I’ve been trying to find the best story on the whole Daisey, This American Life, Apple, Foxconn debacle. I think this one takes the cake.
The thing is, that these lies, these distortions, these fabrications, these untruths don’t make for a better story. They make for an easier one, a story with fewer thorns to swallow on the way down, a less complicated story.
Maybe I’m just suspicious of these “better” stories because to me, the best stories are the most complicated ones, the ones that refuse to resolve in easy ways. Those are the stories that are most true because resolution is something that always remains just beyond our grasp.
For example, the TAL story of the retraction of Mike Daisey’s is far more riveting that the original tale of Daisey’s trip to China, I promise.
But I think there’s a deeper truth here, a motivation that extends beyond the transparent B.S. that these lies are in the service of a higher calling.
What these lies invariably do to the stories is take the focus off the story itself, and place it on the storyteller.
Even before Daisey’s lies were exposed, his use of them served to make himself more central to the tale. The story is no longer about exploited workers, but about an intrepid and dogged Mike Daisey who cares so darn much he has to go and witness firsthand how his gadgets get made, and once there, connects so personally and profoundly with these workers, that only he can come back home and tell the story in a way that will change hearts and minds. Daisey isn’t in it for the money, but for the ego.
Many of our most important public figures have gained their influence and power by inciting and exploiting the ugliest of passions—by manipulating fears and prejudices—by serving up falsehoods as reported truth. In time these figures will one by one die. What are we to say of this cohort, this group, this generation? That their mothers loved them? That their families are bereaved? That their fans admired them and their employees treated generously by them? Public figures are inescapably judged by their public actions. When those public actions are poisonous, the obituary cannot be pleasant reading.