In the words of Mike Daisey, the “Retraction” episode of TAL is “excruciating.” The prolonged silences and razor sharp questions posed by Ira Glass seem to cut right through Daisey’s final shred of dignity and validity. Yet, was Daisey’s deception really that bad? Are we missing the more essential issue at hand? While Glass harps on Daisey for misleading him in a journalistic sense, we as the audience should not be so irate. On March 19, right after the “Retraction” episode aired, Daisey writes an intriguing blog post that changed my mind about his actions. He writes:
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…But understand that if you felt something that connected you with where your devices come from—that is not a lie. That is art. 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.
Daisey is trying to convey that if his story had been entirely factual, the emotional response would not have been as powerful. Thus, we would be less likely to respond and act on the terrible nature of Chinese manufacturing. I believe what Daisey did was justifiable. Of course, it wasn’t exactly journalism–Glass should have recognized that. Daisey just wanted a bigger stage to broadcast his message.
But, Daisey did lie. This leads to an even bigger question: who gets to lie and who doesn’t? Does it matter what the liar’s motives are? We have discussed in class that companies like Apple with shareholders deserve to know about pertinent news like an executive’s illness. Daisey does not really have any “shareholders,” so should he be held to the same standard? I would say not. Daisey’s cause was noble, and not one of pure deception. The overall message of Daisey’s monologue is what matters: somebody needs to do something about Chinese manufacturing. That is undeniable.