Being Mike Daisey (or: are you smarter than a five year old?)

By Matter

Last week my five-year-old son, William, came up from the playroom, screaming and crying. Inconsolable and loud, he got my attention. He kept it by reporting (through snot and tears and hiccups): “Owen punched me in the face, threw me into the wall, then up the stairs. Then he broke my leg and my arm.”

Noting that Will was walking without a limp and gesturing like a windmill to emphasize his brother’s wrongdoings, I surmised that at least part of this story was fiction. I’ll cut out the next forty five minutes of The Mentalist-type mystery solving I did to summarize: Owen had taken the Wii remote from Will, flung it onto the couch and told Will he was an idiot and no fun.

Why would Will make up something when the reality is bad enough to get Owen in trouble?

Hop now with me to current events…
Mike Daisey reminds me a lot of my five year old. If you haven’t read anything about him, here is a quick summary: he’s performed a one-man monologue “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” an exploration of Apple’s relationship with Chinese factory workers, and subsequently reported as facts what have turned out to be falsehoods about his interviews with workers at a factory in China.
Just like my little boy, Daisey represented his stories as fact, to get attention and justice for real wrongs. But because he made things up, his personal credibility is destroyed. The pity of it is that the facts of what happens in the lives of Chinese factory workers deserve the attention of those of us toting our iPads and iPhones around. Read more about it, and decide for yourself how you feel.
If you have a cause, if you want to make a statement about something, you can’t make up stories and then expect to be taken seriously. And you will probably do your cause more harm than good. It seems so basic. And Mike Daisey’s outraged disbelief at the maelstrom of controversy he’s caused reminds me even more of my little boy. When caught telling tall tales, he defaults to anger too.

The difference is that Will is five, and still growing into his moral code. And it’s my job to help coach him there. So we read ourselves a little Aesop’s Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. I would respectfully suggest that Mr. Daisey do the same.