Tons of people ripping Mike Daisey to shreds over This American Life retracting their story on Apple’s factories this morning. (I reviewed Daisey’s theatrical review, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” last year.)
When the original 39-minute excerpt was broadcast on This American Life on January 6, 2012, Marketplace China Correspondent Rob Schmitz wondered about its truth. Marketplace had done a lot of reporting on Foxconn and Apple’s supply chain in China in the past, and Schmitz had first-hand knowledge of the issues. He located and interviewed Daisey’s Chinese interpreter Li Guifen (who goes by the name Cathy Lee professionally with westerners). She disputed much of what Daisey has been telling theater audiences since 2010 and much of what he said on the radio
Yes, it’s a huge shame that he outright lied about parts of his story. But some of the other unpleasant facts still remain: worker suicides, packed dormitories, insane and outrageous hours. These are stories that both Wired Magazine and the NY Times have written (and as Alexis Madrigal of the Atlantic notes, neither has retracted their stories).
Whether parts of the story were fake or not, I think there’s a more important take away from this: Mike Daisey made all of us think about where our products came from (and the effect they had on the people who made them) in a way that no one has ever done before.