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.”