March 20, 2012
In his off-Broadway monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” Mike Daisey describes the harsh working conditions that he claims to have seen firsthand during visits to the Chinese factories that produce iPhones and iPads. As multiple news outlets have reported, it’s been revealed that Daisey’s monologue is based only partially on things he saw — the rest he only read about, or just made up. But do such revelations invalidate his larger point?
Apple reportedly knew that parts of Daisey’s act were fabricated, but aside from off-the-record conversations with journalists, the company stayed silent for more than a year as he performed his monologue in cities around the country, spoke to reporters, wrote editorials, and launched petitions and letter-writing campaigns. Daisey’s account began to unravel on Saturday, when Ira Glass confronted him in an hour-long “This American Life” episode on public radio. “The most powerful and memorable moments in the story all seem to be fabricated,” said a transcript.
According to Fortune.com, Apple may have stayed silent because it knew that many of the issues Daisey described were real — that working conditions in Chinese factories are harsh by Western standards, and that workers have been poisoned by the solvent N-hexane and killed by dust explosions. Glass later interviewed Charles Duhigg of The New York Times, who said, “We have exported harsh working conditions to another nation. So should you feel bad that someone is working 12 to 24 hours a day in order to produce the iPhone that you’re carrying in your pocket? That’s for you to judge.” — Greg Beaubien