To Tell the Truth

Mike Daisey is in hot water today following reports that he fabricated details in his This American Life report on the working conditions in Apple factories abroad. Take into account the Kony profiteer getting busted for masturbating publicly, and it’s a bad day for fraudulent activists.

I’ve known of Daisey for five years now thanks to another publicized controversy with which he was involved. While Daisey performed a one-man show, 87 audience members got up and walked out of his show due to the “offensive” content, with one man stopping to dump a bottle of water on Daisey’s script. (See the video above.)

These 87 audience members were students and staff on a school trip from a public high school in a conservative area of Southern California. It’s worth mentioning that I was a teacher at a public high school in a conservative area of Southern California five years ago. I don’t like giving too many professional details on my blog, but it’s also worth mentioning that I am very, very familiar with these students and staff members. You can draw your own conclusions!

In their departure from the theater, one of the school authorities identified themselves as a “Christian group”, which is neither an appropriate nor legal label for a public school. That may have been the community’s general attitude, but not all of the students were Christians, like it or not. And objecting to the language used? Kids at that school hear the word “fuck” from their peers at least a dozen times a day – that’s not even a detention-worthy offense. Furthermore, the sexual content may not be in line with the school’s abstinence-only policy, but I think the number of pregnant students showed how well that was working.

To be clear, Daisey was not the controversial part of this incident. That can be chalked up to my dear acquaintances who proved that their “moral outrage” was entirely hypocritical by not only disrupting the show, but trying to destroy it on their way out. How Christianly.

This story was just one of many I included in my award-winning Masters thesis about why I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. It really did win an award. I think the Education professors thought they were being progressive by recognizing a thesis that poo-pooed on their profession, but the plaque I received fell apart within an hour of them giving it to me if that tells you anything. My advisor even encouraged me to publish it, but I couldn’t do that, mainly because I had fabricated an interview with a student’s parent. I couldn’t get the parent to talk to me, my university told me it was a graduation requirement and to find a way to make it happen, so boom, I added some sentences and pretended I met with a parent I never met with.

I don’t feel that bad about lying in this instance because I was put into a corner, but I also wouldn’t have that work disseminated to the public knowing that it contained a lie. Never mind that it contained a lot of truths that I think would be valuable for those in the education profession to consider – by including a lie that could be uncovered, it discredits the whole piece.

And that’s where Daisey went wrong. His intentions were probably good, and his Apple factory piece is still probably mostly true, but no one can trust it anymore, thus undoing any of the good it did. We all have that friend who is a chronic exaggerator whose stories we can’t even take seriously anymore. We all have moments where we find ourselves so caught up in the story that we’re telling that we start adding hyperbole without even realizing it. But we shouldn’t let exaggeration get in the way of something when the honest-to-gosh facts can do the job alone.

If you look at how Daisey captions the earlier YouTube video, he says that the Christian group “physically attack” his work. He’s overstating what actually happened, even though the video speaks for itself. I suppose we should have seen this exaggeration coming.

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