" This American Life made waves this morning when it announced it was retracting its episode about Foxconn's factories because performance artist Mike Daisey misrepresented several facts to the program. The announcement seems to have started a chain reaction, with the New York Times removing a paragraph from an opinion piece Daisey wrote after the passing of Steve Jobs last year. Entitled "Against Nostalgia," the piece originally contained references to Daisey meeting a man whose hand had been mangled while manufacturing iPads -- an encounter that is now understood to have been completely fabricated. The New York Times has appended the article with an explanation for the change."
In the monologue Daisey tells about meeting a 13 year-old girl working in the factory and then says, "Cathy, his Chinese Interpreter, doesn't remember this." He also tells the story of handing his iPad to a worker with a mangled hand from an accident incurred at the factory where he made iPads who says he's never seen one on and again Daisey gives the caveat, "Cathy doesn't remember this story." Turns out Rob Schmitz, a Shanghai based reporter for Marketplace, tracks Cathy down, meets her and asks about, among other things, these two stories and Cathy says she doesn't remember them. I'm wondering if perhaps one possibility could be Cathy has to tow the party line? I'm wondering if she's allowed to speak out about abuses as this could embarrass her government? I could see why she'd say she didn't remember these stories.
Here's Daisey's statement from his website:
"This American Life" has raised questions about the adaptation of AGONY/ECSTASY we created for their program. Here is my response:
I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out.
What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic -- not a theatrical -- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China."
Daisey isn't the first artist to be taken to task for the authenticity of their work. This controversy reminds me of Oprah's interview with James Frey who wrote "A Million Little Pieces." She subsequently found out some of his stories were fictionalized. Well, it's not nice to fool Mother Oprah. She publicly challenged him, and then dragged him back on her show where he had to retract each and every item she could find that wasn't true.
May I suggest if, instead of going after artists, our journalists (I'm not suggesting Oprah's a journalist) would question, scrutinize, fact check, call for accountability from our politicians instead of giving them a free pass we would never have gone into Iraq, or had a global economic melt down, Wall Street crooks would be in jail, people wouldn't have been swindled out of their pensions and homes, NAFTA, the Patriot Act, NDAA, Citizens United, and H.R. 347 would never have passed and all would be well with world. Well, maybe not but you get my drift.
âStarry Nightâ by Vincent Van Gogh by unknown
Mike Daisey's created a piece of art that sheds light and reveals the truth. As he states he's not a journalist or a reporter; he's a storyteller and a damn good one. In a solo play when you're weaving the threads of the tapestry sometimes one must knot the threads or change the colors slightly to make the story connect on a deeper or more profound level and what you get is a much richer piece. Did Van Gogh's Starry Night copy the night sky exactly? Does Monet depict the exact replica of a Water Lilly? It's called art. And art reveals a deeper truth then any newspaper, news show or reporter ever could.
âWater-Lilies, Evening Effectâ by Claude Monet by unknown
Daisey's intention was to write a piece to make people aware of what's really going on in China and who's really making our stuff. His goal was to make us care and if this gets our attention then so be it. Most Americans are sleepwalking through their consumerism and, in fact, when I recently mentioned the Apple abuses to a friend who owns an iPhone he lashed out at me with such vehemence I was completely shocked. I guess I hit a nerve.
This over reaction and hysteria over Daisey just shows me how far askew our corporate culture is and proves Daisey's point about the religion of Apple and how we worship at the House of Jobs. But we can all participate by caring enough to hold these corporations accountable so they change their inhumane, unethical practices.
The flier we received after the performance is titled CHANGE IS POSSIBLE and gives five ways to impact change. I somewhat paraphrase them here.
1. You Can Speak to Apple
Email Tim Cook @ Email address removed and let him know their inhumane practices are not acceptable and must change.
2. You Can Speak to the Industry
Contact Nokia, Dell, Samsung, LG, Motorola or any other electronic company you purchase from.