There are few moments more nausea-inducing than realizing you have placed your trust and faith in the wrong person/place/institution.
I recently blogged, favorably, about a performance artist named Mike Daisey, whose one-man show about malfeasance at Foxconn, a Chinese manufacturing giant that makes computers for Apple, Dell and many others, was a huge hit here in the U.S., and received national attention and acclaim on This American Life, a respected and smart radio show.
Now it seems he made some of it up:
“Numerous fabrications” have been found in “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” the much-heralded story by Mike Daisey about dangerous and exploitative conditions in the Apple company’s Chinese factories.
Recent fact-checking about the story, which was first presented on Jan. 6, 2012 over National Public Radio outlets as an episode on Ira Glass’ show, “This American Life,” and subsequently performed as a critically acclaimed monologue at the New York Public Theatre (where it is scheduled to close Sunday after a much-extended run), has turned up inaccuracies involving facts both large and small, including the fabrication of several characters.
“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” was to be performed by Daisey at the Chicago Theatre on April 7. That performance has been cancelled. And tonight, NPR affiliate WBEZ, 91.5 FM, will air a segment about the Daisey controversy on “Marketplace” (which begins at 6:30 p.m.), followed by a full hourlong investigation of the issues on “This American Life” (beginning at 7 p.m.).
The show is set to complete its runs at New York’s Public Theatre this Sunday. The theater, which does not plan to cancel the final performances, issued this statement:
“In the theater, our job is to create fictions that reveal truth — that’s what a storyteller does, that’s what a dramatist does. ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’ reveals, as Mike’s other monologues have, human truths in story form.
And….cue dominoes falling.
This is the nature of journalism, for better and for worse. I now feel stupid and gullible for believing his “story form” — (WTF is that?) — and promoting his work.
But I also loathe, and want to expose, crummy and exploitative labor practices, some of which I wrote about in Malled, my book about retail work — in which I also detailed the eleven Foxconn worker suicides of May 2010. There have since been more.
I’m writing this on an Apple computer. I use an Ipad and an Apple laptop. My hands, morally speaking, are dirty!
Here’s the problem.
We want to work with people whose opinions, education, work ethic and principles we share and trust. Without the basic underpinning of trust — “Why, yes, I do believe your story” -- we can’t function culturally, socially, politically or financially.
We also all need to remain awake, skeptical, critical and questioning.
But the media — and I’ve been a journalist since 1980 — are also prey to “pack journalism”, rushing headlong to embrace the trope-of-the-day lest they look slow, stupid, uncool or lazy in front of their peers and bosses and readers and listeners.
And there are stories we want to believe. There are stories that are virtually impossible to report firsthand and when someone brings home the goods, we sigh in relief and hand them a laurel wreath for doing what we could not or did not or never would do ourselves.
Here’s yet another cheerful story this week of deception and broken trust — an Amish man who took $17 million from his co-religionists in 29 states and invested it improperly.
And an op-ed in this week’s New York Times called out some pretty ugly behaviors (gasp!) behind the doors of Goldman Sachs, where fat cat bankers call their clients “muppets”.
Wrote Greg Smith, 33, a GS banker who thus burned his bridges to his former employer:
Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.
Such a world we live in!
Do you trust what you read and hear?
From which source(s) and why?