Monologuist Mike Daisey has posted a statement on his personal blog about the recent news surrounding the outright fabrication of much of his monologue on the state of Apple’s manufacturing in China. In it he defends his treatment of the truth by justifying it in the name of drawing attention to the issues surrounding working conditions in the country.
The performance, which was ostensibly based on his own personal experiences in that country, turned out to be a mix of fabrications and actual experiences in China. Daisey, for instance, explicitly said that guards at Apple’s Foxconn factory bore guns, and that he spoke with workers which told him they were 13 or younger, which is against both Chinese labor laws and Apple’s worker policies.
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Reporter Rob Schmitz spoke to Daisey’s Chinese translator, who explicitly refuted those claims.
In his missive, Daisey contests this, stating:
Especially galling is how many are gleefully eager to dance on my grave expressly so they can return to ignoring everything about the circumstances under which their devices are made. Given the tone, you would think I had fabulated an elaborate hoax, filled with astonishing horrors that no one had ever seen before.
Except that we all know that isn’t true.
There is nothing in this controversy that contests the facts in my work about the nature of Chinese manufacturing. Nothing. I think we all know if there was, Ira would have brought it up.
The problem here is not only that Daisey fabricated things that he explicitly says he saw, but also that he applied them specifically to Apple’s manufacturing facilities. Daisey was telling a story about Apple in China, not any factory anywhere in China.
Daisey also attacks Ira Glass, the host of This American Life for editing his ‘four hours of grilling’ down to 15 minutes, using dead air and ‘out of context’ audio to tell a story. Daisey then compares himself to Glass, saying “he’s a storyteller within the context of radio journalism, and I am a storyteller in the theater.”
Daisey then displays a rather shocking lack of self awareness, stating “If people want to use me as an excuse to return to denialism about the state of our manufacturing, about the shape of our world, they are doing that to themselves.”
In fact, much of the talk about Daisey’s partially falsified performance has been about how much damage it has done to the very real issue of workers rights in China. One of the saddest aspects of this whole debacle has been that Daisey’s lies have negatively impacted the discussion of the very real problems surrounding workers rights in countries like China.
Daisey appeals to people who have been affected by his tale of workers rights, saying that what they felt in connection with it is real, even if the facts were not.
But understand that if you felt something that connected you with where your devices come from—that is not a lie. That is art. That is human empathy, and it is real, and even if you curse my name I hope you’ll recognize that and continue reading, caring, and thinking.
Public radio program This American Life retracting an entire episode of its program starring Daisey after it found evidence that he had fabricated much of it.
The New York Times has also edited an article called ‘Against Nostalgia‘, which was penned by Daisey and published it just after the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs. The article focused on aspects of Jobs and Apple that Daisey felt ran counter to the sentimentality surrounding his death.
In the weeks following the premiere of his one-man show, Daisey was referred to by many publications as a commenter on Apple and its factory conditions due to his monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which used much of the same testimony in its performance that is now being reported to be fabricated. I don’t think this is the last of the corrections that we’ll be seeing.
Daisey concludes his statement by stating that he will be “making a full accounting of this work, shining a light through this monologue and telling the story of its origins, construction, and details.”
He then makes a statement that belies his seeming disinterest in making sure that the reports he has been giving to news reporters are accurate: “I believe the truth is vitally important. I continue to believe that.”