This American Life and Mike Daisey’s Perfect Crime

Big fat liar Mike Daisey did an investigative piece on the Chinese factories that make Apple products. The piece aired on This American Life and he took it around the country as a successful one man show. Turns out he invented a lot of it, and TAL is retracting the story and devoting a full hour to corrections.

What’s striking to me is that this was almost the perfect crime — reporter Rob Schmitz got suspicious and tracked down Daisey’s interpreter, who contradicted much of Daisey’s story. If Schmitz had not been able to get in touch with the interpreter, the fabrications might never have been revealed, and everyone would still believe what they heard.

The pressure to put out juicy stories is immense, and the facts are often hard to check. How many folks are getting away with lies just like this one, right now? How many complete fabrications are already part of the conventional wisdom?

UPDATE: The crime was even perfecter than I thought — Schmitz was able to track down the interpreter because he had worked with her himself — Daisey covered his tracks and it would’ve been hard to find the interpreter without the personal connection.

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