and poses a serious problem. In 88.2% of the surveyed factories, there was no functional or effective trade union or grievance mechanism system.

    B) In 87% of the factories, daily overtime work exceeded three hours or there was no guarantee of one day of rest each week. Not one factory met the legal requirements for overtime monthly maximum of 36 hours. In the surveyed factories, overtime hours in excess of 100 hours was the norm, and some were even in excess of 200 hours.

    C) 82.6% of the factories surveyed do not pay wages in accordance with Chinese labor laws, with regards to minimum wage and/or overtime rates. As workers have no means of engaging in collective bargaining, there is little hope of wages increases.


  4. Here is CLW’s 2015 update on how Apple’s own pressure on supply chain firms leads to undermining its own vaunted standards.

    “Although Apple claims they have strict internal auditing of supplier labor conditions, our investigation and analysis found that labor conditions at major suppliers are still substandard. Workers still do overtime far in excess of even Apple’s own standard. Under this competition structure, suppliers that improve labor conditions are at a disadvantage. Apple is the major beneficiary of this supply chain structure.”


  5. Jordi, the information from these independent parties is really useful. I think these reports might surprise a lot of people, however, I was not all that surprised that Apple’s claims were wrong. After listening to the “Big Pool of Money” and watching the “Inside Job”, I have been skeptical of believing what companies report (especially internally).

    Who should we trust? Who is right? Who else has information that could help us know what really IS happening in Foxconn/Pegatron?


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