Mr. Daisey and the Apple Fabrication

And she listens to this, and she says, but you are not a businessman. And I say, that’s true, I am not a businessman. And she says, and you aren’t going to buy their products. I say, that’s true, I’m not going to buy their products. And she says, you will lie to them. And I say, yes Cathy, I’m going to lie to lots of people.

— Mike Daisey

I generally can’t stand to listen to people be called out to their face; it hits a visceral nerve within me that makes it painful to experience. Listening to Ira Glass confront Mike Daisey, though, was an amazing lesson in the importance of accountability. And listening to Mike Daisey defend himself was an amazing lesson in the futility of being the last person to still believe your own bullshit.

4 thoughts on “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Fabrication

  1. Throughout this whole China adventure, I’ve been distinctly in the camp that’s always felt sort of iffy about buying technology, knowing it was made on a humble wage in working conditions far less convenient than my own. It’s unfair, like the world is unfair.

    I heard the first This American Life episode, was moved, and was glad that the discussion was taken up. Whatever we can do to improve working conditions, lives, in China, we should do. In whatever way possible.

    For several reasons, the fact that the most emotional parts of the story were fabricated, weighs down upon me like boulders. I can take being lied to, and I’m sure Apple will manage as well. No, the most heavily weighing reason this makes me tremendously sad, is the fact that it belittles what truth there was to the story, and perhaps worse: it stomps on whatever spark makes the workers work these long hours. They do it for the promise of a better life, they do it for their parents, for their sisters, and for their children.

    The empty void left in the wake of this is the real tragedy.

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    1. Well said, Joen. When I see the Mike Daisey circus, I can’t help but see it in its context in American news. Our country’s media has the attention span of an infant (though that may be unfair to infants) and so a scandal always gets more attention than more complicated facts. I believe there’s considerably more that Apple can do and they should be pushed to do so. But at least in this country, people quickly and eagerly accepted Mike Daisey’s lie that child labor and brutal working conditions are commonly found at Apple manufacturers. All the evidence — that hasn’t been retracted — shows that all the things Daisey claimed to witness with his own eyes are in fact quite rare among Apple’s suppliers. What about other major consumer electronics firms? I have no idea; there’s been no coverage of them at all.

      I guess what bugged me about the way this has been covered from the beginning is that this isn’t an Apple problem, yet that’s how it’s been exclusively portrayed by the American news media, and by Daisey himself when he’s appeared on American news shows that I watch.

      In the TAL Retraction episode, Charles Duhigg from the New York Times had a salient point to make about the responsibility of American companies to export better working conditions to developing nations. I believe that’s true, in fact what I’ve seen suggests that that is what Apple is doing. I’d like to see them move faster, and I imagine I’m not the only one, but the evidence I’ve seen suggests they’re the only ones in their industry even trying.

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    2. There’s no doubt we’re on the same page here. I just wanted to clarify that, in fact: thank goodness the full extent of Daiseys story wasn’t true. The most horrific things were fabrications. But you allude to it yourself: Ira Glass earned my respect yet another time. The ending of the Retraction episode was the story Daisey should’ve told all along.

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