Mike Daisey (pictured) shamelessly lied about Apple’s abuse of factory workers in China on stage, which was then picked up by the trendy public-radio show “This American Life,” which airs on many NPR stations. It caused a black eye for NPR (by their one-degree association), but The Washington Post has proclaimed Daisey’s “voice” is too important to shame off the stage.
Post theatre critic Peter Marks announced Sunday that “after days of wrestling with what’s been found to be Daisey’s dysfunctional relationship with candor, when I have felt angry and a bit betrayed — you put your own reputation on the line when you embrace someone else’s in a review — I’ve settled on a sense of solidarity with Shalwitz.” That’s Howard Shalwitz, artistic director of Washington’s Woolly Mammoth theater, which plans to put “dysfunctional” Daisey back in the spotlight.
Sure, Marks first was angry:
As someone who’s become passionate in highly positive ways about Daisey’s work, I felt crushed by the revelation that the words he spoke on the stage were not a patently truthful portrayal of his own experiences in China. I never mistook this idiosyncratic man, so gifted in our language, for a journalist: Heck, the ruses he described, like posing as an American businessman to get inside Chinese plants, made him sound more like Sacha Baron Cohen than Bob Woodward. But he conveyed to me, from that quasi-professorial posture he claimed for himself on the stage, that I could depend that the stories he was telling were as unfailingly his as I could believe that the factory practices he was describing were evil.
Little did I know the professor he most resembled was Harold Hill, the flimflamming boys’ band pitchman of “The Music Man.”
But then Marks discussed his new “sense of solidarity” with the Woolly Mammoth people. “We need to keep hearing from Daisey. Because I think he’s learning from this. Because I think he’s demonstrated a remarkable ability to speak to a crowd, and maybe even speak in moving and illuminating ways to this transgression. And because it’s good to forgive.”
But usually you forgive people who are actually sorry. This is what Daisey said in the Post last Wednesday:
“This is my first scandal,” he deadpanned to a nearly packed 400-person auditorium. “As they say, if you’re going to go, go big.”
Daisey noted that since Friday, he’s seen himself compared to various plagiarists and fabulists. “James Frey is an [expletive],” he said, but “now, apparently, I am his friend. We’re all going to get together, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair. . . . We won’t believe each other because we all make up crazy [expletive] stories.”
The Woolly Mammoth folks are shameless in proclaiming the overall “integrity” of this fabricator:
“I think our judgment, and we’re still forming it, is that we don’t think the mistakes Mike made were mistakes of malicious intent,” Shalwitz said in an interview Tuesday. “We think they were mistakes of overzealousness to get his message out. I think he was very incensed by what he saw in China.” (Alli Houseworth, Woolly’s former marketing and communications chief, noted angrily online that Daisey had even insisted that the words “This is a work of non-fiction” be printed in the Woolly program for “Agony and Ecstasy.”)
…Acknowledging that Daisey “was not scrupulous” in distinguishing between “things he witnessed in China and what he heard discussed in China,” Shalwitz added: “We have a lot of confidence in him, in his overall integrity as an artist.”