Yesterday Ira Glass sent an email revealing that This American Life’s report on Apple’s manufacturing supplier in China “contained significant fabrications.” Mike Daisey’s story and TAL’s decisions to go to air and later retract the show have sparked a lot of discussion in journalism and public radio circles.

There’s a lot of praising, challenging, and questioning going on. Frankly, much of it feels like punditry and harmless posturing. But, this Saturday afternoon a stream of tweets by Marketplace’s John Moe put a human face on this story and some of the underlying ethical issues at stake.

(I’ve kept the format in order to preserve, hopefully, the rhythm of Moe’s thoughts.)

John Moe John Moe @johnmoe

I knew Daisey for many years, although its been several years since I’ve talked to him. But I saw his first audition when he came to Seattle

5:22 PM - 17 Mar 12

John Moe John Moe @johnmoe

It was the best audition I’d ever seen. A monologue about Wrath of Khan. Astounding. Completely improvised, I later learned.

5:23 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

I worked at a temp agency and gave him temp jobs. Mike later worked at Amazon when I did. Then he quit and made a 1-man show about Amazon.

5:25 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

It bugged me that Amazon paid him salary and benefits and then he turned around and ripped them. I was also jealous of his talent & success.

5:26 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

Then he got a book deal! So I was jealous of his talent and success in writing and theater.

5:29 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

In his book, he said things about my department at Amazon that weren’t true or were exaggerated and/or twisted. Which angered me. So…

5:30 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

Over the years I haven’t known how to view his success. Astoundingly talented guy, I questioned his ethics, but I was jealous/petty too.

5:32 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

But this China thing hits me hard. As a tech reporter, I know the Foxconn issue is huge and complex. As a journalist, ethics are critical.

5:33 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

The Foxconn suicides first taught me the word Foxconn. It’s a big issue for me (my brother died of suicide) and I wanted more attn on it.

5:36 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

Then when Daisey became a leading spokesperson for Foxconn issues, I was all jumbled up. How did he get these scoops? I was jealous again.

5:37 PM - 17 Mar 12

John MoeJohn Moe @johnmoe

Now all this. I don’t hate Mike, I wish him well, and I just hope more truth and light and transparency somehow emerge from this mess.

5:39 PM - 17 Mar 12


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4Reflections

Reflections

I appreciate John Moe's honesty about his envy of Mike Daisey's success.  I'll bet he's no longer quite as envious now that Daisey's embellishment of the truth has been revealed. Mike Daisey's theatre piece about Foxconn was mesmerizing. So I was extremely disappointed to hear that he misled his audience. Now, he seems to be trying to rationalize it in much the same way that James Frey did about A Million Little Pieces. I heard Daisey interviewed on NPR a couple of weeks ago. He had a chance to mention his fabrications, but he didn't. There's nothing to envy there. I just hope that Daisey's distortions don't take the spotlight off the human rights abuses in China's factories that are real.  

A good recognition of truth, your fractionated self, and the special problem involving acquainteceship. Having worked for Amazon is not a plus for either of you, however.

Who ever thought "This American Life" was reality.  I'm just saying.

Professional jealousy is a green beast that confronts us all at one time or another. This is true even among people in supposedly more spiritual vocations like ministry, or poetry, teaching. I applaud Moe's honesty in naming it. It complicates all our most honest attempts to do our work with integrity and excellence.