Well-loved radio show This American Life—spawned from station WBEZ right here in Chicago—has some “difficult news” about one its most popular shows, an episode on Apple and labor conditions in China. The episode “contained significant fabrications,” writes TAL host Ira Glass today on the show’s blog. He is devoting this week’s entire episode, called “Retraction,” to the story.
The original TAL episode, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” aired on January 6, 2012, and included portions of the one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” by Mike Daisey. (We attended a performance last year.) It proved hugely popular, but recently a reporter for another public radio show tracked down one of the interpreters Daisey used on his own visit to a Shenzhen factory that makes Apple gadgets, a visit recounted in his show.
The things to remember here is that the problems arise from things said by the creator of a one-man stage show. He claimed these things had happened, lied about them whan asked, and permitted journalists to continue those lies.
Not everything in the program’s broadcast was based on just this guy’s word. There were some important facts there but not necessarily the emotional notes that Daisey’s ‘theater’ provided.
The producers got caught up in a great narrative and mistakenly let some thing slide. Now they are the ones who have having to do some real backfilling and mea culpas. Humans make mistakes and good humans admit those mistakes. They try to rectify the situation.
As for Daisey, he appears to be doing no such thing, essentially saying that he needed to lie in order to enhance the real truth underneath.
Yeah, his stuff may be ‘art’ but great art is not based on lies. I expect that there will be many fewer people attending his ‘play.’