By John Ballard
I'm posting these links on Saturday so readers who want the full benefit can set aside an hour or two to listen to the This American Life link below. As I have said before, Ira Glass is one of the best journalists working in our lifetime and the straightforward candor of this broadcast underscores that opinion for me.
?Egypt's Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III dies
This item just happened. It is included mostly for timeliness. The reader can do his own followup.
?Robert Fisk: Madness is not the reason for this massacre
Fisk nails the Afghanistan massacre with the shapness of a scalpel. Don't miss it.
...The top general had to tell his supposedly well-disciplined, elite, professional army not to "take vengeance" on the Afghans they are supposed to be helping/ protecting/ nurturing/ training, etc. He had to tell his soldiers not to commit murder. I know that generals would say this kind of thing in Vietnam. But Afghanistan? Has it come to this? I rather fear it has. Because � however much I dislike generals � I've met quite a number of them and, by and large, they have a pretty good idea of what's going on in the ranks. And I suspect that Allen had already been warned by his junior officers that his soldiers had been enraged by the killings that followed the Koran burnings � and might decide to go on a revenge spree. Hence he tried desperately � in a statement that was as shocking as it was revealing � to pre-empt exactly the massacre which took place last Sunday.
Yet it was totally wiped from the memory box by the "experts" when they had to tell us about these killings. No suggestion that General Allen had said these words was allowed into their stories, not a single reference � because, of course, this would have taken our staff sergeant out of the "deranged" bracket and given him a possible motive for his killings. As usual, the journos had got into bed with the military to create a madman rather than a murderous soldier. Poor chap. Off his head. Didn't know what he was doing. No wonder he was whisked out of Afghanistan at such speed.
?Doonesbury on Abortion, end of a series.
[Can't embed. Click here to see the strip.]
I'm listening to this episode as I'm putting this post together. At this point Ira Glass is about half way through and there have been two or three times that during an interview of Mike Daisey that Ira posed a question and waited for an answer.
And waited. And waited. And waited.
I don't recall ever having heard this much silence taking up broadcast air time. Ever. Believe me when I tell you, this hour of radio is some of the best journalism you will ever hear.
Readers who have not yet listened to the oiginal TAL episode for which this is a retraction should take time to listen to that one check the transcript (the audio is no longer available) before listening to this one. Trust me, it's it was really entertaining and extremely well put together. Not only is Ira Glass one of the best journalists working today, Mike Daisey is himself a very polished, if deeply flawed, entertainer and reporter. There are moments in the original broadcast, some of which are among the most made up, that are as gripping as any that have ever been on radio -- examples of what NPR calls "driveway moments." The time invested in listening to the original will not be would not have been a bad investment.
I cannot recommend highly enough episode 460 of This American Life, in which Ira Glass and crew have to retract and apologize for an earlier show based on Mike Daisey�s one-man stage play, �The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.� The facts you need to understand the new episode, simply called Retraction, are in this New York Times story.
Daisey�s play is about terrible working conditions in Apple factories in China. It became a hit, raising awareness of the issue and adding pressure on Apple to improve those conditions. But it was based on a lie: that Daisey had himself witnesssed what he presented as the record of his experiences in China. In many cases he had not. And he lied to the producers of This American Life when they tried to fact check his performance before putting excerpts of it into their show.
All of this becomes clear in Retraction, which is an extraordinary display of transparency in corrective journalism. (So listen! It�s an hour.) Daisey is interviewed for the show about his deceptions. He tells Ira Glass that he always feared this day would come. Well, it came. And when he was asked to go on This American Life to account for his lies, he had only two choices. Sane choices, I mean.
Choice One: To agree to be interviewed and prepare to be stripped naked, on air, as a kind of cleansing act. You are revealed to millions of people as a bald-faced liar and a cheat about the things you care about the most, but by being ruthlessly honest and unsentimental with yourself, you stand a chance of coming out of it with at least some dignity. But if you cannot go through with that, there�s�
Choice Two: Don�t go on the air. Let them talk about you and send a note with your regrets.
There is no choice three.
But Daisey took door number three, anyway. That�s the one where you say to yourself�
I�m a master manipulator with nerves of steel. I can talk my way out of this, out of anything. This is just another performance! And I am one of the great performers out there. Of course I will have concede ground, and that�s going to be embarrassing and painful, but I can also gain ground by winning people over to the greater truth beneath my deceptions. Which is� I really care about this! Through the magic of theatre, I made audiences�big audiences, who love me�care! Now they care about something they damn well should care about! Ira Glass couldn�t do that. I did. The New York Times wouldn�t do that. I would. Me and the magic of theatre, which is my love. I didn�t betray my love. I betrayed his love, Ira�s, and, yeah, that was wrong, but beyond that he has nothing on me. For I am a master manipulator with nerves of steel�
What you hear in the show is this very performance coming completely apart� before your ears, as it were. Ira Glass picks up on it right away. He realizes what Daisey came into the studio to do. And he permits a monstrously over-confident man to audibly disassemble himself. (Transcript.)
So this is what Daisey wrote on his website:
What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic �- not a theatrical �- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.
The post doesn�t have a title. I suggest: Fuck it. I take door number three.