Does Ira Glass Hate Mike Daisey?


This week, I listened to the Retraction episode of This American Life. I found the characters involved in the podcast to be more interesting than the topic they were discussing, and my blog post will focus on this aspect of the podcast.

Mike and Ira are two very interesting characters, and they are now forever connected. This post will analyze my emotional reaction to Mike’s apology, as well as my thoughts on Ira’s response to Mike’s apology.

Mike has a unique, deliberate speaking style full of uncomfortable, thought provoking pauses that truly give you the sense that he choses every word he says carefully. This same style that makes him such an interesting, attention capturing, thought provoking monologuist makes him very unlikable when he comes back on the show during the retraction episode. To say that it is his speaking style that made him unlikable in his return to the show sells himself short: it is his refusal to admit that he duped Ira, and duped the public that makes him the most unlikable. His speaking style simply exacerbates the frustration a listener feels listening to Mike defend his journey to China. I am honestly surprised he would return to the show if his message was going to summarize to the following in my opinion: he admits that he deceived listeners to make them care, but quickly, proudly, and loudly points to the fact listeners now care! They care! and that matters more to him than the fact that he deceived them, which I did not like.

A quick point on Ira’s reaction to Mike’s retraction. He did not take very kindly to Mike’s retraction, and I don’t blame him because I didn’t either. However, isn’t this the best thing that ever happened to Ira’s show? Mike’s original podcast was the most downloaded podcast ever of This American Life. And I firmly believe that the followup podcast amounts to “there’s no such thing as bad news” as a boon to Ira’s show. I wonder if his on air anger at Mike is supplemented by an off-air appreciation– one that he would never admit to Mike– that Daisey’s monologue on his show and the circus that followed was the best thing that could have happened to Ira: it did not damage his journalistic integrity, and created a huge boon of interest in him and his show.

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3 thoughts on “Does Ira Glass Hate Mike Daisey?”

  1. “I am honestly surprised he would return to the show”

    I felt I owed it to Ira. I also feel he took advantage of that opportunity, but I still think it was the right thing for me to do. I could have easily not gone on, denied loudly, and shafted them much more fully.

    “However, isn’t this the best thing that ever happened to Ira’s show?”

    I feel very certain Ira doesn’t feel this way at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mike, thank you for reading and for the feedback! I appreciate the time you took to look at our blog and I am looking forward to watching/reading more of your work in the future.

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  2. I can’t know for sure what was on Ira Glass’ and his producers’ minds, but it is also plausible that faced with the ire or criticism of other journalists, like the ones they say contacted them, and then given the gift of Mike Daisey’s tape, using their show to put Daisey in the worst possible light certainly may have deflected criticism from them.

    There were other choices at their disposal. Which is why ethics, at the level of details, of action, is always present. Ira Glass could have simply reviewed the 5 (?) problematic elements, described they were unsatisfied with Daisey’s answers, and then proceeded to discuss the real issues in China that are raised by Daisey’s work, by the power of story-telling. They could have talked to people in China creating change on the ground, like China Labor Watch or others.

    It’s a life of choices, even when those are constrained by markets or society. But there are always some choices.

    I’ve said in class and elsewhere, but I’ll repeat, Mike Daisey could have made other choices too.

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