Radio show retracts controversial Foxconn episode

By on March 17, 2012
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Findings were blatantly exaggerated.


It’s always easy in the world of media to twist facts around to get a better story. Fiddle with statistics, photoshops some images, and your story can go viral.

That’s exactly what actor Mike Daisey did in his monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”. Popular American radio show ‘This American Life’ aired a snippet of Daisey’s monologue in a January episode, in which Daisey claims to have first hand knowledge of the mistreatment of workers at the Foxconn plant in China, which manufactures products for Apple.

In his monologue, Daisey says that the guards were armed with guns, how one worker had had his hand mangled in an incident at the plant, and how several other workers had suffered health problems from a chemical used for polishing screens.

But upon further investigation into these claims, it was found that Daisey had fabricated much of what he had said, and in fact made up the rest based on snippets of information or on events that happened hundreds of miles away from the actual Foxconn plant. When confronted about the errors in his findings, Daisey confessed that he had changed facts around to make the story more believable, but in a post on his personal blog defended himself by saying that what he does is not ‘jornalism’:

“I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out.

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.”

Apple has come under pressure in recent months to address working conditions in its manufacturing process, prompting the tech giant to put out a ‘Supplier Responsibility‘ microsite on its main page to address many of the concerns raised.


A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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