Strong opinions, weakly held

The Mike Daisey scandal in a nutshell

I’m going to let you skip listening to the Retraction episode of This American Life. Here are two short snippets from the transcript. First, This American Life made it clear what they expected from Daisey. This bit is from an email that This American Life producer Brian Reed sent to Mike Daisey before the original episode excerpting Mike Daisey’s show aired:

Being that news stations are obviously a different kind of form than the theater we wanted to make sure that this thing is totally, utterly unassailable by anyone who might hear it.

And why did Mike Daisey lie to everyone? Here’s why:

I think I was terrified that if I untied these things, that the work, that I know is really good, and tells a story, that does these really great things for making people care, that it would come apart in a way where, where it would ruin everything.

The rest is just details.


  1. Anyone who wants to fight for the powerless should hold fast to the absolute truth, or rather, the facts. Two reasons: we can’t afford to make a schandeh for the powerful to exploit, and more fundamentally, the facts are the only things which can’t be changed by loud voices, violence and the threat thereof, and all the other weapons the powerful can bring to bear….

    Shorter: we can’t get away with lying the way the powerful nearly always can, and lying fights on a battlefield where there enjoy overwhelming advantages.

  2. So it’s okay that he lied?

    There are plenty of articles out there which illustrate the serious problems Daisey has created with his lies.

    There’s more than a touch of the White Savior Industrial Complex about Daisey:

    The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm. This world exists simply to satisfy the needs – including, importantly, the sentimental needs – of white people and Oprah. The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.

    Was Daisey raising awareness of working conditions in China? Or was he selling an emotional experience?

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