Mike Daisey is a liar and a fraud. As detailed in the latest episode of This American Life, virtually every important detail of his "Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" monologue was made up in the name of theater:
The China correspondent for the public radio show Marketplace tracked down the interpreter that Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen China. The interpreter disputed much of what Daisey has been saying on stage and on our show. On this week's episode of This American Life, we will devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in "Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory."
A little over a month ago, I published an open interview request, not expecting to hear from Mike Daisey. Lest you think he limited his lies to the stage, here's how he answered a point blank question about what he saw, and who he talked with:
Q: You talked with Foxconn employees, and those who follow your work can get a sense of life at Foxconn, from a certain perspective. How many people did you talk to and how long did you spend talking to them?
A: This is actually covered in Act II of the THIS AMERICAN LIFE piece I recorded.
We now know that most of what is covered in Act II was completely fabricated. Similar lies were told to more prominent news outlets. Daisey's follow-up interview [PDF] with Ira Glass reveals the truth, finally, or the closest thing we'll ever get to the truth from Daisey.
Today, I learn that he had more to say about my "open interview" on his personal blog, just five days ago.
Responding to this...
In general, I think Daisey gives good, fair answers. He ratchets up the hyperbole a bit in a couple places, and I think he still offers some overly simplistic answers (as well as a couple non-answer answers) but I think they're about the best he can do given that I'm not doing follow-up questions.
Mr. Ford conveniently doesn't tell us what he considers hyperbole, nor does he actually comment on which answers are simplistic, or when he thinks I am dodging his questions. He just lets the accusations hang in the air as a way of closing.
Now that he's reviewed my work, and I'm done with giving him what he requested in a measured, forthright way, I have a response for Mr. Ford.
Nothing about your "open request" was genuine—your questions were leading, ill-informed, and made clumsy overtures toward "trapping" me in ways that a child could have seen through.
You insulted my art form and my work, at length, without knowing what it is, proud of how ignorant you are, and your sneering and contempt say a lot more about your worth than I ever could. You insulted my integrity, and in a better world we should settle this in an alley outside a bar of your choice the next time I'm in Kansas City.
You never expected me to answer your questions, and the fact that you pretend now that this has been to any degree a civil exchange is indicative of the kind of intellectual cowardice you've been trading in. If I gave you more attention you'd eventually shift to sucking up to me, if that served your ends.
You don't know me, Mr. Ford. But you know yourself. That's why you know I'm absolutely fucking right about you.
Daisey probably felt pretty good about writing this, five days ago. I picture him sitting at his keyboard, a smug look of self-satisfaction spread across his face as he pounded out his response.
Today? Harder to justify the cockiness.
Daisey is right about one thing: When I posted my interview request, I had something I wanted to say. I didn't really need him to answer my questions (though, I love that he did now that the world knows he's a liar) because the point I was trying to make was that there seemed to be something incredibly fishy about Mike Daisey.
My questions were leading. True. I had doubts about Daisey, and I wanted that to come across in my questions. That's why I asked about his credentials. That's why I asked who he spoke with and how long he spent talking to them.
It's not true, however, that I'd have ever sucked up to Daisey. I will never, ever, suck up to someone I do not respect.
Anyone who knows me knows that this is true, probably to a fault. He says that to feel better about himself, knowing that his popularity and reach exceeded mine, and it's just too bad for Daisey that he chose to get cocky about it in the days leading up to his public disgrace.
A month before an independent journalist revealed Mike Daisey to be a liar and a fake, I wrote this:
Here's a rough draft of a monoloquy I'm formulating about Mike Daisey. As it is a work in progress, please -- no criticism. That simply wouldn't be fair:
Mike Daisey is an actor playing a part. He's a performance artist playing the role of the "curmudgeonly asshole" fighting for the forces of good against capitalistic greed.
In his world, any message purporting to be a truth -- so long as it is delivered with anger and conviction -- is the only acceptable truth. If Mike Daisey suggests that change is easily obtainable well, that's absolutely the case, and don't you fucking dare question the assertion -- unless of course you're willing to feel the brunt of Mike Daisey's anger.
With The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Daisey stumbled onto his best and most marketable performance, offering easy claims but no workable solutions. Guess which half of that formula gets all the publicity? Guess which half is more easily accepted and regurgitated by your average technology-loving American consumer?
The average Mike Daisey answer is easy to dance to. It's got a great beat. It inspires you to nod your head in agreement and can even make you feel good about being the sort of person that cares about the plight of workers in China.
None of that means that the average Mike Daisey answer holds up under scrutiny.
In the end, Mike Daisey cannot compromise, cannot abide reasonable arguments, and will not argue rationally, because the role he's written for himself depends upon raw emotion.
As a means to an end, Mike Daisey is always in character.
A month ago, Mike Daisey was a darling of the mainstream media. If anyone had doubts about his story, or his character, they were sitting on those doubts in the face of Daisey's incredible popularity, or due to the risk of seeming uncaring towards Chinese workers.
As it turns out, I knew Mike Daisey better than he was willing to let on, and better than almost anyone who was writing about him.
Five days ago, he had the luxury of bluster. It was easy to angrily claim that he was right, to portray me as a nobody and a pest.
I wonder, though: Did Mike Daisey know that his lies were unraveling as he wrote those things about me? Did he know that he was about to be exposed as a fraud?
No response needed, Mike.