Author and performer Mike Daisey was the subject of this week’s “This American Life,” a show, he writes on his blog, many consider “one of the most painful they’ve ever listened to … four hours of grilling edited down to fifteen minutes.”
He is, of course, referring to questioning regarding his recently retracted story about a Foxconn factory in China that manufactures Apple products. Daisey stands by the essence of his story, having previously noted that he is a performer and a memoirist — not a journalist. He apologized to those who felt betrayed by the “This American Life” episode entitled, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” which ran in January, excerpted from his one-man show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”
The March 16 episode of Ira Glass’s NPR show explored the retraction and the show’s fact-checking process. The interview between Glass and Daisey was reminiscent of that between Oprah and “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey when he returned to her show after it was revealed that he had fictionalized his past as a drug-addicted criminal.
“I thought the dead air was a nice touch, and finishing the episode with audio pulled from my performance was masterful,” he writes. “In the last forty-eight hours I have been equated with Stephen Glass, James Frey, and Greg Mortenson. 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 … Especially 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.”
Daisey, who also wrote “21 Dog Years,” detailing his tenure at Amazon in Seattle, writes that the controversy doesn’t contest the nature of conditions of Chinese manufacturing.
“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,” he writes. “If you think this story is bigger than that story, something is wrong with your priorities. … I believe the truth is vitally important. I continue to believe that. I believe that I will answer for the things I have done. 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.”
Do you think Daisey is being rightfully lampooned? Or should people be taking his act for what it is — performance art with truth at its core?