By definition and by my own subjective moral standards the “truth” lies in accordance with fact or reality. The retraction completely discredited what listeners of “This American Life” believed to be the truth, as well as Mike Dasiey’s own reputation. After listening to the podcast, I was utterly disgusted with Dasiey and his misleading account of his trip to Foxconn. Although Daisey did go to southern China, did meet with workers from Foxconn posing as a businessman with his translator Kathy, and did wear a Hawaiian shirt, his excess of lies that followed angered those who had vouched for him and dissatisfied listeners of his famous monologue. After further thought on the matter however, my disgust turned to somewhat of an understanding. Did Daisey betray the trust of “This American Life”, the public, and the media? Of course he did. But were Daisey’s lies necessary to bring forth questions consumers should be asking about our outsourced products? I believe so.
Throughout the podcast, Rob and Ira were basically calling Daisey out on all his lies and misleading remarks. There were no factory dorms, definite underage workers, security guards with guns, a man with a maimed hand, and n-hexane patients Daisey actually spoke to. However, among all of these exaggerations, Dasiey was able to open a lot of eyes to the harsh realities of factories in developing nations. Until this radio broadcast and the follow-up interviews Daisey agreed to attend, many of the issues presented in Daisey’s monologue were ever brought up in such an immense public discussion. His inflated account sparked the technology industry and humanitarian journalists into action, and major newspapers even corroborated his story to ignite a public reaction to Apple’s unlawful practices. I’m not saying that Dasiey shouldn’t be at fault for his embellishments, but it certainly allowed issues to surface that perhaps wouldn’t have.
It’s very easy to say that Daisey’s monologue was a desperate way to self-promote his work which he described as “the best work he’s ever made”. But is there a possibility that his purpose (stated in the retraction) to “make people care” was an altruistic act on the Dasiey’s part? One of the statements that really allowed me to analyze this story the way I did was when Kathy explained she wasn’t upset with Daisey for amplifying his experience because “he’s a writer, not a journalist – he’s allowed to exaggerate”. Daisey then supported her statement in a follow-up interview for “This American Life” claiming, “My mistake, the mistake that I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism. And it’s not journalism. It’s theater.” When we look at the entertainment industry, many movies embellish tragedies to spark an emotional reaction out of people. Movies like Titanic, Remember the Titans and Pearl Harbor all have basic historical facts with an added storyline and fictional characters; all in the efforts to express a point and of course, bring in the most revenue. Even though Daisey’s exaggerations were used to sell tickets to his monologue, appear on radio and TV networks, and put his name out into the world with a gripping story, he found a way to make a sad story catchy enough to stay in our minds.