This American Lie

NPR.Public Radio. Bastion of integrity. The radio network so nobel and so devoted to public service that we, the little people, have to fork over some of our tax dollars to support it.

Oops!

Apple got a lot of attention recently over conditions in the Chinese factories that make its iPhones and iPads. The public radio show “This American Life” aired an electrifying account of one man’s visit to several factories. The man was Mike Daisey, a storyteller who is widely credited with making people think differently about how their Apple products are made.

It’s Daisey’s story about visiting a Foxconn factory in China where Apple manufactures iPhones and other products. With the help of a Chinese translator, Daisey finds underage workers, poisoned workers, maimed workers, and dismal factory conditions for those who make iPhones and iPads.

The problem? It wasn’t true. Oh, some of the underlying facts are true. There are reports of hexane poisoning and some of Apple’s contractors have been caught using underage labor. But what Daisey now admits is that he took the scattered reports and wove them together into a fictional account of his visit, an account that portrays Apple as an evil predator company rather than a company doing business in a country where concern for workers and/or the environment is, at best, desultory. He portrayed Apple workers as abused slaves rather than people who are grateful to have a job that, by the standards of China, is pretty damned decent.

Watch the Left very carefully on this one. The litmus test for how much you value media accuracy is what you do when your favorite outlet has been caught in a lie. If you twist yourself into a pretzel to justify it or ignore it, you really don’t care about the truth; you care about getting the message out for your “team”. If any of This American Life’s fans say anything other than, “this is a disgrace”, you know what they’re listening to the show for validation of their biases, not information.

Note: I initially threw this at NPR and deserve to be kicked. They don’t produce TAL. It’s produced independently and distributed by PRI.

My basic point remains. This came through publicly-funded radio that we pay for and is broadcast to an audience that is largely liberal.

Comments are closed.

  1. Mook

    This is not a surprise. NPR is bastion of leftwing extremist advocacy pretending to be “unbiased”. Remember this?

    In their talkshows, they often have calming background sounds to make it seems as if they’re just telling us settled facts when they hype things like alleged “right wing” incitement over Gabby Giffords shooting and their discussions on the need for more “gun control”

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  2. Section8

    The litmus test for how much you value media accuracy is what you do when your favorite outlet has been caught in a lie.

    I’m sure they’ll be blogging about this via their IPads for days.

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  3. Seattle Outcast

    I’m always amused when someone defends NPR as “neutral” – these are, of course, the same people that believed Dan Rather was “neutral”, even though his colleagues stated that he was “transparently liberal”…

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  4. salinger

    As a fan of This American Life I am appalled at the obvious lack of vetting.

    “This American Life” said in its statement that staffers asked Daisey for his interpreter’s contact information while fact-checking the story. Daisey replied the cellphone number he had for her didn’t work anymore and he had no way to reach her.

    “At that point, we should’ve killed the story,” Glass said. “But other things Daisey told us about Apple’s operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him.”

    On the other hand I am heartened to see the producer of TAM quickly pull the piece.

    Citing what he called “numerous fabrications,” Ira Glass, the host of the popular public radio show “This American Life,” said he could not vouch for the truth of a Jan. 6 broadcast…

    I also find it interesting that it was an NPR correspondent who broke the fabrications story:

    China correspondent for the public radio show “Marketplace” named Rob Schmitz located and interviewed Daisey’s Chinese interpreter, who disputed much of the artist’s claims.

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  5. Mississippi Yankee

    But what Daisey now admits is that he took the scattered reports and wove them together into a fictional account of his visit, an account that portrays Apple as an evil predator company…

    Is this his “false but accurate” assumption?

    I also find it interesting that it was an NPR correspondent who broke the fabrications story:

    Hey, when your mother caught you jerking off in the bathroom did you think denial was a viable tactic? It’s called ‘managing the situation’ that’s all.

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  6. salinger

    Hey, when your mother caught you jerking off in the bathroom did you think denial was a viable tactic? It’s called ‘managing the situation’ that’s all.

    What? How’s this make sense?

    You’ve got a different show, different network even – who is checking the validity of a report.

    Didn’t you read the part where TAL is a compilation of independently produced segments woven together by Glass’ narration and then distributed to by PRI? (NPR being one of the entities that buys the program.)

    So what seems to have happened was NPR’s Marketplace show smelled something fishy and actually did some journalism by investigating leaving the TAL crew with egg on their face.

    I don’t get the masturbation/denial analogy.

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  7. mrblume

    I’m generally prepared to call bullshit on this argument. I am a big fan of TIL, I am a fan of the “sweatshops are good” argument and thus have always disagreed with the Apple criticism (the idea that people would be listening to TIL because they want their believes validated almost makes me think you have never listened to the show. For the most part, it is entirely apolitical).

    To say that either the show, or NPR, have been caught in a “lie” is a gross distortion. What the show essentially said was, here’s a guy and he will tell you a story. That’s not a question of dishonesty, it’s a question of vetting.

    I put some qualifiers in the sentences above, because I do seem to remember some claims made on that particular episode by Ira Glass about them confirming at least parts of the guy’s story, though also explicitly mentioning that other parts they couldn’t check out. Still, you wonder what was going on there. It sounds like they may have had doubts but decided to run it anyway.

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