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Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best

Mike Daisey’s Lies Must Not Make Us Apathetic or Cynical

Image courtesy of Yutaka Tsutano via Creative Commons

I wanted to share a recent post I wrote for, an online community for people passionate about creating a better world. Here’s an excerpt from “Mike Daisey’s Lies Must Not Make Us Apathetic or Cynical”:

“On January 18, I wrote “An Eighth Grader’s Letter to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook.” I had taught a week-long humane education course, and on the first day I had the students listen to “Mike Daisey and the Apple Factory,” a This American Life broadcast of monologuist Mike Daisey about his visit to the Foxconn factories in Shenzhen, China, where he interviewed employees making Apple products.

…this past weekend, I, along with millions of other people, learned that Mike Daisey had fabricated details in his story about his visit to China. This American Life devoted their most recent show to a retraction. I immediately contacted the teacher of the 8th graders to whom I’d offered that class in January. I knew I had to talk to them. But before I heard back from the teacher I received an email from Abbey, the girl whose letter I had published in Care2.

She had seen a Wall Street Journal headline about Mike Daisey’s fabrication and was shocked. She had remembered that I told the class not to believe me, and had generalized this statement as I’d hoped they all would so that she retained a commitment to critical thinking; but it was clear that she wondered who to believe. I feared that she – and others – would begin to become cynical and apathetic, a deadly combination that has the capacity to profoundly disempower us.

Read the complete post.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach

About zoeweil

I'm the co-founder and President of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). IHE works to create a world in which we all live humanely, sustainably, and peaceably. We do this by training people to be humane educators who teach about the pressing issues of our time and inspire people to work for change while making healthy, humane, and restorative choices in their daily lives. We also work to advance the field of humane education, and to provide tools and inspiration to people everywhere so that they can live examined, meaningful lives. I'm also a writer. So far I've written six books and several articles.


4 thoughts on “Mike Daisey’s Lies Must Not Make Us Apathetic or Cynical

  1. Zoe,

    I was disappointed to learn of “the rest of the story”. Daisey conveyed a fundamental “truth” that Apple profits by using underpaid Chinese workers through a shocking story. That he confabulated reflects poorly upon him. As we condemn Daisey, I think we also need consider why confabulation is necessary (yes, Necessary) to gain attention. It is not just a “US thing”, but since most of us here live in the US of A I focus on this nation-state.

    Most of “We, the people” who have resources to purchase certain products have no comprehension of what it takes to produce those items — none, zero, zip, nada. We take (relatively) inexpensive things for granted. From the marvels of electronics to the concrete, wood and synthesized items that form our living quarters, potable water, an excess of foodstuffs, gasoline at the pumps… the list goes on and on.

    I think Daisy had to lie so as to give us a whack on the side of the head — I think the lie will be remembered and the truth he conveyed forgotten as we, with arrogancy and short-sightedness tell ourselves, “At least my (iPhone/flat-screen/diamond ring/gas-guzzler) doesn’t directly kill them.”

    The “truth” behind the lie is a much longer and complicated story — there are many steps involved and each one takes our attention further and further away from comprehending that our consumptive natures have dreadful effects on human beings — but hell, they’re just Chinese and we’re competing against China in the ‘global economy’, aren’t we?


    Posted by Brent Snavely | March 27, 2012, 8:23 am
    • Thanks for your comment Brent. While I realize that creating what he thought would be the most effective story led Daisey to fabricate and lie, I don’t agree that he had to. Though the massive listenership and success of the story may belie that. What’s hard for me as an educator is that I’m adamant about my own truth-telling, yet I cannot actually know for certain if what I’m sharing with students is always true. I trusted TAL and Daisey, to my chagrin. And while I always tell my students not to believe me, I worry about the cynicism that can creep into their psyches if they find no one ultimately trustworthy. This is also why I have tried to see for myself (and brought students to see for themselves) how certain things are produced – particularly food. When I can show students photos I’ve taken at one of the biggest egg-laying facilities and describe what we saw and smelled at an intensive confinement veal operation (they wouldn’t let us take pictures there), then I know that I am speaking the truth categorically. I never embellish. I never fabricate. There is no need.

      Posted by Zoe Weil | March 27, 2012, 3:09 pm
      • I may have been inartful…

        Facts are facts (there are no “true facts”) as to that which is or was. “Truth”, on the other hand, may be largely interpretive. Credibility is vitally important in relation to the function of “teacher/educator” and that of a ‘real’ journalist or reporter (of Facts) but not as important when it comes to the function of (what amounts to be) an “entertainer” such as Daisey.

        Perhaps the issue might focus on teaching the necessity of weighing credibility and the benefits/detriments of relying on given sources of factual infomation.

        Any thoughts?


        Posted by Brent Snavely | March 31, 2012, 7:07 am

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