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Mike Daisey Defends Retracted ‘This American Life’ Report on Apple

Mike Daisey’s report on Apple for “This American Life” has been condemned due to inaccuracies, but Daisey stands by his “art”

Mike Daisey, whose controversial report on Apple was retracted by public radio program "This American Life" last week, has written a post on his blog defending himself.

Not only does he — again – claim it was a piece of theater, but he argues that the basis of his story, that Apple supplier Foxconn treats its workers inhumanely, remains true. As such, media condemnation is unfair. 

"Given the tenor of the condemnation, you would think I had concocted an elaborate, fanciful universe filled with furnaces in which babies are burned to make iPhone components," Daisey wrote.

Also read: Apple in China & the Mike Daisey Problem: Bad ‘Journalism’ Clouds Jobs Issue

"There is nothing in this controversy that contests the facts in my work about the nature of Chinese manufacturing," he later added. "Nothing. I think we all know if there was, Ira would have brought it up."

Daisey’s self-defense flies in the face of intense media censure ever since the story broke on Friday.

"This American Life" host Ira Glass felt Daisey’s initial report, which precipitated a series of stories on inhumane working conditions at Foxconn, not only merited a retraction, but he also devoted his entire show to the factual discrepancies on Friday.

Daisey accuses Glass of taking his audio out of context and editing it to select the choice bits.

Yet not only did Glass apologize profusely, but journalists of every stripe have also condemned Daisey’s report (and praised Glass for owning up to the mistake).

Also read: 'This American Life' Retracts Report on Working Conditions at Apple Supplier

Media critic and Pressthink founder Jay Rosen dubbed Daisey a "master manipulator" while Jason Zinoman wrote in Slate that Daisey was "unethical" and a "dehumanizing storyteller."

New York Times media critic David Carr also devoted his Monday column to it.

"No one is suggesting that everything about Apple’s supply chain is suddenly hunky-dory, but the heroic narrative of a fearless theater artist taking on the biggest company in the world is now a pile of smoking rubble," Carr wrote.

The general theme of Carr’s column is that the rectitude of Daisey’s overall’s point – the poor working conditions – does not excuse a liberal treatment of the facts. Zinoman makes the same argument.

Yet, ironically, Daisey argues the opposite. He points to reports in the Times and on NPR that probed the situation further, demonstrating that his overall point remain credible.

He accuses people of trying to deny the truth about Apple, making his error more important than those of Foxconn.

"If people want to use me as an excuse to return to denialism about the state of our manufacturing, about the shape of our world, they are doing that to themselves."

That’s not to say Daisey backed away from his apology. He reiterated it. But he still argued his pursuit of a higher truth, art, warranted the slight fabrication.

But then he stood up for the truth.

"I told Ira that story should always be subordinate to the truth, and I still believe that. Sometimes I fall short of that goal, but I will never stop trying to achieve it," Daisey wrote.

Unless art gets in the way.