When “This America Life” aired its legendary retraction over the episode in which it broadcast Mike Daisey’s monologue on working conditions in Apple’s Chinese facilities, everyone tuned in. For good reason, too. The episode featured real conflict and tension between Ira Glass, the top dog at “This American Life,” and Daisey, who was forced to explain why he lied and lied and lied. Great, great listening. Here’s the climax:
Ira Glass: I mean with the hexane, we approached you and asked you specifically about that. There’s an email that, that Brian [a producer for the show] sent you, about the hexane. He wrote, “Apple’s 2011 report” — this is the responsibility report — “acknowledges the hexane problem at two plants, one at Wintek and another at a logo supplier but not at Foxconn. These workers you were talking to, in the monologue, were they from Foxconn, do you remember, or from other plants?”
And, and at that point you could have come back to us and said ‘oh no no no I didn’t meet these workers, you know, this is just something I inserted in the monologue based on things I had read and things I had heard in Hong Kong’ um, but instead you lied further and you said, you wrote, “The workers were from Wintek and not Foxconn.”
Why not just tell us what really happened at that point?
Mike Daisey: I think I was terrified. [breathing]
Ira Glass: Of what?
Mike Daisey: That . . .
Mike Daisey: I think I was terrified that if I untied these things, that the work, that I know is really good, and tells a story, that does these really great things for making people care, that it would come apart in a way where, where it would ruin everything.
Many people, including Howard Kurtz, have tried to get Glass to talk about that episode. But Glass & Co. have said they said all they were going to say about the matter.
Until Alison Cuddy came along. On the WBEZ site, Cuddy puts the question to Glass: Did he believe he went too far in shaming Daisey? Glass responds:
I don’t but I haven’t listened to the show since we did it.
Glass then asks Cuddy, “Are you saying this because you think maybe we did cross that line. Cuddy has a poor, wishy-washy response to Glass, saying, among other things, “I didn’t know how to think about it. “It made me feel really uncomfortable.” Glass: “It was an uncomfortable thing to document. . . . I did not want to shame him.”
These radio people can get a little high-minded, a little too reflective. The original Daisey episode was bad, the retraction was good. Move on. (h/t Poynter)