If you’ve listened to Mike Daisey for any fraction of his tough-talking rise to prominence bashing Apple, you get the distinct impression that he can’t keep his mouth shut. The latest entry into Daisey’s blog attempts to refocus the discussion about his work, the work it turns out was based on lies. Even after everything that’s been written about him, the man refuses to see what he did for what it is: outright deception for personal gain.
Read on as he continues his campaign of obfuscation, with one blogger’s commentary. As long as he keeps talking, I’ll keep writing.
“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” —another American monologist
Mike Daisey: Mark Twain reborn.
Many consider this week’s THIS AMERICAN LIFE episode one of the most painful they’ve ever listened to. In particular the segment with me is excruciating—four hours of grilling edited down to fifteen minutes. I thought the dead air was a nice touch, and finishing the episode with audio pulled out of context from my performance was masterful.
The only pain involved was listening to how utterly betrayed Ira Glass sounded. You came off sounding like a mouse getting batted around by a cat before you were shallowed whole. It was delicious.
That’s Ira’s choice, and it’s his show. He’s a storyteller within the context of radio journalism, and I am a storyteller in the theater.
So we begin The Ecstasy of Mike Daisey’s Semantic Masturbation, the continuation of the epic whack session he started by attempting to defend his work to Glass on TAL’s Retraction episode. Ira Glass is a journalist, in the context of journalism. Mike Daisey is an actor who feigned being a journalist, in that his observations of Chinese labor conditions were actually real events seen through his eyes. Except he lied his ass off when he was saying these things. He lied so much about so many things to so many people that maybe he believed what he was shoveling. Then he got caught, humiliatingly, and now he’s seeking refuge as an “actor” again. Except people aren’t buying it, nor should they. It’s spineless equivocation, and people are sick of him.
In the last forty-eight hours I have been equated with Stephen Glass, James Frey, and Greg Mortenson.
You’re none of these people, nor will you be mentioned in their company when you’re dead.
Given the tenor of the condemnation, you would think I had concocted an elaborate, fanciful universe filled with furnaces in which babies are burned to make iPhone components, or that I never went to China, never stood outside the gates of Foxconn, never pretended to be a businessman to get inside of factories, never spoke to any workers.
You probably did all those things. Those weren’t the things that triggered the outrage at Apple. Those weren’t the details that put people in the seats of your off-off Broadway hatchet job. Let me refresh your memory about those things, on the off chance you’ve forgotten:
- You claimed you talked to workers that were 14, 13 and 12, a claim your translator denies. Then you changed your story and insisted that you did speak to someone who was 13, again a claim your translator denies.
- You claimed to have had a touching moment with a man who had his hand crushed working on Apple products. That moment never happened and the man never said he sustained his injury working at Foxconn.
- You claimed to have talked to people suffering from the effects of n-hexane poisoning, and described their condition in gut-wrenching detail. Except you never met these people.
- You claimed to have witnessed deplorable dormitory conditions, with 15 beds jammed into 10 by 12 foot rooms. You never saw a Foxconn dorm.
And these are just a sampling of the big lies.
Especially galling (I’ll give your a minute to chuckle at Mike Daisey using the word “galling”) is how many are gleefully eager to dance on my grave expressly so they can return to ignoring everything about the circumstances under which their devices are made. Given the tone, you would think I had fabulated an elaborate hoax, filled with astonishing horrors that no one had ever seen before.
The gleeful dancing on your grave comes from the joy of seeing liars called out. It’s the oldest and purest version of schadenfreude – what that word used to mean before its definition was muddied to include successful people generically. It’s the joy of seeing self-righteous assholes who didn’t deserve the fame they had heaped upon them become vilified. Over and over and over. The “horrors” above were things people hadn’t seen before because you made them up.
There is nothing in this controversy that contests the facts in my work about the nature of Chinese manufacturing. Nothing. I think we all know if there was, Ira would have brought it up.
Nothing, except all of it. You see, Mike, pathological lies are like termites or cockroaches: when you see one, there’s guaranteed to be a hundred times more that you can’t see. You lied about things great and small, mundane and shocking. The pestilence of your untruth is staggering. It changes everything you have to say about the topic.
You certainly don’t need to listen to me.
I don’t think the people that did ever will again.
Read the New York Times reporting.
You mean the parts they didn’t have to retract?
Listen to the NPR piece that ran just last week in which workers at an iPad plant go on record saying the plant was inspected by Apple just hours before it exploded, and that the inspection lasted all of ten minutes.
What you did doesn’t change facts, which is sure unfortunate because what you did will change everything about how people will perceive them. Because your attack on the issues were predicated on so many lies, because you couldn’t be content to sit at your table in “the context of theater”, because you had to hit every press outlet you could “in the context of journalism”, people will never listen to one source as the end-all of how anything goes down regarding Chinese labor again.
If you think this story is bigger than that story, something is wrong with your priorities.
No one thinks that. They just think that lying about material facts to drum up a story that also happens to line your pockets with cash is a pretty big fucking deal. Turns out people don’t like to pay for things under the auspices of truth-telling only to find out that the shit wasn’t true. People are funny like that.
If people want to use me as an excuse to return to denialism about the state of our manufacturing, about the shape of our world, they are doing that to themselves.
I’m sure people will do this, and it speaks to Daisey’s delusional level of denial that he thinks he bears none of the blame. And it doesn’t make him a martyr. As other people have said, Daisey has done more to stop people from caring about the issues in Shenzhen than the facts ever could. Congratulations.
To radio listeners: I apologized in this week’s episode to anyone who felt betrayed. I stand by that apology. But understand that if you felt something that connected you with where your devices come from—that is not a lie. That is art.
It’s just based on lies (fap fap fap).
That is human empathy, and it is real, and even if you curse my name I hope you’ll recognize that and continue reading, caring, and thinking.
Human empathy based on lies turns to betrayal on a dime. Reap it, motherfucker.
To my audiences: It’s you that I owe the most to. I want you all to know that I will not go silent—I will be making a full accounting of this work, shining a light through this monologue and telling the story of its origins, construction, and details.
No one cares. The people who indulged your show wanted to get to the heart of the question “Should I feel badly about buying from Apple?” And the answer you gave them, from the seat of someone who pretended to witness it first-hand, is “Yes, you should.” Your answers were based on lies. If people would have been prompted before your ranting that what you had to say was a mix of truth and fiction, you wouldn’t have broke even on your production, you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to shoehorn your ass into interview couches at HBO, ABC and CBS. And if there’s any justice in the world, you won’t be put in that position again. Because people know.
I believe the truth is vitally important. I continue to believe that. I believe that I will answer for the things I have done.
Gotcha. I assume the point at which you “answer for the things” comes when you’re dead, because even though you’ve had plenty of opportunities, you’ve done nothing but justify and equivocate i.e. the opposite of “answer for”.
I told Ira that story should always be subordinate to the truth, and I still believe that. Sometimes I fall short of that goal, but I will never stop trying to achieve it.
You did more than “fall short of that goal.” You twisted the truth to suit your purpose; you rode this country’s darling tech brand, pulling on its tits for all the money you could squeeze out of them. You subjugated the truth to turn a buck, and the community of people who supported you and attended your shows know it now. I encourage Daisey to keep writing. Nothing could more effectively seal his crypt of obscurity than his own words.