Mike Daisey’s Fabrications Are Now His Wife’s Fault

Illustration for article titled Mike Daisey’s Fabrications Are Now His Wife’s Fault

Jesus. Unless Mike Daisey is prepared to offer some actual heartfelt contrition about This American Larfpocalypse 2012, the dude needs to STOP TALKING. Because if he keeps digging like this, he's going to wind up in fucking China.

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To be clear, I am a Mike Daisey fan. I think he's a magnetic and stunningly provocative performer; I saw a workshop of his 2009 monologue The Last Cargo Cult in Seattle and it's a theatrical experience that I still think about to this day. That's what makes all of this so incredibly disappointing and painful to watch—Daisey could stand by the political and humanitarian points he's trying to make without being defensive about this undeniably colossal fuck-up.

So what's the latest reason why none of this is really Daisey's fault and we should all be ashamed of ourselves? His wife did it. OF COURSE. Dig dig dig:

When the show hit it big, he said, reporters made uninformed assumptions about how much he had researched: Instead of correcting them, he'd let them believe he'd actually gone inside these factories, for example. And then the stories took off. He let a reporter assume that he'd met a victim of hexane poisoning - a detail that the director (his wife) then insisted become part of the play.

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Ohhhhhhhh! Your wife insisted! Those women, how they do nag. Well then, sir, you certainly aren't culpable for lying to the press, making up a fake name for your translator to stall TAL's fact checkers, undermining any progress you might have made on these profoundly important human rights issues (that you obviously care passionately about!), and, most importantly, hurting Ira Glass's adorable feelings.

I really want to be compassionate. I want to understand Daisey's situation. I like Mike Daisey. But the more he talks, the more difficult that becomes.

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DISCUSSION

jennasauers
Jenna Sauers

I was very disappointed by how cagey and defensive Daisey was on the retraction episode. Some of the things he did were clearly beyond the pale — trying to dun TAL's fact-checker by lying about his translator's name is inexcusable — but the situation is made more complex by the fact that Daisey lied about things that actually happened. There are people who work for Apple suppliers who have been poisoned by n-hexane because of China's lax labor and environmental laws. That is true. And he did interview a man who told him that his hand had been crushed in an industrial accident. His translator confirms that; it just isn't clear whether that man worked for Foxconn. But Shenzhen is the factory of the world. If he didn't lose his hand to an Apple product, it was probably to one of the million other useless consumer products we source from Southern China.

It goes without saying that I would not have made the choices Daisey did. But I feel like Daisey was uniquely placed to articulate a defense of those choices based on aesthetics, and based on the traditional acknowledgment of the existence of different narrative modes with differing relationships to truth and verifiability. I'm not saying I would have necessarily been convinced by that argument, but I was waiting for him to just say, "Yes, I changed certain details in this story. I did it deliberately, and I think my choices are perfectly acceptable because X, Y, Z." Instead he sounded like a kid resigned to being scolded for having his hand in the cookie jar.