The Context of Theater


“The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy.”
-Abraham Lincoln, 1864

After listening to the article, I don’t feel that it makes sense to say that either Glass or Daisey are strictly right or wrong in their speech or thoughts. While Glass is right to feel betrayed by Daisey and upset for broadcasting a “false” story, Glass did have the opportunity to fact check the show with the non-journalist and he did not. While it was wrong (in the sense that it was not up to journalism standards) for Daisey to lie about what he had seen and experienced instead of labeling his monologue as fiction or based on true events, it is true that Foxconn and other Apple suppliers have working conditions that many Americans would consider to be unfair and in the end Daisey did expose some of these very real problems.

Was it “unethical” for Daisey to lie? I think it was unethical for Daisey to specifically say that he was going to share the truth, and that he did not. I agree with Daisey that his piece was not fiction; however, I think that he could have labeled his monologue as “based on true events” and mixed what he had really experienced with things he had researched (ex: the hexane poisoned workers) and things that he felt would add to the drama of his story (the man with the claw hand exploring an iPad for the first time).

As for Glass, I think he is completely justified in feeling deceived–because he was. However, I don’t think that everything would have been better off had this program not aired. Daisey wanted to make people care, and in that he was successful.

“And everything I have done in making this monologue for the theater was bent toward that end, to make people care. I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard. But I stand behind the work.
My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism. And it’s not journalism. It’s theater. It uses the tools of theater and memoir to achieve its dramatic arc.
And of that arc and that work I’m very proud. Because I think it made you care, Ira. And I think it made you want to delve. And my hope is it has made other people delve.” 

I think that this statement is the most profound of Retraction because Daisey suggests that he sees that the main conflict in this segment really is between journalism and theater, not truth and lies. While I do think Glass is right to be mad, I think he’s too focused on that he was lied to. Instead, I think he should recognize that Daisey’s anecdotes fabricated or not, are representative of the conditions that Foxconn (and other Apple supplier) workers are in that are not ideal and would not be tolerated in the United States. And while I don’t think that either Glass or Daisey are right or wrong, I am not personally offended by Daisey’s lies because in the end, Apple is an American company and just because they outsource production does not mean that ethics should culturally change if the change leads to worse human conditions.

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10 responses to “The Context of Theater

  1. After reading a few other blog posts that take stances either for or against Daisey, I think you’ve found a nice middle ground. Glass should have acknowledged the error both on his part and on Daisey’s, given Daisey a stage for his apology, and then continue to talk about the truthful elements of the monologue to drive home the point that the working conditions in Chinese manufacturing plants is deplorable. . I am hesitant, however, to let Daisey completely off the hook. If we say it is ok for one man to lie on a national stage, where do we draw the line?

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  2. Unfortunately, we actually allow plenty of other people and organizations to lie on a national scale. Is there a way to stop or correct these mistruths before they emerge via mass media? And should individuals be the ones responsible for determining whether or not to trust the information presented?

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  3. The same quote that you pointed out had really stuck with me as well. I agree that the contradiction is between the pretense of journalism and theatre, as if his piece had been presented as art, it would not have generated the same shocked response. I think this emphasizes the need for journalists and artists alike to be absolutely upfront about their work so that we can avoid another situation like this.

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    • I agree with you on this contradiction. While Daisy’s intentions were to shed light on terrible working conditions at facilities such as Foxconn, the reality is that his lies undid the work he put in to this monologue. When he was caught in his lies, the focus turned from the poor working conditions which still exist, to the issue of honesty and clearing blame from people’s professional names.

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  4. I do agree Daisey that had good intentions and was ultimately successful in alerting the public about the conditions in Foxconn. However, I think Ira Glass was completely justified in his anger and feeling of betrayal, even if it stems from a degree of self interest. This American Life is a popular radio show and podcast that has built its reputation on delivering engaging, sometimes unusual and factually sound stories. The airing of Daisey’s story threatens to erode the integrity of and trust in the show. And I assume that the reputation of the show is of the higher importance for Glass in this situation.

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  5. Something I found interesting from your blog post was when you said that Daisey could have labeled his monologue as “based on true events”. I think that this could have worked for him and he still would have been able to get his point across without being called a liar. Everyone still would have questioned Apple’s ethics even if they were told that some things could not be backed up by concrete evidence. I also like how you mention that he was successful in making people care and becoming more aware of the issue. We have spent time listening to podcasts, commenting on blogs and discussing this in class, so clearly Daisey was successful in that regard.

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  6. I like your stance on the ethics behind outsourcing to foreign nations. It seems hypocritical that a company like Apple claims to be “expanding opportunities for workers and ensuring that they’re treated with respect and dignity” would exploit the cheap labor from Foxconn (Apple’s supplier responsibility page). Why shouldn’t these same ethical values apply overseas?

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