This American Life retracts show critical of Apple factory’s working conditions

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Mike Daisey

Mike Daisey (pictured above) has been performing his one-man show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, for the past year. On January 6th, an excerpt of the performance aired on the NPR show This American Life, which was the most popular program in its 16-year history. But on March 16th, Ira Glass, host of This American Life, retracted that episode saying “We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China—which we broadcast in January—contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth.”

These fabrications were discovered when Rob Schmitz, the China correspondent for Marketplace, talked to the interpreter that Mike Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen, China. When they asked Mike Daisey for her telephone number, he claimed to not have it, and because the other things he told them were true they didn’t try to locate her. This turned out to be a mistake, since what she said happened contradicted most of what Mike Daisey said, and she had the email correspondence between the two of them to back up her side of the story.

Ira Glass questioned Mike Daisey, and it turned out that a lot of what he talks about in his show were lies and never happened. For example, Mike talked about meeting people who had been poisoned at Foxconn’s factories with hexane and had uncontrollable shaking in their hands. It turns out Mike never met those people directly, but instead met workers in Hong Kong at an Apple protest who said they knew people who had been poisoned. He never met those afflicted directly, and instead relied upon a second-hand story. Mike defended his actions saying “I would say that I wanted to tell a story that captured the totality of my trip. So when I was building the scene of that meeting, I wanted to have the voice of this thing that had been happening that everyone been talking about.”

Mike Daisey further explained the reasoning behind his actions by saying that when the coverage of the Foxconn factories stopped and moved on to other stories, he wanted to find a way to make people care about the Chinese workers again. He told Ira Glass, “And I stand by it as a theatrical work. I stand by how it makes people see and care about the situation that’s happening there. I stand by it in the theater. And I regret, deeply, that it was put into this context on your show.” In other words, Mike wanted the audience to have certain opinions and feelings about what was going on in the Foxconn factories, and if he had to lie about what happened, then it was okay because it’s theater and, “I believe that when I perform it in a theatrical context in the theater that when people hear the story in those terms that we have different languages for what the truth means.”

You can listen to the March 16th This American Life show online as well as read the transcript (PDF) for more details on what is really happening in the Foxconn factories, as well as what Apple is doing to make the conditions better.

Via [The Seattle Times]

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