We humans like to invent fake facts!


Although we have other names for it: We’ll recommend this news report in this morning’s Washington Post.

It concerns a big pile of fake facts.

Uh-oh! An NPR show is “retracting” a 39-minute report. Paul Farhi explains why:
FARHI (3/17/12): An acclaimed radio documentary about brutal work conditions in the Chinese factories that make Apple’s products contained “numerous fabrications” and included invented characters and incidents, the producers of the program acknowledged Friday.

“This American Life,” a popular public-radio program, said it was “retracting” its January broadcast of a 39-minute piece by Mike Daisey that detailed life inside the Chinese plants that make iPhones and iPads.
Daisey has defended his work; it’s OK because he’s an artist! Unfortunately, Farhi mentions the following:
FARHI: But Daisey was more defiant on his blog. “I stand by my work,” he wrote. “My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity.” He added, “What I do is not journalism.”

However, since the debut of his theatrical monologue, Daisey has given numerous interviews in which he presented his work as a firsthand factual account, Schmitz said. “He allows journalists to treat him like a journalist,” he said via phone from Shanghai. “He clearly states [in interviews] that these are things that he saw and experienced.”
It’s OK when Daisey says thing which aren’t true. For one thing, he’s a sensitive artist. Plus, he has God on his side!

Similarly with Gail Collins, though her readers pimp the excuse that she’s just being humorous. That has always been Rush Limbaugh’s excuse, of course.

It’s OK to say these things! A greater truth is being expressed! That’s what the chimps all told themselves when they lied for two year about Gore.

We believed those stupid tales too! After all, we saw some of our favorites repeat them! We human beings are very credulous, even in our brilliant tribe.


  1. Terrific work, Bob. Terrific, you are wonderful.

  2. I would point out that "This American Life" fess'd up as soon as identified the issues and announced that Daisy had scammed them. Something I have yet to see Rush or Fox news ever admit, for instance regarding the lies about "Climategate."

    I do think your equivalency alarm goes off the chart Bob and you wander off into Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell territory to indulge in a little hippie punching yourself.

    1. What is hippy punching? Is this an elite liberal term that most people don't know? Why can't liberals just use terms that everyone understands? What hippies got punched by Schoen or Caddell? Or Mr. Bob Somerby?

  3. Quaker in a BasementMarch 17, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Proper credit to Ira Glass and the TAL crew. That's how you do a retraction.

    "This American Life" relied on Mike Daisey as a source. He burned them. So they went back and re-interviewed him and played that interview on the air.

    Take note, NYT, WaPo, and big TV news teams. When your high-profile sources lie to you, that's news. You shouldn't kick those lies under the rug so the same sources will deign to use you to broadcast the next pack of lies as well.

  4. I heard this guy on Democracy Now a while back. It's true that he makes it sound like what he's doing is journalism in a theater and not theater "based on a true story."

    Which is too bad, since there is a place for art in politics. Sometimes theater is the best way to convey some of these concepts.

    1. He should have admitted it was art and not tried to pass it off as nonfiction journalism. He lied.

      Fiction writing, fictional drama, fictional lyric selves in poetry and all similar forms permit this, and have since the dawn of literature.

      Mike Daisey passed his work off as journalist truth. He is a gross liar.

  5. Quaker in a BasementMarch 17, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    It’s OK when Daisey says things which aren’t true. For one thing, he’s a sensitive artist. Plus, he has God on his side!

    The only person who thinks it's OK for Daisey to say things that that aren't true is...Mike Daisey. I haven't noticed anyone else rushing to his defense on this. As such, Daisey is a counter-example to your thesis, Bob.

  6. Sen. Jon Kyl claimed that 90% of Planned Parenthood's business is performing abortions
    When the figure was publicized as actually 3%, Kyl's office stated the original claim,
    "was not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions."
    As long as you are prepared to disclaim when challenged, it's not lying.

  7. A small point, but it's not an NPR show, it's distributed by PRI.

  8. "This American Life" is a PRI show (Public Radio International), not NPR, though many NPR stations buy it.

  9. Whoops, sorry -- somehow I missed Anonymous on the same point.

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