Mitt, Newt, and Rick.
Apple Computer is demonized in The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs by Mike Daisey at The Public Theatre, NYC, and on This American Life, the PBS show by Ira Glass. After visiting Apple’s suppliers in China, Daisey told about 12-year olds in factories, workers whose nerves were poisoned by chemicals, 60-plus hour work weeks, armed guards at factory gates. It turned out to be a tangle of lies.
After the broadcast, Glass belatedly questioned some of Daisey’s assertions such as factory workers hanging out at Starbucks, which are more expensive in China than here, and began to check facts. After reaching Daisey’s Chinese translator, Glass created a second show. Confronted with his misstatements, Daisey would not or could not admit he’d lied.
“I wanted to make people care. I took a few shortcuts, but I stand by the truth. It’s not journalism, it’s theater. The story is not true in a journalism sense, so I regret it was on your show.”
Glass: “So you say that the only way to get through to people is to mess around with the facts? ... You are making up an entire group of characters who didn’t exist.”
Daisey: “All I can tell you is that I stand by what I told you before, I stand by it as a theatrical worker. I regret deeply that it was put into this context.”
“So you lied “
“I don’t know that I would say that in its context that it isn’t true. I think you can trust my word in the context of theater.” [Emphasis mine. SH]
Daisey is hardly alone in his flexible view of truth. If the intent is to manipulate an audience, what works is “truth.” If one “fact” doesn’t do it, he creates another and deems it “contextual truth.” In Death of A Salesman, “suspension of disbelief” lets you feel for Willy Loman, but we know that Arthur Miller made Willy Loman up. Daisey had us believe it all actually happened. (There’s a disclaimer now at the Public Theatre.) This sort of “truth” has a long history in politics:
✦ Mitt Romney, multi-millionaire son of a rich former Michigan governor, whose wife drives two Cadillacs, pal of race car owners, dresses down in jeans, drawls “Y’all,” tries to pass himself off as one of whomever he’s talking down to.
✦ Newt Gingrich, PhD professor of history, author/co-author of 27 books, Pennsylvania born, masquerades as a Southerner, derides “eastern elites.”
✦ Rick Santorum lives in a country whose Constitution does not separate church and state. He said John F. Kennedy’s affirmation of it made him “want to vomit.”
What happens to a mind that conflates objective and contextual truth? Does it lose the ability to separate one from the other? Does it sink into a bubble of contextual reality? As an entertainer, Mike Daisey can do little damage (although Apple Computer might not think so). But a U.S. President unable to separate fact from fiction could literally destroy the world.