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Mike Daisey’s ‘Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory’ Retracted

Written by John Ritchie on 19th March, 2012

Image for Mike Daisey’s ‘Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory’ Retracted
Mike Daisy: "I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard"

Remember the story, posted on This American Life about the Apple Mac factory in China, that went viral earlier this year? Well it turns out it wasn’t entirely true. The story, which was titled ‘Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory’, was written by American monologist, author, and actor, Mike Daisy, and the description read:

Mike Daisey was a self-described “worshipper in the cult of Mac.” Then he saw some photos from a new iPhone, taken by workers at the factory where it was made. Mike wondered: who makes all my crap? He travelled to China to find out.

Daisy has been performing the story as a spoken monologue in theatres for 2 years under the name ‘The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’.

A few months later Rob Schmitz, a Shanghai-based reporter, noticed a number of discrepancies in the story and he contacted This American Life with his findings.

Below are some of the discrepancies Schmitz found in ‘Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory’

  • He mentions that an illegal union had been set up where the workers would meet up at coffee houses and Starbucks to talk. Starbucks is pricier in China then the US. Workers on $15-$20 a day could not afford it.
  • They then tracked down his translator, Cathy – she points out a lot of things that were wrong.
  • They use a special cleaning chemical called hexane that dries quicker than alcohol; it has hallucinogenic properties that make all the workers high and shaky – none of the workers were like that. Workers from a different factory had experienced poisoning from the chemical, but Daisey had used it to exaggerate his story.
  • Factory security guards were carrying guns – only military and police are allowed guns in China.
  • He tells a sympathy story about an old man who was fired after his hand was injured in an accident – Cathy mentions that this never happened.
  • He claimed that he bumped into a 13 year old working there – although they have found underage kids, it’s only been 91 in over 100,000 employees; odds are slim – Cathy also says they didn’t meet any underage workers..

This American Life have now retracted the story with a one-hour long show called ‘Retraction’, you can listen to it here.

During the ‘Retraction’ they actually spoke to Mike Daisey, who tried to justify his actions:

Everything I have done in making this monologue for the theater has been toward that end – to make people care. I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard. But I stand behind the work. My mistake, the mistake that I truly regret is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it’s not journalism. It’s theater. I use the tools of theater and memoir to achieve its dramatic arc and of that arc and of that work I am very proud because I think it made you care, Ira, and I think it made you want to delve. And my hope is that it makes – has made – other people delve.

Forbes have drawn comparisons between this viral story and the recent ‘KONY 2012‘ campaign. Forbes points out that “both owe some of their potency, it turns out, to fabrications and simplifications of the truth”.

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