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Daisey's Dilemma

After I heard Mike Daisey tell his monologue about Apple on This American Life back in January, I decided that it was one of the most interesting episodes of the show that I've yet listened to. The reason I thought it was so good was because it was a very well told story. Allegations of sweat shop conditions in developing countries are nothing new and frankly, the stuff in Daisey's story passed my smell test.

(from Aaron Webb on Flickr)

Of course, we now know that Daisey's story contained a lot of fiction. But when I listened to Daisey on This American Life's retraction episode last weekend, my interpretation of Daisey's opinion is that his deepest regret is getting caught. He seems to truly feel like his story, even with the fabrications, is justifiable, because it's for the greater good. A logician would probably call Daisey a pious fraud.

What's even more troubling is this clip that I heard on Marketplace yesterday morning - it's a prologue that Daisey is now delivering before his live performances.
I wanted to let you know that This American Life is airing an episode this weekend that calls into question the veracity of the personal experiences in this monologue. I want you to understand that’s what’s being called into question are the personal experiences. The facts of what the situation is in China in manufacturing are undisputed. And they are reinforced by the New York Times, CNN, NPR…
Emphasis mine - and here's what's so bizzarre about this logic... Daisey wrote an op-ed in the New York Times! He appeared on one of the most popular and respected public radio programs (albeit not an NPR program, but a lot of people think it is). So the sources that he uses to justify his story are essentially the same sources that Daisey single-handedly brought a lot of harm to.

At this point it's important to remember that news organizations themselves don't write articles - people, authors write articles. Daisey was one of many writers whose work appears in the New York Times. When someone says somelike like "The New York Times writes that..." that's not really true. The newspaper may have printed it, but there's always some author, or authors, who wrote it.

Of course, the whole Judith Miller affair a few years ago really threw a wrench into the whole idea that news organizations automatically provide credibility coverage to any author whose work they published. After all, Miller essentially lied in the New York Times the same way that Daisey lied on This American Life. Unless you believe in this case that any press is good press, it doesn't seem to have ended well in either situation.


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