A couple of months ago, we pointed your attention to the work of monologist Mike Daisey, a writer and performer whose one-man show — The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs — purported to dive deep into the dark world of Apple’s often controversial production practices. As broadcast on This American Life it was a harrowing, revealing tale of abuses of workers, choking pollution, ruined lives, and capitalism run amok.
Daisey’s recounted journey to Shenzhen’s infamous Foxconn plant was eye-opening, riveting, and revelatory. It was also, as it turns out, filled with lies.
If you keep one ear to the digital ground, you know that all of Mike Daisey's various untruths came unraveled by one of his biggest champions — public media. Working for American Public Media's Marketplace, Rob Schmitz tracked down Daisey's interpreter and found out that, yes, some of his facts were too bad to be true. Eventually, Ira Glass of "This American Life" — who had presented Daisey's work to the masses — sat down with the playwright for one of the most uncomfortable interviews it has ever been our displeasure to hear. Between denials, prevarications, and half-admissions, it became clear that that some of the most nail-biting and touching moments of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs simply didn’t happen. A playwright, Daisey used what he believed was artistic license to gin up what others believed was the truth.There were no underage Foxconn workers and no veteran laborer with a mangled hand saying iPads were, “a kind of magic.” These breathtaking abuses of human rights are fictional and, as you might expect, Daisey has headed for cover.
As the author of these untruths continues to pepper the public sphere with both honest, thoughtful apologies and cheap, self-serving rationalizations, we’re wondering about what we wrote about him and what it means given that Daisey can no longer be trusted. Should we continue to press the fight against Apple and other producers of consumer electronics and apparel, or is there nothing to fight against?
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