Mr Daisey and the Imperiled Woolly Mammoth Run?

That’s the bomb This American Life just dropped on the web, perhaps not so coincidentally the same day as the new iPad hits the streets. The impact for DC is a little farther out: specifically, July 17th when “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” is scheduled to return to Woolly Mammoth.

Agony is the source material for the TaL episode and it’s a powerful piece; I saw it in previews and Patrick reviewed it when it came back in full release. I don’t know what was in the piece in its final form, but when I saw it there was even an explicit statement as part of the dialog where Mike Daisey says “I am not a journalist.” A statement he’s repeated today as part of his response to this development.

Whether or not that’s enough, or baloney, or a completely reasonable response, I have no idea yet. I’m looking forward to hearing the TaL piece and a detail of what is and isn’t factual in regards to Daisey’s time in China. Personally I’m uncomfortable with any piece that presents something as fact when it may be an embellishment or a composite, but not everyone agrees. Plenty of biopics come out of Hollywood that do it every year and the conflict can be seen in stark black and white in the new book The Lifespan of a Fact. In it John D’Agata’s resistance to an article fact-checker who took issue with his playing fast and loose in his “lyrical essay” takes on comically excessive proportions.

I do know that the portions of Daisey’s show that detailed events I was very familiar with – the early days in Silicon Valley – were accurate in relating the stories behind the early days of Apple,  Micro-Soft (as they were then named) and others. They might have been “lyricized” but I couldn’t tell from my recollection – if they were, it was in the manner of Monet where the up-close details might not make sense but the picture from afar was perfectly representative of the truth.

I’m curious to see what the TaL revelations are and eager to hear what Woolly Mammoth has to say about it. As I finish this I haven’t heard back from them yet. I expect they’re huddled up trying to decide what to do, or perhaps waiting as the rest of us are for the TaL details. I’d wager the show will go on, with perhaps a statement on the matter.

Update: Woolly Mammoth stated to DCist’s Ben Freed on twitter that Daisey’s July appearance is still on. A certain chief editor here wryly commented “hell, if I were them I’d extend.”

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


5 thoughts on “Mr Daisey and the Imperiled Woolly Mammoth Run?

  1. I think the chief difference Daisey and the biopics you reference is time. Daisey’s work has an immediacy to it; it is happening right now and maybe we can do something about it.I’m far less willing to write off as artistic license someone who messes with the present. Fudge a fact about someone who has been dead for decades? if it helps tell the story I could let it slide

  2. I suppose, and the things that Daisey seems to have made up – based on Glass’ statement – are ones that I think don’t help the story and are more blatant fabrications (meeting certain specific folks, the show-closing encounter with a worker who’d never touched an iPad before). They DO trouble me more than a biopic making one composite character out of three people whose actions influenced the subject.

    I don’t know that I concur about time. The Johnny Cash biopic altered things about people who weren’t dead or weren’t dead long. The musical Jersey Boys has fictionalizations of a man who is not only still alive but still tours and performs.

    The larger truth of Daisey’s work is absolutely true and confirmed. And I think he deserves credit for being on site and reporting in a depth that other media didn’t catch up with for over half a year.

    What makes me annoyed about it all is that based on what I have seen listed so far as fabrications/composites it was so completely unnecessary. That show was insightful and powerful without the fabrications. Now that 0.1% harms the entire piece.

  3. My biggest difficulty with all of this is that it places in jeopardy the emphasis on improving working conditions at Foxconn and elsewhere abroad. It also serves to underscore the point that Daisey’s making a (pretty good, I imagine) living off stories that he’s contending are true, but in actuality are mere shadows of reality.


  4. This American Life has posted tomorrow’s full hour episode early. I just listened to it and in my view Daisey comes across as someone who knew he was lying to TAL’s fact checkers when they attempted to verify important elements of his piece. Even though he “comes clean” in the new interview I believe he’s still lying about several important points. His legitimations are weak and filled with double think. Shame on Daisey for damaging the reputation of This American Life.

  5. Pingback: Mike Daisey | NewsTrendr