News, Art and Half Truths

I like many in the class, was disappointed by the admission of Mike Daisey that many of the situations in his monologue did not actually take place.  However, much of the factual information is true and he effectively drew a lot of attention to the poor working conditions in China caused by Apple at Foxconn.  I want to key in on the section of the interview on This American Life where they interview about Daisey the falsified information.  Clearly the majority of the class and NPR considers his actions unethical. so I want to raise the discussion of at what point did he cross a line from art to lying?

Ira Glass asks Daisey why he wasn’t forthright during the fact checking process.  Daisey responds, “I think I was terrified, that if I untied these things, the work, that I know is really good and tells a story…  That does these really great things for making people care, it would be come part, in a way would ruin everything.”  And unfortunately that’s exactly what happened.  When the truth came out that he had misrepresented his story, it deteriorated all of the trust and caring that had come about because of his monologue.  I completely understand why NPR and Ira Glass were miffed and felt betrayed.  This American Life is a radio show that has a wide listener base and prides itself on presenting engaging, balanced and factually accurate news pieces.

Things become more gray, however, when the form moves from journalism to theater.  Would it be possible that Daisey could have delivered the exact same monologue in an ethical way?  What if he had started with a disclaimer that he had not directly experienced all of the events in the story, but they were all based on true facts and happenings.  I can sympathize that he wanted his story to be played on the radio and spread the knowledge about where our tech products actually come from, but in doing so he made compromises that altered the truth and lost the trust of his audience.  I believe Mike Daisey is a good man with good intentions, who made a poor decision to compromise.  As his work grew in popularity he became increasingly trapped in those lies.

Where do you think Daisey crossed the ethical line?  And do you think there should be different standards for the theater versus a news radio show?  If so, to what degree?


2 responses to “News, Art and Half Truths

  1. I like your approach to this situation, especially your discussion of the gray area. I agree completely with your third paragraph. I agree that the more popular his work got, the harder it was for him to break free from his lies, so I can only imagine his difficulty in admitting his wrongdoing after being called back to The American Life. I think Daisey crossed the ethical line first when he had the opportunity to classify his work as “based on a true story” but didn’t and consequently deceived a large audience of trusting people. He crossed the ethical line again when he was given a clear opportunity to say “yes, I lied”, but he instead tried to continue backing up his lies with more lies.


  2. Carolina, you make an interesting point about how Daisey even handled the retraction. His apology and “truth telling” seem only half there. I think had he walked into the interview and been more forthright about correcting the mistakes, instead of trying to justify them, the inconsistencies may have overlooked more quickly. Unfortunately, he didn’t handle it well and there will forever be an asterisk associated with this story.


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