Mike Daisey made it all up


THIS AMERICAN LIFE, which I’ve become somewhat a fan of since I’ve started using the excellent Stitcher app on my Ipad, recently published a retraction of one of my favorite T.A.L. episodes ever, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory. This was a very well written, emotional and often poignant show depicting the conditions of working life in China’s FOXCON assembly factories. I loved it. Mike Daisey is an extremely gifted writer and even better narrator. He can sell a story. Sadly, that’s what a lot of the episode was, a story. There were several instances in the episode that were very emotionally effective, particularly the elements where Daisey describes the effects of N-Hexane poisoning on Chinese workers. He stated the workers had “N-Hexane poisoning” and their hands were shaking uncontrollably. It turns out there were some workers that were exposed to N-Hexane poisoning, but that was hundreds of miles away and Daisey didn’t even meet them. Unfortunately for his story, the interpreter (Kathy) who was a centerpiece of his story was easily accessible for later verification and debunking of many of Mike Daisey’s points.

Here’s T.A.L.’s retraction of the Mike Daisey story.  Worth a listen.

This is kind of sad.   I understand that Mike Daisey is a writer and an actor, and not a journalist, and I know he was embellishing the narrative with elements that are both fictional and factual (now) but his fiction helped formulate the opinion of many Americans, including myself.  I listened to it 3 times at least.  I recommended this show to everyone who would listen.    Now I feel kind of silly getting so excited about it.

Update: Here’s Mike Daisey’s comment about the whole experience, recorded at his performance at Georgetown University recently.

Space-filling model of the hexane molecule

Space-filling model of the hexane molecule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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