Mike Daisey, the monologist behind “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” created a “reality-distortion field” of his own.
But it didn’t fool Rob Schmitz.
The China bureau chief for American Public Media’s Marketplace publication uncovered that Daisey had fabricated several details in his accounts of Chinese factory labor at Foxconn Technology Group, which manufactures products for Apple and other electronics makers.
In January, an excerpt from Daisey’s monologue, which he said was based on many interviews during a stay in Shenzhen, China, was broadcasted on the public radio show, “This American Life.” Shenzhen is where Foxconn’s largest factory is located.
When Schmitz listened to the podcast, he was immediately skeptical, he said by phone from Shanghai early Saturday morning.
“There were quite a few things in the piece that struck me as a little unusual, and one of them was the beginning of the piece,” Schmitz said. He’s referring to Daisey’s claim that every electronics product is made in Shenzhen. “If you know anything about the manufacturing sector in China, you know that that’s just not true.”
As Daisey’s tale went on, other details stuck out to Schmitz. For example, Daisey had said that he saw security guards around the Foxconn perimeter holding guns. Schmitz knew that that couldn’t be true, he said, because only military and police officials are legally allowed to carry firearms.
“He evokes this image of a very sort of totalitarian state, and there is some broader truth to the things that he puts in his monologue,” Schmitz said, “but from what we found, there are many things that don’t just check out.”
After listening to that episode of “This American Life,” Schmitz’s most promising clue was found in a Google search.
In Daisey’s monologue, he refers to the translator who accompanied him only by her first name, Cathy. So Schmitz said he punched into Google: Cathy translator Shenzhen.
“I called the first number that popped up,” he said.
The woman on the other end of the line was Cathy Lee, who happened to be Daisey’s translator on his trip to China. Schmitz said he and Lee later met in front of Foxconn’s gates, where parts of Daisey’s story are set.
Schmitz asked Lee whether she and Daisey had actually witnessed the things that Daisey recounted. The guards with guns? The man whose hand had become deformed from the repetition of assembling iPads? The young workers aged 14, 13, 12? The factory-line crew that said they had been poisoned by a toxic cleaning substance?
Lee’s answer to each question: No.
Read the rest here.
3 Responses to How a Google Search Unraveled Mike Daisey’s Apple-Foxconn Story
But she could be lying because she has to or Schmitz could be.
There are many well-documented and vetted reports on Apple factory conditions in China.
Daisy’s story wouldn’t have had any coverage had Ira Glass and team done their jobs correctly for NPR.
My old company used contract manufacturers in China for most of their products. We did a little business with Foxconn. From what I hear they are OK but not a top notch CM; maybe below the other well-known ones of CLS, JBL, FLEX, etc.
There were rumors of occasional employee beatings, which is possible, and truly
primitive restroom conditions, which are likely true. These are all well known stories. Beyond that, probably not much more than should be expected from a company with about 1M employees.
Anyone that has done business in China or even did a bit of research would be aware of this. It is really irresponsible for a major news program to broadcast a story such as this without confirming the allegations. And remember that there are plenty of jobs in the US with dangerous or poor working conditions.