By now many of you may have heard about the controversy surrounding the Mike Daisey episode on This American Life. A few reporters from NPR’s Marketplace did some digging after a few of the details didn’t sit right. The story had been fact checked extensively by TAL, but some of the anecdotes about guns in front of the factories and references to Starbucks just didn’t make sense to someone with extensive Chinese cultural knowledge. It turns out that while all of the claims about Apple and Foxcon were true, the most dramatic moments in the monologue were at best exaggerated and at worst completely fabricated. For a complete analysis of what was true and false, listen to the entire episode.
Part of the fascination with the original episode lies in its gripping, emotional delivery. The retraction episode is equally emotional, but for different reasons. On par with James Fry’s betrayal of Oprah, Mike Daisey deceived Ira Glass and the other producers of TAL. In our post-modern world where we have accepted truth to be a passing fantasy, it’s comforting to know that there are people who still care about it. TAL rests on the notion that facts are enough. The every day stuff of life is far more gripping than a dramatized version of it.