Artist hits back after Apple firestorm

2012-03-20 09:25

New York - Mike Daisey, the performer forced to admit that he made up parts of his one-man show that purported to expose horrific working conditions in Chinese factories where iPads and iPhones are assembled, isn't exactly slinking away.

"I want you all to know that I will not go silent," he writes in a new feisty blog posting on Monday following a weekend in which he was exposed as mixing fiction and fact and then had to edit his monologue.

While acknowledging that parts of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs are made up, Daisey said he stands by his critique of the way Apple products are manufactured in China.

"If you think this story is bigger than that story, something is wrong with your priorities."

In an interview with This American Life host Ira Glass broadcast on Friday, Daisey acknowledged that some of the claims in his show weren't true. The radio show retracted its January 6 episode on Daisey because Glass said he couldn't vouch for the truth of its claims.

Fact and fiction

Daisey then cut parts of his one-man show and added a prologue in which he addresses the questions raised by critics.

Daisey had described travelling to the Chinese industrial zone of Shenzhen and interviewing hundreds of workers from Foxconn Technology Group, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer.

He said he stood outside the gate with a translator and met workers as young as 12 and some whose joints were damaged because they performed the same action thousands of times a shift.

Daisey has now admitted that he mixed fact and fiction - though he never warned his audiences or the journalists who talked with him. Some of the most damning assertions - that he met underage workers, people poisoned by industrial chemicals and workers crippled by repetitive strains - have fallen apart.

"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," he wrote.

Daisey has been criticised for misleading thousands of people, putting a grand theatrical tradition into disrepute and even potentially harming the very workers he was apparently trying to help. But on his blog, he was hardly apologetic.

"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, or that I never went to China, never stood outside the gates of Foxconn, never pretended to be a businessman to get inside of factories, never spoke to any workers," he wrote.

"Except that we all know that isn't true. There is nothing in this controversy that contests the facts in my work about the nature of Chinese manufacturing."

Daisey - a performer in the vein of Spalding Gray and John Leguizamo - has performed the monologue for more than 50 000 people from Seattle to Washington, DC. He was expected to take the show on tour after its latest run ended Sunday at The Public Theatre.

  • Paslav - 2012-03-20 09:33

    What if he was paid by Apple to make up these false stories, so that when the false stories came crashing down it would take out some horribly true stories too.

  • john.ostrowick - 2012-03-20 09:45

    EVERY computer manufacturer uses Foxconn. Is the targetting of Apple perhaps sour grapes for their recent success? It's like how when Microsoft were the biggest, everyone went after them too...

      Trevor - 2012-03-20 10:34

      John, Apple just happen to be at the top of their game,making the most noise so, they will attract the most attention, good and bad, it has nothing to do with "sour grapes".What he is pointing out is Americans are crying they are losing jobs, their country is broke YET, their OWN companies are pump ALL US Dollars into China and keeping PR offices in the USA just for the sake of a profit at ANY COST.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-20 09:48

    Everyone seems to miss the point or see the bigger picture here. Every single major company in the world, choose a brand name and yes it is one of them, farms off work to "third" world countries to ensure maximum profit, remembering that the basic tenants of Capitalism and corporate culture dictate that profit come before all else. The singling out of Apple's iPad is little more than a campaign against them as every company using cheap overseas markets to manufacturer good is controlled by the same laws, therefor conditions in one factory are generally the same as in the factory next door. As for Mike Daisey, the mere fact that he has been caught out on one issue makes anything he says null and void without independent third party confirmation.

  • dreyer.smit - 2012-03-20 09:50

    All the hipsters will fight to keep the halo on Apple. They're evil :P

  • Leon - 2012-03-20 09:57

    The fact of the matter is, China uses child labour and workers work under horiffic conditions. That is the truth. So are manufacturing in India as well.

  • Glyn - 2012-03-20 10:21

    Fact - There are poor people in China. Fact - There are hungry people in China. Fact - Poor, Hungry people will want work, even at low pay and conditions. Fact - If pay and conditions are forced up it will cause more starvation and extreme poverty in China. So... Get all PC and cause babies to die due to unemployment or not!

  • braams - 2012-03-20 12:14

    It's actually far more simple; if you want to make a stance, then just don't but Apple products. Personally, I buy them as soon as they land on the shelf. I trust that all the international bodies of various description and purpose are doing their jobs to make sure labour conditions are fair, environmental issues are addressed and everything else that needs to be worried about. If not, rebl against he UN or WHO or whoever is the globally responsible party. Either that, or don't buy an iPhone.

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