It’s been nearly a month, and perhaps the discussion regarding Mike Daisey’s fabrications is already passé, but asking writers to ruminate on the nature of truth is like throwing a ball of yarn to a herd of cats. The crux of the debate regarding Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs as excerpted on [...]
I also found it extremely difficult to listen to the “Retraction” episode of This American Life. I could not even listen to the whole episode—I had to read the transcript. The only way I could have relieved the fury building up inside me, as I listened to that podcast, would have been to slap Ira Glass across the face. I have never heard such sanctimonious, self-serving hypocrisy in my life—not from someone I respect.
I am going to tell you some things that may shock you. Richard III was not a hunchback. Salieri played no part in Mozart’s death. On a related note, Facebook is not Mark Zuckerberg’s revenge against a world of human relationships that he realized he could never really be a part of. When I was in college, I was in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged); and every night I, Caitlin Cashin, declared that one of my fellow performers was a preeminent Shakespearean scholar with a bachelors degree knowing full well that neither of these things were true.
This week’s episode of “This American Life,” in which Rob Schmitz and Ira Glass carefully dismantle Mike Daisey’s testimony about conditions in Foxconn factories, so depressed me that afterward I felt as if I’d been thrown into a pot of melancholy and boiled over low heat. Hearing Daisey audibly wither under Glass’ questioning, trying to grope for justifications between long, awkward silences, it seemed to me that all this uncomfortableness could have been avoided by simply telling the truth.
We now know that Daisey fabricated certain details in his one-man show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, for the noble purpose of keeping media attention on factory conditions in China. To this end he appeared on television programs, op-ed pages, and, yes, “This American Life.”
Let me say now that although I appreciate artistic license and understand the virtue of employing falsehoods in the service of a greater truth, lying to media outlets that stake their reputation on journalistic accuracy is crossing a line. Why didn’t Daisey just say that he was an artist and not a journalist when this all began? Did he think the reality of the Chinese manufacturing industry was not shocking enough to pique the American public interest?