Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A fiction of unalloyed darkness

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  • Toby,

    The long, long pauses from Daisey in the retraction piece (at about 29 minutes) are staggeringly gripping radio. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/play_full.php?play=460&podcast=1

    The Rebecca Hamilton mentioned in the Salmon piece, btw, is I'm pretty sure the NZ-born Rebecca Hamilton who penned this moving piece on the New Yorker blog: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/03/last-words-rebecca-hamilton.html

    pt chev • Since Mar 2011 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1174 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    Daisey’s fiction was predicated on the notion that China is essentially unknowable

    because they're ever so inscrutable those Chinese. Gah.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Tim Michie,

    because they're ever so inscrutable those Chinese. Gah.

    But it runs, doesn't it? 'There be monsters over the sea' has worked since the dawn of time. Now it just makes the NYT.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3200 posts Report Reply

  • Patrick Xavier, in reply to Toby,

    Well, that Rebecca Hamilton piece was an unexpected surprise in the present content. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    I think you will find this sort of thing has Happened Before

    There is a general myth that has grown up around Marco Polo, mainly well-intentioned attempts to inspire children to study, that Marco introduced such things as spaghetti, noodles and ice cream to China and the West. There is no truth to any of these claims and indeed Marco never cites them in his book

    Even down to the satire, "O’Neill’s ‘Marco Millions’ is still on the money"

    “Marco Millions,” a poetic, floridly written satire of the 13th century Asian travels of Italian explorer Marco Polo, is one of Eugene O’Neill’s lesser known, misunderstood, and perhaps most controversial plays. It was originally produced on Broadway in 1928 with lavish costumes and a cast of 19, including the legendary Alfred Lunt.

    But yes, there are monsters in them thar hills.

    Theatrical historians have contended that “Marco Millions” was O’Neill’s irreverent reaction to America’s post-World War I prosperity and sense of global domination, but if anything, this is a story about Marco Polo’s misguided sensibilities in regions of the world he never quite understood.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4613 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    But it runs, doesn’t it? ‘There be monsters over the sea’ has worked since the dawn of time. Now it just makes the NYT.

    Meanwhile, in the US ...

    In 2000, Smithfield created an internal company security force with “special police agency” status under North Carolina law that enables company security officers to exercise public police powers. In 2003, the company police used trumped-up charges to arrest workers who were active union supporters.

    “The company has armed police walking around the plant to intimidate us,” a Smithfield worker who came to the United States from El Salvador told Human Rights Watch. “It’s especially frightening for those of us from Central America. Where we come from, the police shoot trade unionists.”

    That was in 2006, but the lives of workers in the US meat processing industry remain very, very grim. People also get poisoned and die in explosions.

    It's just not as attractive as a news story as iPad factories are.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • andrew r, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That was in 2006, but the lives of workers in the US meat processing industry remain very, very grim. People also get poisoned and die in explosions.

    Simple,when I'm in America I eat no ipads and use no meat.

    auckland • Since May 2007 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yes. But was an insult to real journalists who had spent years investigating and reporting these stories in their real complexity. And it also served the conceits of its American audience.

    so no WMDs? If a cursory search of the Chinese internet didn't further suspicions that Daisey's was but the Disney version of allegations made, I wouldn't feel the need to ask, respectfully and ever so sheepishly, have you ever received compensation from Apple or any of its subsidiaries for the time you put into maintaining the corporation's public image Russell?

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to andrew r,

    Simple,when I’m in America I eat no ipads and use no meat.

    So dad, how do you like the iPad we got you?
    *posted from an old ibm desktop*

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4613 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to chris,

    I wouldn’t feel the need to ask, respectfully, have you ever received compensation from Apple or any of its subsidiaries for the time you put into maintaining the corporation’s public image Russell?

    Don't be ridiculous. Daisey lied in his monologue, in the This American Life doco and to a string of journalists who directly asked him about it. He actively tried to cover up those lies.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Don’t be ridiculous. Daisey lied in his monologue, in the This American Life doco and to a string of journalists who directly asked him about it. He actively tried to cover up those lies.

    Sure, Daisey insulted the journalists, I got that. The reason I asked is your repeated "don't touch the Apple, look at the meat" campaign reminds me of the Chinese '5 mao', The 5 mao are a group set up to diffuse anti-government sentiment, paid 5 mao for each post one writes in support of the Party (in response to attack). You've come out pretty strong on this considering the mass and visibility of allegations raised on this side of the firewall. People can't stop buying Dafur.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to chris,

    Sure, Daisey insulted the journalists, got that. The reason I ask is your repeated “don’t touch the Apple, look at the meat” campaign reminds me of the Chinese ‘5 mao’,

    I honestly think it's a real issue, especially when stuff in China is huge headline news and stuff in the US southern states is largely confined to trade publications. The armed factory guards that Daisey lied about seeing in Shenzen have actually been a reality in America.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Russell Brown,

    You’ve come out pretty strong on this considering the mass and visibility of allegations raised on this side of the firewall.

    I think I’ve mentioned it twice in posts. And I think I’ve also been very clear that US tech firms (and Apple in particular) and their suppliers should be closely scrutinised. But a lot more Americans eat chicken than own iPhones. And the industry that brings them chicken has been hideous for decades. It’s just not such a sexy story.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I honestly think it’s a real issue, especially when stuff in China is huge headline news and stuff in the US southern states is largely confined to trade publications. The armed factory guards that Daisey lied about seeing in Shenzen have actually been a reality in America.

    I don't disagree that it is a real issue, and fully deserving of it's own thread. Yet 137 workers poisoned by n-hexane cleaning iPhone screens (link from other thread), is no less real and iPhone issues are certain to generate bigger headlines given that people are holding iPhones in their hands, they cost an arm and a leg, and it's one of the few corporations that consumers will go out on a limb to defend en masse, certainly there's a reactionary element there, and Apple's slick marketing only enhances the sex appeal. Some of Daisey's stuff was just preposterous - armed factory guards in Shenzhen - in a nation where firearms are illegal? Per chance armed with kung fu? Sorry I never listened to his thing, I imagined it was much the same as his stage show. Did you watch that TBBT episode Russell?

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Toby,

    this moving piece

    reckon

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16275 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to chris,

    I don’t disagree that it is a real issue, and fully deserving of it’s own thread. Yet 137 workers poisoned by n-hexane cleaning iPhone screens (link on other thread) is no less real

    Yes, and it was justly reported after it happened, two years ago and 1200km away at a factory run by a different company, Wintek.

    Apple wasn't the only company having screens made by Wintek, but it deserves scorn for trying to ignore the injuries caused by the use of that cleaning chemical. I presume its views had a role in the subsequent sacking of factory managers, but Apple clearly wasn't keen on paying compensation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Sir, you put a smile on my face with that post. Most of all (from the last thread) I'm grateful to you for highlighting the fact that my Nokia was most likely also produced at the Sz Foxconn plant (or somewhere similar). It's as good a motivation as any to lose less phones.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to chris,

    It’s as good a motivation as any to lose less phones.

    Which actually highlights some of the issues in consumer protest in this area.

    You or I making fewer calls on our phones obviously doesn't help. Maybe, over time, not buying certain brands might help (problem: other phones aren't very good).

    On the other hand, it's reasonably easy to try and buy ethical food.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    The Adam Minter mentioned in Schmidt's story is, I strongly suspect, the one who can be found blogging here. His blog's been a bit quiet of recent months, but I think a browse through the archives will show he tends to be fairly careful and balanced and make sure he has the facts.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1962 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Lifted from your link to - Hispanic Poultry Workers Live in New Southern Slums

    The lack of affordable housing affects workers' health, safety, and family stability. Because good housing is so scarce, it is not uncommon to find several families or groups of men living in one ramshackle house, each paying rent for conditions few Americans would tolerate.

    Could easily be NZ - the exception being that we generally tolerate these conditions.

    Having a decent rate of unemployment helps and if you have a core of workers who insist on retaining terms and condition, being covered by a collective agreement and won’t take a drop in wages well then you just sack them and hire some one else.

    It is iRONIC - that place where truth and fiction get fuzzy is the place where history is written/created everyone, these days, tends to write (make up) their own history/truth regardless of reality.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1174 posts Report Reply

  • bronwyn,

    One interesting part (for me, anyway) of this story has been the lily-livered assertion by Mike Daisey that what he did was OK because it was "theatre". Not surprisingly, a lof theatre people have been quite dismayed by this, and it's prompted quite a few reflective pieces of writing (not to mention the odd angry tweet).This article http://grist.org/media/mr-daisey-and-the-fact-factory touches on a point about what makes good storytelling: the building of trust in a particular, not necessarily "real", world; and of course when that trust is broken, people feel very angry.

    tamaki makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to bronwyn,

    One interesting part (for me, anyway) of this story has been the lily-livered assertion by Mike Daisey that what he did was OK because it was "theatre".

    WSJ drama critic and arts blogger Terry Teachout has a proposed first commandment for performance artists that's worth quoting in full:

    If you go on a stage and say that you personally saw something, and the show in which you make this claim is not clearly identified in some meaningful way as "fiction" or "fictionalized," [Emphasis mine] then you'd better have seen it--especially if you tell your audiences that they need to take action based on what you claim to have seen.

    Hard to disagree with any of that.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to bronwyn,

    This article http://grist.org/media/mr-daisey-and-the-fact-factory touches on a point about what makes good storytelling: the building of trust in a particular, not necessarily “real”, world; and of course when that trust is broken, people feel very angry.

    Although in the comments, it's striking that several people have been able to convince themselves that Daisey's translator is a stooge put up by Apple and the Chinese government. The fact of Daisey's confession doesn't seem to be an impediment to their beliefs.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    WSJ drama critic and arts blogger Terry Teachout has a proposed first commandment for performance artists that's worth quoting in full:

    If you go on a stage and say that you personally saw something, and the show in which you make this claim is not clearly identified in some meaningful way as "fiction" or "fictionalized," [Emphasis mine] then you'd better have seen it--especially if you tell your audiences that they need to take action based on what you claim to have seen.

    Hard to disagree with any of that.

    I don't get this. Why would anyone expect a theatre piece to be literally true?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

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