Mike Daisey lied about work conditions in contract manufacturing factories in China where iPhones and iPads are made. He lied on stage in a theatrical monologue (that itself was a bald rip-off of the medium invented by the late, great Spalding Gray.) He lied on public radio in a now-retracted episode of “This American Life.” And his lies were picked up by The New York Times, The Associated Press, MSNBC and HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”, to name a few.
Daisey painted a vivid and dramatic picture of horrific work conditions in slave-labor factories designed to exploit workers for the benefit of Apple and you: the selfish, greedy American who demands your iProducts at a reasonable price point. The lies were exposed, ironically, by a reporter for another public-radio program, Rob Schmitz.
At this point, the interesting part of the story is not Daisey’s lies, but who bought his lies and why.
The media outlets were all too willing to publish and broadcast Daisey’s lies, because it fit perfectly into their narrative of evil American corporations (even one headed by liberal champion Steve Jobs) exploiting the downtrodden and vulnerable of the world (especially people of a non-caucasian race) for the benefit of Wall Street and Wal-Mart. Daisey’s story had everything the American media is looking for. So fact-checking was left on the back-burner.
Compare that lazy attitude with the scrutiny and skepticism heaped on conservative news outlets when stories break about a liberal congressman’s Twitter activity or a liberal President’s law school hero. There is a stunning double standard that is revealed by the Daisey story that can’t be overlooked. If a report matches with the template, the dogmatic narrative instilled in year one in Journalism School, it receives the benefit of the doubt. If a story challenges what “everyone knows to be true” from the Left’s perspective, it is held up to the highest level of scrutiny, if acknowledged at all.
But, the Mike Daisey affair has more levels to it than that. You see, Daisey is not a reporter or journalist in the traditional sense. He is, what’s the word… oh yeah: He’s an ACTOR! His profession is to lie and lie well. If Mike Daisey were a bad liar, he would never have been able to make a living as an actor. So, when he presented his monologue presentation about Apple manufacturing conditions, one would think NPR and the AP would stop for a moment and question the sourcing. After all, the guy was probably doing dinner theatre in Poughkeepsie last week, right?
But, sadly, with the advent of Hollywood activism in the form of Clooney, Pitt, Sarandon, Moore, Hanks, et al, Daisey’s Thespian credentials actually helped his cause with America’s journalism elite. We have reached the point where Rosie O’Donnell’s moronic ramblings about the temperature at which steel will melt is treated like a dissertation from St. Thomas Aquinas, so why shouldn’t we honor the research of a portly monologuist who was probably the understudy for Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Summer stock?
The final piece of the “China slave-labor” puzzle, unfortunately, falls in the hands of some of our conservative friends in the political arena. The Santorum rhetoric of the 2012 campaign promising to bring manufacturing jobs back to America has an under-lying false premise that “Made in China” means consorting with the enemy and in some way implies guilt for crimes against humanity perpetrated by Foxconn and other contract manufacturers. Conservatives who fear the growth of Chinese manufacturing are too quick to condemn companies for utilizing the advantages of global manufacturing sources, and they exploit the issue in false patriotic terms.
The fact is, it is the utmost of patriotism to manufacture something for the least amount of money for the best possible quality, even if that means manufacturing in a foreign land. I am an American consumer. And I want to purchase the best product for the lowest price. Apple understands this and has accommodated to my needs. By doing so, they have helped millions of American workers at Best Buy, Apple Stores, Target, etc. They have also helped thousands of stock holders who invest in the brilliant corporate strategies employed by Apple. Apple and the companies who sell their products have kept this economy afloat the past few years, and have kept millions of American workers productive with great products like the personal computer on which this article is being written.
If conservative politicians were not so knee-jerk in their protectionist instincts, there might have been a stronger voice to speak out against the lies perpetrated by Mr. Daisey and his accomplices in the liberal media. But, sadly, many on the right wanted to believe his lies too–I suppose so they could make a case for manufacturing iPads in a union shop in Pennsylvania so Verizon could sell it for $3,000.00. Doesn’t sound very smart to me. Or so conservative.
UPDATED: “This American Life” is not produced by NPR, but is distributed by PRI (Public Radio International) for independent public radio stations. The article has been updated to correct the error.