This is NOT Based on a True Story

In our daily lives we watch a different variety of movies, TV shows etc., and if we believed in everything we watch, then our lives would be full of drama and problems. Yes, sometimes the movies or shows we watch affect us deeply, and we have a strong emotional reaction to them, but we usually don’t devastate ourselves over them, since we have the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Mike Daisey’s show is a form of entertainment, and even if he is very successful in fabricating his story, and making the audience believe it is real, at the end of the day his end goal is to entertain his audience, therefore its acceptable for him to use exaggerations to make his audience laugh. In the case of the Apple story however, his primary purpose is to make people aware of the labor conditions in China, and he does a good job in doing so.

What if every entertainment piece we watched was advertised as being NOT based on a true story? Would we still want to go see all those movies, even though we know that the events that are going to be presented in the movie never really happened to someone? In real life, the trend is the reverse. The movies that are actually based on a real story are advertised as: BASED ON A TRUE STORY and that intrigues us, because we know that we can relate to it more since whatever is going to happen in the movie has already happened in real life, and has a possibility of happening to us. All of these movies, whether fictional or based on a true story serve a greater purpose besides solely entertaining the audience. Movies teach us lessons. Even if we know that a movie is not based on a real story, it can teach us great things about what to do and what to avoid in real life, and they raise awareness in that sense.

Mike Daisey is a writer. He is not a journalist. He is both trying to entertain people and at the same time also trying to raise awareness for the poor working conditions in China. Ira Glass suggested to Mike Daisey, that when he was going around participating in shows and telling his “story” he should have disclaimed it from the beginning that his “story” is not real. Would this have the same effect on people? Would there still be thousands of downloads of his shows if he started the show as saying “What I’m about to tell you is NOT based on a true story and is purely fictional”? Would people still listen? Yes, he crossed the line when he didn’t tell Ira Glass and TAL that his story was not real, because in this situation a lot more people were involved than just Mike Daisey itself, and I find it wrong that he told his fabricated story in a show where the value of objectivity and the truth is held high. I think that he could have found more alternative ways of distributing his story, for the purpose of raising awareness, without damaging the integrity of TAL and other people who were involved in the process.


9 thoughts on “This is NOT Based on a True Story”

  1. Great post. You mentioned that you thought Daisey crossed a line when he didn’t tell Ira Glass that his story wasn’t real. Do you think at this point Mike Daisey is speaking as an entertainer, as a die-hard activist, or is just plain crazy? To me, listening to this part of the interview, he sounds desperate. He can’t bring himself to admit that the whole thing was a ploy to get attention for a cause that he is passionate about. I’m not sure what pressure Mike Daisey was feeling from his fans and from his critics at the time of the interview that made him answer that question that way.

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  2. I agree that Mike Daisey is an entertainer and his show is a form of entertainment meant to hold peoples’ attention and make them care about labor conditions in China. Mike Daisey’s story is also based on a true story. He went to China and did some research on labor conditions. He also made up some additional information and added it to his story in order to produce a piece of entertainment. This happens all the time. He crossed the line when he lied that it was completely true and not based on a true story. If he had admitted it was based on a true story, Ira Glass may have even been able to run the story after mentioning that Mike Daisey’s show is based on a true story. They could have had a discussion about what was “real” and what was “made up” and why Mike Daisey felt the need to “make up” certain parts of the story.

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  3. Shaun, I think you bring up a good question when you say “Do you think at this point Mike Daisey is speaking as an entertainer, as a die-hard activist, or is just plain crazy?”. I agree with you that he struggled a lot when he was answering Ira’s questions, and there was a lot of long, awkward silences as evidence to his struggle. I don’t think I can label him into one specific category, but I think that he was somewhere in between all three when he decided to lie on a reputable radio show. Maybe he wanted more recognition and popularity, which would show his entertainer side, maybe he really wanted the Apple consumers to see the reality of how their “fancy” products are produced, which would show his activist side, or maybe he just didn’t care about honesty or any other value that journalism should hold and did it out of pure self-enjoyment, which would demonstrate his plain crazy side. I think the argument can go any way.


    1. Also, I was interviewed for four hours and exhausted. Also my pieces are edited together. Also I never imagined that silences would be left in, which I’d been told repeatedly would never happen.

      People aren’t very good at seeing the frame.


  4. Yes, I agree that Mike Daisey’s story is based on a true story, but there is a good amount of added events and “details” in the story that makes it less “based on a true story” then some movies we see in our daily lives. I think if Mike Daisey mentioned that his story is based on a true story, Ira Glass and most of the audience would still believe that the greater version of the story is true, which it’s not, so I think you suggestion of discussing what’s actually true and what’s not, would be a good idea. This would both inform the audience and keep the integrity of TAL and Mike Daisey intact.


  5. I do not think it would have had the same effect on people if he would have disclaimed his story from the beginning. However, he lost credibility by not doing so. There would not have been as much of an uproar if he was truthful with TAL. I agree with Shaun. I also found it shocking that he could not admit the monologue was a ploy to gain attention around poor working conditions. Instead of owning up to fabricating what happened and the chronology of events, Daisey avoided truthfully answering the questions he was asked during the TAL retraction interview. At that point, I do not see why he would not tell the truth. TAL spoke with his translator and discovered the fabrication of his story.

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  6. Did you listen to the “Retraction” episode?

    When we see based on a true story, do we have to start discounting it? How much reality is necessary to be labeled “based on a true story?”


  7. It is interesting that you relate his podcast and show to television. Entertainment television is not a viable source of information, yet we sometimes treat it as such. I enjoyed reading your discussion on movies being based on true stories and people taking them for face value. I think it says something about our society though. For example, may people believe take articles, journals, etc. to be face value. As a society and especially in college, it is important that we learn to explore and research material and not take everything at face value.


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