The more I read and think about l’affaire Daisey, the more pissed I get. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he completely duped me. Honestly it doesn’t. I raved about Daisey’s one man show in my post, “The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs. Laugh Out Loud Insight On China’s Factories. ” I “wrote” that post in my head while watching the play and then wrote it on the blog in about ten minutes as soon as I arrived home. I wanted people to know.
I was not going to write about Daisey again, because so much good stuff has already come out about him since the “retraction,” including the following by eminent China bloggers:
- My Take on Mike Daisey and Ira Glass, by Adam Minter at Shanghai Scrap
- Would-be Apple Killer Mike Daisey Goes Down in Flames, by Stan Abrams at China Hearsay
- I Apologize if Anyone Felt Killed, by Will Moss at the new and well worth reading Rectified Blog
But I am changing my mind mostly because I am pissed and, needless to say, nobody has expressed MY personal views. The more I hear Daisey, the more pissed I get. Strangely enough, I also think there is a lawyer-advocate perspective to all this. So here goes.
I chose the title because Daisey early on in his monologue calls Steve Jobs a “visionary-asshole”
The reason I am so pissed at Daisey is two-fold. I am pissed because of the harm he has caused and I am pissed because he refuses to accept what he has done and the harm he has caused. Please forgive my rambling but here goes.
Will Moss does a great job dissecting Daisey’s alleged mea culpa, which consisted of Daisey stating “I apologized in this week’s episode to anyone who felt betrayed.” Moss sees this statement for exactly what it is, which is no apology at all.
The first is the passive language. Now, I have no problems at all with passive voice in writing (or with starting sentences with conjunctions, or parentheticals, or many other things they told you were bad in your high school comp class). But that passive language is such a trope of public apologies that we pretty much take it for granted these days. It’s so common that Wikipedia has an entry on it. Vanity Fair, also citing Wikipedia, has a small collection of examples. ”We apologize if anyone was offended,” was even trotted out recently by Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream in response to the (silly) Linsanity flavor scandal.
The second (and I must thank my partner in crime, Brendan O’Kane for this) is the use of the word “felt.” The passive voice subtly shunts responsibility onto the victim. The use of “felt” suggests that problem itself doesn’t even exist, and is merely some kind of unfortunate vapor or misunderstanding. You felt betrayed, but I didn’t actually betray you.
That’s just the half of it. Daisey elsewhere insists he did what he did for”the cause.” For the poor Chinese working person. To which I have two words (and then many more). 1) Bullshit. 2) So what?
I simply do not believe that is why Daisey did what he did. I think he did what he did for his own benefit and nothing else. Let me make one thing clear. I side with the Chinese worker. Yes, probably 99% of my law firm’s clients are companies, but that does not stop me from believing that workers are entitled to a safe working environment, to respect and to fairness. It also does not stop me from believing that companies should follow the law. I do not typically put my opinion out there on things like this because it usually is of no relevance and I am always concerned it might stifle comments and conversation. In this case, I think it relevant because it explains (at least in part) my anger at Daisey and why I think I am correct in calling him a liar on his motivations and his apology.
What so angers me is how Daisey keeps acting as though he had some justification for what he did and as though his having done it helped the Chinese worker overall. As a lawyer-advocate, I vehemently disagree with him on both points. One little lie revealed means you will not be trusted on anything. In “How To Choose Your China Attorney. Quality, Quality, Quality,” I talked of the importance of credibility in the context of what makes for a good Chinese (or any other) litigator and I did so by quoting the following email from co-blogger Steve Dickinson to me:
The reason ______ has influence with the court is NOT because he is a powerful person. He has influence because the judges TRUST and RESPECT him. He never betrays the trust, and so the judges basically do what he says. That allows him to get judges to issue orders by telling them that something is true and that they will be getting the documents that support that. As lawyers, we completely understand how this works.
I think clients sometimes do not understand this and so when you talk of how ________ has so much influence with the court, I worry they might think you are telling them he gets this influence improperly, which you and I both know is not the case.
The reason Daisey has so greatly harmed the cause of China’s workers is because nobody with any sense will or should believe a word he says. The problem with this is that almost everything Daisey said of import probably was true. Daisey himself did not experience it or talk with anyone about it, that may be true. But somewhere in China it is probably true. Take under-aged workers for example. It is now pretty clear Daisey himself never met anyone at Foxconn who admitted to being 13 years old, but I would bet anything that there are plenty of 13 year-old children working in China factories. I would also bet (though I want to stress that I don’t know this as fact) that there are some 13 year-olds working at Foxconn or at least at a Foxconn subcontractor, but I also believe that high profile companies like Foxconn probably do a better job at following the law than the average company in China.
Daisey is way too smart not to have realized the harm he would do to the cause if he were to be found out. But he did it anyway.
Daisey also could have accomplished pretty much all that he sought to do by having made clear that his monologue was “somewhat fictionalized” or “based on fact.” That would have been fine. But Daisey seemed to require more than that. He seemed to want the world to view him as more than just a great storyteller. It seems Daisey wanted the world to think he came away with scoops that nobody else had been able to get.
Again though, so what? Daisey’s brushing off what he did only tells us who he really is. He lied. Stop. Period. End of story. His apology should have been as follows:
I lied. I shouldn’t have. I apologize for lying to all of you. It was unnecessary and I shouldn’t have done it. I did it because I wanted the world to know more than I knew. I wanted the world to think more of me. I not only apologize for lying, I also apologize for the harm my lies have caused. In particular want to apologize for any harm my lies may have done and will do to China’s workers and I ask that when looking at their lives, you do not hold my works against them in any way as that would not be fair. I lied. They didn’t.
We all deserved better from Daisey and as talented/brilliant as he is, I’m done.
Thanks for listening to my ramblings. We will be returning to our more normal posts tomorrow.