March 18, 2012

"Yeah. We have different worldviews on some of these things. I agree with you truth is really important."

Says Mike Daisey to Ira Glass, who responds: "I know but I feel like I have the normal worldview. The normal worldview is somebody stands on stage and says 'this happened to me,' I think it happened to them, unless it's clearly labeled as 'here's a work of fiction.'"

Some artists (and propagandists) will disagree, but I hope Glass is right.

ADDED: You can listen to the new "Retraction" episode of "This American Life" here (where there is also a link to the transcript PDF).
Ira Glass: You put us in this position of going out and vouching for the truth of what you were saying and all along, in all of these ways, you knew that these things weren’t true. Did you ever stop and think, okay these things aren’t true and you have us vouching for their truth?

Mike Daisey: I did, I did. I thought about that a lot.

Ira Glass: And just what did you think?

Mike Daisey: I felt really conflicted. I felt... trapped.
Fascinatingly, it turns out that Daisey had once done a story about that "Million Little Pieces" guy, James Frey, who got into so much trouble for palming off a fictionalized story as a memoir. A big part of the trouble was that Oprah Winfrey had promoted Frey's book. The section of the interview where Glass brings up Frey ends like this:
Ira Glass: I have such a weird mix of feelings about this, because I simultaneously feel terrible, for you, and also, I feel lied to. And also I stuck my neck out for you. You know I feel like, I feel like, like I vouched for you. With our audience. Based on your word.
I was your Oprah!
Mike Daisey: I’m sorry.


edutcher said...

Uncle Saul told them no lie is too big or too heinous if it's in cause of Glorious World Socialist Revolution.

All that matters are intentions.

Patrick said...

The irony of a false story in the service of the "Glorious World Socialist Revolution" which makes things in China look bad is duly noted.

I think I need more coffee.

ricpic said...

I guess the fact that the guards outside Chinese factories don't have guns on them (as reported breathlessly by Fallows) means the Chi-Coms are sweety pies.

edutcher said...

Patrick, the object of the original piece, IMHO, is to make the capitalism of Apple look bad.


The Drill SGT said...

The sad part is that his lies about working conditions in China will allow the Chinese government to avoid blame in the future when actual abuses are revealed.

"there they go again, the Western press is making stories up about the workers paradise again just like that Daisey guy did in 2012"

Patrick said...

edutcher - I agree. Still seems ironic. Ripping on the largest bastion of the left's dream society to bring down...capitalism! You'd think the potential abuse of state power coupled with private enterprise would tell them something.

Bob Ellison said...

It hurts so much to do what's right!

Wally Kalbacken said...


Is this Ira Glass or Steven Glass?

rhhardin said...

Working condition regulation is a luxury. It depends on a wealthy society. A poor society prefers to spend resources on something else, like any job at all.

The more regulation, the more unemployment, and it's pretty severe if your ability to be useful to somebody is limited.

Benefits of unregulated work flow to the population at large.

Just as, in the 50s when the Hudson was visibly green downstream of some plant around Albany or Glens Falls (I forget which), the pollution lowered the cost of manufacture for whatever it was, a benefit that showed up not in profits but in the price to the consumer. (It only shows up on profit if you're the only one doing it. Employing illegal workers is the same way, by the way.)

At some point, American society decided it preferred a clean Hudson to low prices. It did that after it got wealthy, not before.

Unknown said...

I have no sympathy whatever for NPR. Why didn't they vet this story and this man before they caused an international anti-Apple kerfluffle? As Allahpundit would say, "too good to check." Like silly teenagers, they wanted to believe his lies.

Daisey tho needs help.

Chase said...

.. . . , but I hope Glass is right

We all know what the real issue is here. Here's the real question:

What would the world be like if everyone was truly completely honest.

Please - give it at least a good 5 minutes of pondering before answering.

Anonymous said...

The excuse this liar allows his self has always been useful for liars but I think it's more common than ever. In a post lie interview for a story by Rob Schmitz at we get this amazing gyration:

Rob Schmitz: Cathy says you did not talk to workers who were poisoned with hexane.

Mike Daisey: That’s correct.

RS: So you lied about that? That wasn’t what you saw?

MD: I wouldn’t express it that way.

RS: How would you express it?

MD: I would say that I wanted to tell a story that captured the totality of my trip.

This crap actually floats with a sizable portion of the target audience. Truthiness, in Colbert's terminology, is enough to fill the sails of a movement floating along on religious convictions. Joseph Smith would have recognized it. Peter Gleick recently made a clumsy attempt to utilize it. Getting caught at it seems to embarrass liars not in the least. All that matters is whether a sufficiency of fools are hearing what they already believe to be true.

rhhardin said...

What would the world be like if everyone was truly completely honest.

You'd be unpopular but liberated. Try it.

virgil xenophon said...

Don't be too tough on the guy, sportsfans, the guy just "underincluded" certain facts, that's all, lol.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Ira Glass' college major was Semiotics. "Also called semiotic studies or (in the Saussurean tradition) semiology, is the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which, for its part, studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. "

I guess Glass never learned how to tell if someone was a big, old fat liar.

P.S. Althouse has a fascination for Semiotics IMO.

joated said...

Mike Daisey, putting one more nail in the coffin of credible journalism.

Palladian said...

Was there a guitar strumming softly in the background during this exchange?

Carol said...

Fake but inaccurate!

The Crack Emcee said...

Now, you see, this is all I'm asking for. This is what this country needs. I ask you, why can't we do this to homeopaths, Mormons, global warmists, yogis, anti-vaccine people, Oprah, Dr. Oz, etc.? We've got the information on all of them - I do anyway - so why can't they be confronted with their lies and finally forced to clear the air?

It boggles my mind that Ira Glass, of all people, has more integrity than almost the whole of American society,...

I'm Full of Soup said...


NPR's worldview got publicly de-pantsed. They had no choice but to admit it.

And you pat them on the back?

KCFleming said...

In which a student of semiotics is shocked shocked that a few generations of Foucauldian relativism in education actually produces a perfect specimen: someone who doesn't think the actual facts matter, and that "truth" is a power issue.

Indeed the Daisey moron is a bit taken aback, because he simply produced propaganda, just like NPR wanted, and they liked it, and now they are crying date rape because their parents found out.

cubanbob said...

NPR' problem is that once you get caught in a lie everything else you say is suspect.

wyo sis said...

"Truth is really important."

Well, it is and it isn't apparently. It's important that you tell me the truth, but I can tell whatever I want. This is the way five-year-olds think. Oh, and really really educated cultural elites.

Steve Koch said...

I don't understand what the big deal is. Lefties lie all the time, what is one more lie? On top of that, Daisy is a performance artist who was performing, why would you assume that he was not propagandizing? For that matter, why would you ever assume a lefty is telling the truth? For lefties the truth is an option but just an option.

Lefty ethics are as flexible as spaghetti. Conservatives are committed to old timey classic rigid ethical principles. This puts them at an extreme disadvantage wrt to lefties who have situational ethics (i.e. the ends justifies the means).

Here is a summary of Alinsky's rules to test whether power tactics are ethical:

"1. One's concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one's personal interest in the issue.
2. The judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.
3. In war the end justifies almost any means.
4. Judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.
5. Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.
6. The less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.
7. Generally, success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.
8. The morality of means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.
9. Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition to be unethical.
10. You do what you can with what you have and clothe it in moral garments.
11. Goals must be phrased in general terms like "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," "Of the Common Welfare," "Pursuit of Happiness," or "Bread and Peace.""

If you are boxing and your opponent is doing MMA, most likely you are going to be grounded and pounded.

Saint Croix said...

I simultaneously feel terrible, for you, and also, I feel lied to.

NPR is so fucking liberal. I feel like mugging the crap out of them so they can blame themselves.

Synova said...

I must be one of those bitter clingers, holding to religion and guns and truth out of fear but...

I *really* can not comprehend someone thinking that "fictionalized" truth is not lying.

There are understood code-words for "this is not true"... (a novel), usually in parenthesis under the title, "based on a true story", etc.

The Crack Emcee said...

AJ Lynch,


NPR's worldview got publicly de-pantsed. They had no choice but to admit it.

And you pat them on the back?

This exchange is more than I see anyone else delivering - most of the time for much worse crimes. Al Gore should've been perp walked a loooong time ago, after ripping this nation off for billions, and the best the rest of you can do is drum up ridicule - never a demand for clarity, action, or conviction of any kind. I can point out a billion things wrong with the perfectly coiffed image of Romney and all it gets is a shrug because idiots think they're being practical - like that trumps integrity - and then they wonder why I won't vote with them.

Ann Coulter was in the news, last week, saying, "I think our party and particularly our movement, the conservative movement, does have more of a problem with con men and charlatans," and what was the reaction? Are we going to catch these criminals? HELL NO, BABY, KEEP THAT SHIT GOING - IT'S AN ELECTION YEAR!!!!

Sure, we're against political correctness - until we want to get Bill Maher - and then it's conservative PC persecution 24/7 and anyone who notices and says selling our soul is wrong is an asshole with no understanding of the battlefield.

Sorry, but as always, I know what I'm fighting for no matter how often the rest of these inbred dickwads are willing to abandon their core convictions out of expediency.

So yes - if this is the best I'm gonna get - I'll take it and applaud NPR for it:

It's hands-down better than anything else I've seen from "our side," or anywhere else, and I welcome it with open arms.

Synova said...

What would the world be like if everyone told the truth? I think that being able to tell stories is the equivalent of being able to construct hypothesis. If we weren't *able* to do so, we would not be sentient. But the results of lies is that no one believes you anymore about things that are important. Every exaggeration by AGW folks or PETA or Dan Rather are good, sound, reasons to ignore them no matter what they say. Fake the evidence on one criminal case and no one doubts the "planted" glove. And as several people have said, after this, who will believe bad stories about China?

In the new internet world, all a person has of real value is their reputation.

As for combating the liars... the same way that we wouldn't be sentient without the ability to make up stories, we wouldn't be free without the ability to be horribly, profoundly, and destructively wrong.

Jason said...

Ira Glass:

"I know but I feel like I have the normal worldview. The normal worldview is somebody stands on stage and says 'this happened to me,' I think it happened to them, unless it's clearly labeled as 'here's a work of fiction.'"

That's all well and good. Unless you're a professional journalist, of any stripe.

If that's the hat you wear, then you have to verify shit.

The ONLY THING that sets a good professional journalist above the rest is a culture of verification. If you lose that culture of verification, all you have is a PR mill, vulnerable to being bitched out by people who are willing to say or do anything to manipulate your organization. You essentially cede the marketplace of ideas to the most dishonest players within it.

No journo is infallible, of course- and I think everyone gets snookered, to some degree, one way or another, sooner or later. But a professional journo makes it damn hard to do so.

My editor passed on some advice to me in my reporter days: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Steve Koch said...

Lefty post normal ethics mean that knowing what lefty "reality" is requires facilities like computer aps, journo-list groups, politically correct dialog, etc. Once you drop objective reality for a politically determined "reality", communicating that political "reality" becomes a never ending hassle.

There are not too many brilliant lefties like Bill Clinton who can effortlessly juggle objective reality and lefty "reality". Your typical lefty needs all the help he can get to understand what lefty "reality" is at any point in time.

What might solve the problem is a set of sensory intermediates (i.e. at least computerized goggles and head phones) that will intermediate reality in a context sensitive way to help lefties navigate through real reality while still staying on track in lefty "reality".

Why stop there? Why not also intermediate lefty output (writing and talking) to make sure that a lefty stays on the current lefty track?

Steve Koch said...

"The ONLY THING that sets a good professional journalist above the rest is a culture of verification."

Haha. Now that the vast majority of "journalists" are recognized as lefty propagandists, we really should stop calling these frauds "journalists" and call them something else. How about "PropJourn"?

MayBee said...

NPR was given fabricated material and promoted it.
Andrew Breitbart was given an edited Sherrod tape and promoted it.
Oprah was given fabricated material and promoted.

Which one had the bell tied around his neck?

William said...

The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution killed millions. Jung Chang estimates the number at seventy million. The crimes associated with Communism are scarcely reported and never dramatized....In recent years, tens of millions of Chinese and Indians have been lifted out of poverty. It's a grand story. I'm sure that there is a great deal of corruption, pollution, exploitation etc. going on, but the fact remains that the lives of millions of people are getting better. My question is this: why are western intellectuals so eager to discover the crimes of capitalism that they invent them. And why are western intellectuals so enamored of communism that they can discover happy pioneers in the midst of widespread famine....There was one stupid motherfucking, Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times journalist who on his first visit to China during the Cultural Revolution speculated that the reason why you so rarely see fat Chinese is because it's hard to overeat when you're using chopsticks. Now that's hard hitting, investigative journalism.

wyo sis said...

It seems we need something beyond journalists of we want to get to the truth. Where do you go to find the truth in a culture so saturated in situational ethics? Where are real ethics. Or is there any such thing as an honest person?

I'd love to try living in a society where everyone is totally and completely honest. How could it be worse than this one where you can count on near universal dishonesty? But, not enough to discount everything everyone says. Some people still do tell the truth. The problem is finding out who they are.

roesch/voltaire said...

Any one who has listened to his program knows that Ira Glass has more integrity than a host of other reporters and producers, and again I stress that it is very challenging to cover any story in China, which is why so many intellectuals are jailed or forced to fee for revealing just a few small facts about the society.

pdug said...

One of the funny things about Daisey's backstory is that he got water poured all over a manuscript by a bunch of offended audience members back in 2007. if his life were a work of fiction, that would be great foreshadowing