After listening to This American Life’s Retraction episode, I was still severely unsatisfied with Mike Daisey’s justification. After all, Ira Glass and the TAL staff made it abundantly clear to him the purpose of their show, and that everything he said “must live up to journalistic standards.” Yet through his own twisted moral compass and complete disregard for integrity Daisey chose to lie to millions of people anyway. Last week, I claimed that Mike Daisey did more harm that good to his cause by lying about what he saw at Foxconn. He discredited himself and everything he was trying to raise awareness about. I also could not bring myself to blame Apple or hold anything against them for the alleged conditions at some of their suppliers. This week, not only do I stand by both of these statements but the Retraction episode only strengthens by belief in them.
Mike Daisey’s justification for his lies was incredibly weak. It seemed clear to me that the first time he went on the show in “Retraction,” he had no idea what to say. It seemed like he was still lying, but trying to lie less and classify lies as “exaggerations.” I think Ira’s anger at Daisey is therefore entirely justified. He was very clear about what TAL was, and the standards of reporting Daisey had to live up to. As a result, his own reputation was tarnished and his trust was broken. Then, when given the opportunity to come clean about everything, he didn’t really take it. I don’t think there is any defense for these actions.
I also didn’t buy Daisey’s questionable explanation about how his monologue was theater and he simply hosted it on the wrong forum of a journalistic show. When he called back into the studio a second time, it was clear he had a few days to formulate a better response, claiming he did it at a time when coverage of the issue had just stopped, and as a result nobody seemed to care anymore. He wanted to just keep the conversation going and show people that they should still care. However, this logic didn’t make sense to me either. Perhaps the coverage stopped because Apple finally addressed some serious issues in their supply chain. After all, even Ira Glass agrees that harsh conditions in Chinese factories shouldn’t necessarily live up to American standards. Furthermore, the two instances of harsh conditions versus life threatening instances are drastically different.