Quote of the day--quoted for truth edition

>> Monday, March 19, 2012

When artists of nonfiction, whether in radio or in print, shade the truth while refusing to call their work fiction, they are trading on the frisson, the immediacy, that audiences feel when something powerful is also true. Thus the impulse to call something memoir when it’s not memoir, or to collapse time and rearrange events for effect (like George Orwell in "The Road to Wigan Pier"). There’s a way to train audiences to love the mostly-true, the improved-but-still-basically-factual. We need to learn how to love this hybrid, because as Mike Daisey shows, it’s the next great art form. But we need to be honest about what it is. Our love must be true, not purchased with lies.
-Mark Oppenheimer, "Mike Daisey and the
inconvenient truth"
, Salon, March 19th, 2012.

It's like there's something in the zeitgeist right now: weren't we just talking about this last week?

If you missed it, This American Life decided last week to devote an hour to retracting a story they ran from Mike Daisey, a storyteller who does a one-man stage show built around an exposé of working conditions at the Chinese plant where Apple's products are made, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. I haven't listened to the TAL piece yet, but mean to do so this week after also listening to the Daisey performance they decided to retract.

The gist of it as I understand it now is that Daisey in fact went to China, in fact did an investigation of the Foxconn where components for the iPad and iPhone are made, in fact spoke to workers there--but then, for his show, decided to exaggerate incidents, fold time and space to put stories together, created a kind of complicated stew of true and not-at-all true. Apparently what really makes an ugly hash out of everything is that while Daisey describes some things that didn't happen, those things are also (possibly) things that sort of happened. If that makes sense. This is, mind you, based on third-hand assessments of the kerfuffle--I might listen to the TAL retraction and decide it's even worse than that.

Anyway, if you were interested in what I had to say about Hollandsworth last week or the discussion that ensued (with some wonderful comments and insights from Warner, timb111, Nathan, John, and a mysterious anonymous poster on Wednesday--thanks, all!), I recommend Oppenheimer's Daisey piece at Salon. He hits a lot of notes I wish I'd hit last week, and I think he sums up a lot of what folks were saying in the comments. It's a good piece.


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