The Agony and Ecstasy of Mike Daisey

This whole incident with Mike Daisey and lies about his interactions with maimed, underage and poisoned workers at Foxconn, the company that assembles all manner of Apple products, has been well documented.

John Gruber with his take.

This American Life retraction episode. Something you really have to listen to. Make sure to pay attention to all of Mr. Daisey’s silences.

All things D.

Mike Daisey responds on his site.

There’s no question that Mr. Daisey is a compelling storyteller, and that he believes in his mission to inform the world about unfair labor practises at factories that assemble our most beloved products.

But what Mike doesn’t seem to want to admit is the attention that was showered upon him was dependent on his lies. The parts of the story that weren’t true are what got him on Bill Maher. The lies are what brought him to international fame. Without the lies the story is no more than what Apple has already admitted to and tries to address with its supplier responsibility report.

Without the lies there is no Mike Daisey. Just like there was no man with a clawed hand who, when he saw the iPad for the first time said, “it’s a kind of magic”.

The positive side to the Mike Daisey incident, is that we’re talking about Apple’s supply chain and are more aware of how our products are manufactured. From what I can gather, working at Foxconn is not something most people in North America would want to do. It sounds tedious, boring and occasionally dangerous.

Dust can explode. Underage workers have been discovered at the factories but many are there because they want to be. Overtime is a problem, but again, many volunteer because they want the money.

We demand better products for cheaper every single year. We all share some culpability in this. Mr. Daisey is right to point this out. And he can dramatize and use poetic licence in his stage show all he wants.

But when you go on news programs and personally vouch for specific incidents that didn’t happen and then engage in a pattern of lies and endless justifications you become a dick. Actually, a lying dick.

When, reputable journalists like Ira Glass call you on it, and you still insist you’re right, you become an asshole.

Mike Daisey thinks this monologue is his best work. And he feels entitled to all the attention. You see, this isn’t really about the cause. It’s about Mike himself. Salvaging his reputation, trying to keep the white hot spotlight shining bright. If it were about those exploited workers, Mike could stop his show. He’s done his job. Things, although not perfect, have changed. People are aware.

There will be more problems at Foxconn. The audits will help. Transparency, forced in part by Daisey’s work, is a good thing.

But its time for Mike to stop the show and disappear. Then come up with another show. Something that has nothing to do with Apple and Foxconn. Because to continue on at this point only demonstrates that Mr. Daisey is addicted to the attention this has brought.

But Mike won’t stop. Because he’s a performer. And there’s money to be made from all that attention.