Meant for the Theater

I should have known from the opening lines of the original podcast that Mr. Daisey was merely putting on a performance.  I don’t typically associate journalists with Hawaiian shirts; it is safe to say that such an outfit does little to establish an image of venerability.  When listening to Mr. Daisey’s retraction, it is clear that he knew all along that he was not a journalist and that he was not qualified to share his story under such pretenses. He went out of his way to make sure that those checking his story were unable to do so.  What Mr. Daisey did was ethically wrong; his show was meant for the theater not journalism, and he was well aware of that.  Despite disagreeing with the decisions Mr. Daisey has made, I do have to give him some credit – by stirring up controversy, people are paying more attention to Foxconn than they otherwise may have.

Throughout his story, Mr. Daisey shared an alarming amount of false information.  When listening to the retraction, it began to seem like more of the story was false than true.  He captured the attention of his listeners by making his story an emotional one.  The most memorable story for me had been the encounter with the man who had dedicated so much time to assembling iPads but had never seen one on and running in person.  I was disappointed to learn that Daisey’s translator had no recollection of that ever happening.  Interestingly enough, I came across a CBS News article that told the exact same story; only their version used an eighteen-year-old girl in place of the man Daisey described.  Maybe someone should consider checking out that story as well.

Daisey effectively held my attention in his initial broadcast by describing the terrible conditions in the dormitories.  He compared sliding into a bunk bed to entering a coffin, and told listeners that there were cameras in the rooms.  During his retraction, we learned that there were only cameras in hallways, none in dormitories.  In search of more information on these dormitories, I discovered a June 2010 (likely around the time that Daisey was in China) New York Times article stating that Foxconn was discussing outsourcing its living accommodations to real estate companies at its Shenzhen factory.  Executive vice president Terry Cheng even released a statement saying that the old college campus- style living no longer met the needs of Foxconn’s workers.  Foxconn wanted its workers to become part of the local community, hoping that doing so would relieve some of the pressure of factory life.  I had been quick to jump to conclusions about the housing situation at Foxconn’s factory based on Daisey’s word, and now wish I had known more.

It is clear that Mr. Daisey is a good storyteller.  He is a good actor; he had me engaged in his performance.  I do believe that there is still a great deal of reform needed to make Foxconn a better working environment for its employees, and that factory life should remain under strict scrutiny.  That being said, I think Mr. Daisey does owe Foxconn an apology for tarnishing its professional reputation by telling a story that lacked truthful information.


One response to “Meant for the Theater

  1. You bring up some interesting points about the working condition upgrades clearly necessary at Foxconn and about cutting Mike Daisey some credit for spreading awareness. I agree with both, but there was something about your blog post and the combination of these two ideas that made me wonder– now that I know these problems exist, what am I supposed to do about it? What are any of us supposed to do about it?The podcast mentions that there are watchdog organizations and other groups in Shenzhen who are checking conditions and advocating for workers. Apple’s reports show that they’re doing everything they can to make sure their suppliers are treating workers humanely. Apple has the power to make a difference, not me. Maybe Mike Daisey thinks they can use their power as a customer for these suppliers and do more to make a difference, but they are certainly doing an impressive job already. I just don’t like the fact that I now know this exists, but don’t feel like there’s anything I can do about it. Just a sad fact to carry.

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