This American Life retracts Mike Daily episode regarding Apple + Foxconn, said it was “partially fabricated" 

Statement from Mike Daisey:

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.

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How Was Your Week: Episode 71
“HWYWLive": Martha Plimpton, Jim Gaffigan, Katie Notopoulos, Mike Daisey, VIDS

This week’s episode was recorded live on June 27th at The Bell House in beautiful New York City! Isn’t that exciting? It is very exciting.

Join Julie as she interviews MARTHA PLIMPTON, JIM GAFFIGAN and KATIE NOTOPOULOS live on stage, while TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS watch! Enjoy a special, unannounced guest appearance by MIKE DAISEY, who joined us for a mid-show recap and consequent retraction! Regret not being there live to see the dance stylings of VIDS, who were incredible! And marvel in cherished, quintessential HWYW Live moments, like when Martha couldn’t concentrate because she was distracted by the man in the giant cat mascot costume sitting to her left! When Ted Leo had to defend his affinity for the son on SMASH! When Jim Gaffigan disclosed the reason for his affinity for sea mammals! And when Katie Notopoulous introduced us all to her good pal, Mr. Eggs.

Plus–S. Epatha Merkerson has some interesting ways to use the hashtag feature on Twitter, Martha explains why she can not longer pull off the catowner look, Jim and Julie ponder dolphins and sunscreen, Katie and Ted dive into their mutual fascination about the furry community, and songs from RENT are sung, as is a balls-out medley that featured accordant choreography and a gigantic dancing cat. Oh, would you were there. Here are photos!

What a show! What a memory-maker!

The Guests:

Jim Gaffigan
Martha Plimpton
Katie Notopolous
Mike Daisey
Varsity Interpretive Dance Squad

The Band:

Teddy Leo
Danny Leo
Chris Wilson
James Canty


Dickie DiBella
Daiva Deupree
Phillip Taratula
Joanna Simmons

Jimmy Jazz:

Chris Sullivan

The Dream Team:

Alex Scordelis (Writer)
Marianne Ways (Live Show Producer)
Chris Spooner (Podcast Producer, Graphic Designer)
Jack Fagan (Consultant; Muse)
Rob Hatch Miller & Puloma Basu (Filmmakers)
Alex Gaylon (Sound Recording)
Mindy Tucker (Photos)

Thanks to the Bell House for hosting us!

The Steve Jobs who founded Apple as an anarchic company promoting the message of freedom, whose first projects with Stephen Wozniak were pirate boxes and computers with open schematics, would be taken aback by the future that Apple is forging. Today there is no tech company that looks more like the Big Brother from Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial than Apple itself, a testament to how quickly power can corrupt.
—  Mike Daisey from his Op-Ed in the NY Times soon after Steve Jobs death. 
When Mike Daisey lied to national radio audiences on This American Life, lied to the 888,000 people who downloaded the podcast (the most in the show’s history), and lied to who-knows-how-many theater audiences over two years of performing his one-man show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, he wasn’t wrong about the Chinese labor abuses that go into making iPads and other beloved American gadgets. He wasn’t wrong that Chinese workers are often subjected to horrific conditions, wasn’t wrong that Apple’s supervision of its contractor’s factories has been problematic, and wasn’t wrong that we American consumers bear an indirect but troubling moral responsibility for these abuses.

Most importantly, Mike Daisey wasn’t wrong that it is possible for Chinese authorities and Apple to substantially improve labor conditions – without making their products any more expensive or less competitive – and that American consumers can help make this happen. But he was wrong that embellishing his story would help, that bad behavior in service of a good cause ever does.

Ira Glass: What does that mean, unpack the complexities?

Mike Daisey: Well it means, it means that, you know, just, like the hexane thing. I mean I think I’m agreeing with you.

Ira Glass: I mean with the hexane, we approached you and asked you specifically
about that. There’s an email that, that Brian sent you, about the hexane. He
wrote, “Apple’s 2011 report” – this is the responsibility report – “acknowledges
the hexane problem at two plants, one at Wintek and another at a logo supplier but not at Foxconn. These workers you were talking to, in the monologue, were they from Foxconn do you remember or from other plants?” And, and at that point you could have come back to us and said ‘oh no no no I didn’t meet these workers, you know, this is just something I inserted in the monologue based on things I had read and things I had heard in Hong Kong’ um, but instead you lied further and you said, you wrote, “The workers were from Wintek and not Foxconn.” Why not just tell us what really happened at that point?

[long pause]

Mike Daisey: I think I was terrified. [breathing]

Ira Glass: Of what?

[long pause]

Mike Daisey: – That—

[long pause]

Mike Daisey: I think I was terrified that if I untied these things, that the work,
that I know is really good, and tells a story, that does these really great things for making people care,

Monologuist Mike Daisey was once devoted to Apple products. Then, one day, he “started to think, and that’s always a problem for any religion.” He began to question how his favorite products were put together, so he traveled to China with hopes of finding out. What he saw was shocking. If you own an Apple device (which I’m betting you do), you need to listen to this episode of This American Life. [Image]

Enormous, by Jean-Michele Gregory

I am in love with an enormous man.

Though he is only two inches taller than me, his girth is twice my own, and his weight more than double.

I look at these rail-thin men on the street and I wonder, how could I lay in bed next to something as small as that? How would I ever feel comforted by their small-boy embrace?

When he enfolds me I almost vanish. His arms are thick and heavy, and once he’s asleep, almost impossible to move. His belly warms the small of my back and fills in all the space between us so there is no point at which we lose contact. I sleep curled like a fetus, my toes barely extending beyond his knees, and when I look down I see his feet poking out from under the covers, two rough loaves of bread.

My aunt, the beauty queen from Texas who could have any man she wanted, also chose someone enormous. She loved his wit, his heart, his songs, and she wanted to keep him as long as she could, so when she caught him eating steak she became angry. My mother told her to leave him alone—“He’s a grown man! Let him eat what he wants!”—but when he died two months later from heart attack I wonder if my mother regretted her words.

My husband and I tell each other that he is a bear and I am a bird. When we walk on crowded sidewalks I take advantage of my size to weave around the people—and then look behind to find I’ve lost him and have to circle back. “Little bird, you forget I can’t fly,” he once said.

He wants to lose weight. Every eight months or so the fire is lit anew and he swears that this time it will be different, this time he will lose pounds instead of resolve. And then he suffers through low-fat, low-calorie diets; he drinks gallons of water; he consumes boneless skinless chicken breasts in every conceivable way; he eats dressing-less salads three times a day. As he falls asleep, he moans to me, “I’m hungry.” And then he dreams about great feasts with cheeses and olives and large roasts with crispy, crackled skin and wakes up feeling guilty.

And I wake up feeling guilty too, because I’ve let my husband go hungry.

Some mornings I will wake to find a jar of peanut butter has gone missing. Or that the six-pack of diet ice-cream bars we purchased just the day before is lying empty on the counter. He is never good at covering his tracks and I don’t want to scold him. Never come between a bear and his food, you know. Instead, I’ll quietly break the box down and throw it away. But the next time we’re in the grocery store and he lingers over the ice-cream section I will hear myself say, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” and he will know that I know and he will hang his head low and we’ll move on to the next aisle.

I hate it when he does that. Or rather, I hate that my words have done that to him. He is larger than life, on a different scale than the rest of us, and I can’t stand to see him diminished in any way. And I love to watch him eat. I think it was that first burrito that made me fall in love: the shy unwrapping of the foil, strip by silver strip, until the naked tortilla emerged and he took it in his mouth, eager but gentle, like its contents were something precious.

Will you laugh if I say I wanted to be that burrito?

A bear in the wild learns to eat as much as possible when the eating’s good; winter will take care of any excess weight. A bear in the city, a bear with a credit card, a bear with a job and a human face—no winter’s coming for his belly.

After another diet failed and a shared orgy of brownies and ice cream, I lay across his perfect belly and sighed. “Oh, bear … what are we going to do with you?” I asked.

“Peck, peck, peck,” he said. “Why are you always so sure something needs doing?”

Now is the moment. And if people tell themselves that this is over because of this story, because of what I did, they’re forgetting that this would not exist in the way it does, if this story had not gotten out. If it had not gotten out, we would not have set the emotional landscape that allowed the New York Times piece to land. You know that’s true. That doesn’t excuse me in the least, but it does me that there’s a responsibility on all of us, if we are journalists, to pursue the story, if we are not journalists, to read, and discuss, and talk about the issues. It’s so important. It is so much larger than me, or the show, or anything I have ever done.

A remarkable tale about iEmpire

What do you get when you combine a master storyteller and investigative journalist?  Mike Daisey is one answer, a storyteller and performer whose story about what happens inside an Apple factory is touching hearts and minds.

After his visit to China, tours of factories, and meetings with union organizers and members of secret unions (which are illegal in China), Daisey created the remarkable performance “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory“.

Daisey usually performs for live audiences, but This American Life recorded a shortened version and interviewed Daisey (as part of their show) and did their own fact checking of Daisey’s account.

The upshot is that — for those who were still in doubt — Apple products, like so much of what we buy, come to us at great human cost.

But to hear Mike Daisey tell the story — of becoming interested, of traveling to China, of seeing the factories first hand, of meeting people whose physical well-being was destroyed by working in toxic environments, of meeting illegal union organizers — is to encounter a welcome innovation in journalism.

Please join us on June 15 at The Cutting Room in NYC to support Kate Bornstein’s cancer treatment with a fabulous night of entertainment featuring your favorite downtown performers!

Get your tickets NOW!  http://bit.ly/Love4Kate

So, David Foster Wallace lied on This American Life, too.

Episode 160, Act Two:

The Twelve Monkeys are a dozen marquis journalists and political analysis guys from the really important papers and weeklies and new services, and tend to be so totally identical in dress and demeanor as to be almost literally surreal. Twelve immaculate and wrinkle free, navy blue blazers, half-windsored ties, pleated chinos, Oxford cloth shirts that even when the jackets come off stay 100% buttoned at collar and sleeves, Cole Haan loafers, and tortoise shell specs they love to take off and nibble the arm of. Plus always a uniform self-seriousness that reminds you of every over-achieving dweeb you ever wanted to kick the ass of in school.

The radio piece was excerpted from Wallace’s article on John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign in Rolling Stone. In that version [which is no longer online] he relayed “two separate occasions at late-night hotel check-ins when one or more of the Twelve Monkeys just out of nowhere turned and handed Rolling Stone their suitcases to carry, as if Rolling Stone were a bellboy or gofer instead of a hard-working journalist just like them even if he didn’t have a portable Paul Stuart steamer for his blazer.”

None of that was true. I mean, did this guy—a famous writer, to boot—look like a campaign luggage wrangler or bellhop?

I thought about Wallace the other day, after the Mike Daisey thing blew up. I discovered these… embellishments?fabrications?exaggerations?—whatever you want to call them, while writing an essay for Salon describing DFW’s McCain article as a precursor to the Twitter-thumbed campaign reporters of 2010 including, yes, former members of the Twelve Monkeys.

My original thesis was that Wallace was not the first, but the last reporter-oversharer—heavily reporting on his reporting for immediate mass consumption—before social media let everyone else in on the act. My conclusion was a warning that if reporters were going to be churning out print, video and social content around the clock (this was during all the talk about over-extended print reporters being forced to blog) then they had to be wary against veering into fabrications. “The exaggerations of DFW’s account should serve as a warning against the recklessness of this relentless campaign doodling—this infinite jest of the political press.” (Oof.)

It was a flimsy thesis and a forced conclusion and bless the editor’s heart for helping me mold it into something else rather than just killing it. He cut the ‘infinite jest’ line (mercifully, in hindsight, without comment) and suggested that I lay off Wallace for the fabricated parts. “I think playing up the embellishments so much at the end was tonally off,” he wrote. “He made some stuff up, sure, but I think the tone before that is (rightly) appreciative of his… flair.”

I replied that I thought the embellishment was the whole point, and he let me make more of it, though the final product was geared toward calling him a pioneer which I was sort of embarrassed about, since the original purpose of my essay had changed into trying to stick it to the guy.

And I was trying to stick it to him because I had just come away from reading Tom Wolfe on that which sets his brand of interpretive journalism apart: that it has to be EXACT, and uber-accurate, and that to do anything less is to diminish the art form. In sum: don’t be a cheater. Wolfe’s hardly the only one who feels this way. In fact, that’s the recurring theme of this Awl thread.

Which brings me to the varying standards of storytelling. After the Salon piece ran, I griped to my cousin, a big DFW fan, that I felt the embellishment was more important than the pioneering thing. And she responded by saying she treated David Foster Wallace’s nonfiction the same way she treated Dave Eggers’ nonfiction: with a grain of salt. And then I brought up David Sedaris, and we coined the subcategory, “David Nonfiction.” This American Life can run stories in the David Nonfiction vein with the implicit understanding of its listenership that this show has been comedically enhanced. That this is entertainment, not straight investigative journalism.

So now we’ve landed at journalism, which, to me, is one of the more interesting things about Mike Daisey’s con. Evan Osnos writes, from China, that while he and other Western journalists were skeptical of Daisey’s account, he was also dismayed “that maybe Daisey had approached the subject with such fresh outrage and investigative vigor that he had been able to find what so many over here had not.” When Adrien Chen went at Daisey with skeptical questions, the storyteller doused him with hot shame: “We should be able to talk to the tech journalist who went and wrote this story—oh wait, there isn’t one.”
 (Sweet burn, Patrice.)

Daisey admits to making up people and dialogue to tell a better story and tweak the press into pressuring one of the biggest companies on the planet to improve its working conditions. David Foster Wallace also made up people and dialogue to tell a better story and tweak the press, except he did the latter without the weight of a social mission.

The point of Wallace’s writing about the press was that the Twelve Monkeys did not discern between who started a fight between Bush and McCain; they only cared that there was a fight. Which was a fair criticism, but apparently not good enough on its own.

John Dickerson spent seven months on the McCain bus and was there for Wallace’s weeklong reporting trip. I can’t say it any better than he did in a 2010 e-mail which I quoted from in the Salon piece:

I can’t really remember too many of the specifics… but I remember there being a lot of things that were just made up and often made up to bolster the narrative (which is different than just remember something wrong). A few things that come to mind. The 12 monkeys. If there was one person who fit the blue blazer description it would be me. Thing is: there was just one of me. The press corps was not male dominated as DFW wrote, it was the opposite. The AP, Chicago Tribune, NYT, Boston Globe reporters were all women…. The accounts of the [reporters’] back and forth with Murphy were ridiculous I remember. The questions made up and made up to make the reporters look goofy. There was a scene of a reporter reading some enormous foreign policy tome. I know who he was writing about. That person read no such thing.

I’m afraid I can’t remember much else and I don’t have a copy here but there were lots of examples.

 You could argue that while the facts were wrong, he got at an essential truth which would be a pretty good defense. But even that’s not terribly helpful to the piece. It was, in the end, too pat. The wise guys on the second bus the dumb press people on the first bus. Is there a truth in this characterization? Of course. You’ll never go wrong saying those of us who cover the story day to day get it wrong at times or are stuck in a rut. But DFW drew a cartoon. He didn’t just make the reporters cartoons. He made the sound and camera men cartoons too.

In Wallace’s defense, he did write about women in the press corps. The Times’ Alison Mitchell is mentioned in the e-book version,* where she is deemed OK and “not (refreshingly) one of the Twelve Monkeys.”

Later, Dickerson e-mailed back to say he re-read the section on the Twelve Monkeys and that everything was wrong except for the blue blazer, worn by him, which could only mean that he was the over-achieving dweeb whose ass Wallace wanted to kick.

But it wasn’t only a person that the writer resented who said he stretched the truth. Mike Murphy, the witty McCain strategist who slapped down the Monkeys’ stupid questions, also found exaggerations in Wallace’s characterizations. What’s more is that the writer admitted it to him. Murphy moved to California in 2004 and became friendly with Wallace. “At one dinner, he admitted under my teasing that he made some of that stuff larger than life for comic impact,” he wrote in an e-mail.

So, I believe that DFW definitely fabricated these parts. The question is: does it matter?

I don’t ask that rhetorically; I’m really not sure. For a time, I thought it did, and then I was disabused of that notion—David Nonfiction, and all. And then a few months ago, another David (this one a Remnick) said he was “heartbroken” to hear DFW fudged dialogue, and now this Daisey hubbub.

Personally, I’m thinking the question isn’t so much does ‘it’ matter, but 'who.’

I just hope there’s a quote from Mr. Torey Malatia next week.

*This sounds familiar from the Rolling Stone version, though the two have differences and I can’t be sure without seeing the magazine piece.

Mike Daisey’s new show, 29 monologues that make up All the Phases of the Moon, will be made available individually the afternoon after they are performed.

“Each evening stands alone as a single episode, but together they create a living theatrical novel set against the secret history of New York City – a city that is loved and loathed and larger than life. From Pentecostal church services held in IKEA showrooms to Nikola Tesla’s laboratories in the Lower East Side, from the infamous Mole People’s convocations deep beneath the subway lines to the hidden and terrifying plans of Robert Moses, Daisey weaves a story of ordinary magic in a most extraordinary city. Night after night he will strive like Sheherazade to tell the largest story ever attempted in the American theater.”

Holy shit this is bad. That’s all you can really say. This episode was easily the most widely circulated in the tech community for obvious reasons. And it generated thousands of other related stories.

Host Ira Glass:

I have difficult news. We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China - which we broadcast in January - contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. 

It appears that Daisey pulled a Stephen Glass (no relation to Ira, pure coincidence):

Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.

While not as often as we’d like, news organizations often issue general factual corrections – and occasional outright retractions – to the stories they produce.

The problem, few actually see them and the original error is passed about the online wilds.

Not so with Mike Daisey’s This American Life investigation of electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn. Nieman Lab reports that the TAL episode dedicated to retracting the story is its most popular yet with with over 891,000 downloads and streams of the podcast since the story first aired.

The original Foxconn podcast had 888,000 downloads and streams in a similar timeframe. Since that time and additional 206,000 have listened to it.

Goes to show that biggie errors deserve a biggie response. In this American American Life’s case they dedicated a whole show to their errors. Something to learn from as most outlets bury their mistakes where few actually find them.

Nieman Lab, This American Life’s retraction of the Mike Daisey story set an online listening record.

How Mike Daisey changed his Apple stage show after fabrication claims
  • one Daisey removed parts of the play he could no longer stand behind, according to members of the audience who saw "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" in the wake of the retracted “This American Life” report.
  • two However, he’s also added some lines claiming that his memory of how things happened was different from what was claimed by the translator he worked with in China — whose claims have largely unwoven his story. source

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How Was Your Week: Episode 48
“Best of HWYW: Vol. 2: Patton Oswalt, John Mulaney, Mike Daisey & Ted Leo"

It’s a clip show-palooza this week, also known as an outtakes episode! The 48th episode of How Was Your Week features all-new content from Julie, who is still recovering from her “sore trote,” and did not wish to infect new interview subjects with it, because she is a nice and civilized person.

Therefore! This week’s episode features never-before heard footage from four terrific guests: 

-PATTON OSWALT, who explains his opinion on whether inventors are weirder than magicians!

-MIKE DAISEY, who reveals what Steve Wozniak ordered when they lunched together!

-JOHN MULANEY, who reminisces on that insane “Breaking Bad” Season Three finale!


-TED LEO, who explains the origins of the How Was Your Week theme song!

Also in this episode, Julie discusses her emotional takeaway from watching the major motion picture ALBERT NOBBS, how Walgreens integrates social networking into its mission of selling lube to people, Debra Messing’s character’s arc on SMASH, and how fun last night’s HWYWLive show was. (It was extremely fun.)

A fun episode for fans of the show both new and old!