Since I posted about the original story when it aired, it is only fair that I post the retraction in the same way. This American Life had done a story in January which I called at the time “particularly captivating and a little disturbing”. Well, it turns out it was mostly lies. Well, the details were lies. The narrative from Mike Daisey was mostly fabricated. Many of the underlying concerns about working conditions, etc had roots in the truth, but a lot of the details and specific incidents were just plain made up. The retraction is almost as powerful as the original episode. It is also well worth listening to.
This American Life #460:
Originally Aired 03.16.2012
Regrettably, we have discovered that one of our most popular episodes was partially fabricated. This week, we devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory,” Mike Daisey’s story about visiting Foxconn, an Apple supplier factory in China. Rob Schmitz, a reporter for Marketplace, raises doubts on much of Daisey’s story.
Looks like they aren’t allowing embedding for this episode, at least not yet, so you’ll need to click through above to listen.
I find this kind of thing absolutely infuriating. When someone has something very real and a story that deserves to be told, an issue that needs to get out there. Something important that people should know about. But then they decide to make it really compelling they need to do more. So they embellish or make things up to fill out the picture. Or they take ethical shortcuts like the Peter Gleick Heartland Scandal earlier this year. Or for that matter the Dan Rather George Bush Memos. This kind of stuff is all frustrating. Their might be an underlying truth worth knowing, but when people lie and fabricate and misrepresent, it completely overwhelms any of that underlying truth and puts everything in doubt.