Retraction Reaction


After listening to the podcast, I am more disappointed in “This American Life” than I am in Daisey. As a news station, listeners expect that they are hearing journalistic pieces from well-informed sources rather than the theatrical constructions of storytellers. While it could be helpful in understanding context, I wouldn’t watch “Saving Private Ryan” or “Schindler’s List” to learn the history surrounding World War II.  Similarly, I wouldn’t go to a self-professed writer and performer for an objective account of labor conditions in China. I am completely understanding of Daisey’s desire to tell a story that would rouse people’s emotions while being an enjoyable performance.  While he may have never experienced some of the events he talks about himself, its not as if they have never occurred.  Apple has admitted to both having underage workers and incidents of Hexane poisoning. Although I believe Daisey’s lack of journalistic credentials sufficed as an indicator of the nature of his performance, he should have been clear with audiences that the play was based on his experiences and not a completely factual account. For me, TAL has significant credibility for choosing to air a play in place of real news and failing to perform a sufficient fact check.

            Even after the fact check done for the retraction, I do not believe we fully know which parts of Daisey’s story were true and which were fabricated.  For many parts of the story, they ruled them true or false by asking the interpreter, Cathy, to recall her experience with Daisey.  At that point two years since she worked for him had passed and she had taken many foreigners to the gates of Foxconn.  Even if she was being completely honest, it’s likely her memories are completely or always accurate. What particularly struck out to me was that she had hardly even seen underage workers.  Perhaps it is just the way it is worded but I don’t believe simply looking at someone could tell you if they were underage or not. While it was thorough of TAL to interview the interpreter, her memory does not seem like a reliable source for determining whether or not minor events in Daisey’s story actually occurred. 

While Cathy stated they did not visit any dorms, Daisey’s description of them seems to be exaggerated based on other sources’ reports.  An article in the UK Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/may/30/foxconn-abuses-despite-apple-reforms?newsfeed=true provides more detail on the factory dorms, stating that they “remain cramped, with 20 or 30 workers sharing three-bedroom flats, sleeping eight to a room in bunkbeds”.  Duhigg said that “12 to sometimes 20 or 30 people” would be “stuffed” into one apartment.  While these statements agree, the additional description in the Guardian article paints a much less dire picture than what Duhigg decribed. Daisey described a 12×12 cement room with 13-15 beds in it.  This does not seem to be the case according to the Guardian or Duhigg. It is not surprising that Daisey’s account would describe harsher living conditions as he was trying to paint a vivid and sad image in the minds of his audience. 

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2 responses to “Retraction Reaction

  1. Although the 2-year delay in Cathy’s recollection of Daisey’s visit to China is significant, I don’t think that she can be considered an unreliable source. I was actually surprised by how much she remembered and the extra details she gave left me confident in her recollection of events. But regardless of the level of detail she gave, I think that it was very important that she was on the show, simply to prove the falsity and exaggeration of Daisey’s story. She was the only person that was with Daisey most of the time and while not angry, she was quick to disprove Daisey’s recount of his time in China.

  2. I too was disappointed with TAL’s part in the controversy surrounding Mr. Daisey. As a credible news source, the show should have known to further check the facts of the story; accepting Daisey’s claim that “Anna” was unreachable was sloppy journalism. I was also surprised by the amount of information that Cathy was able to retain after two years. She met with multiple foreigners, likely taking them on similar trips to the Foxconn gates. She did not know what Daisey was going to do with his findings; she had no reason to think that she would ever have to revisit the events of their trip. After being under the impression that her job was done once Daisey left, Cathy would seemingly have no reason to keep theses memories so sharp. Cathy is our only account of what really happened, but I think it is important that we account for her possible lapse in memory.

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