Mike Daisey, noted fabulist, is back at his original theatre in DC, The Woolly Mammoth where he is holding encore presentations of his debunked – and now slightly rewritten – show about working conditions at Foxconn. Gone are the guards with guns, the fake crippled man who touched the totemic iPad, and the real/fake translator named Cathy. Daisey replaced those stock characters with a bit of self deprecating humor and, as far as I can tell, a few, clearer facts.
Here’s a brief review in the NYT. We’ve tried to invite Daisey back a few times to talk but near his spin-out he refused.
My problem with Daisey’s rise and fall and (slight) rise is that he told exactly the wrong story at exactly the right time. We are in a post “magic” era, when we are beginning to understand two things: first, that the business of making hardware is difficult, dirty, and boring and second that we have outsourced so much of our manufacturing might and we are trying to understand the implications of walking it back. Daisey built a fantasy that revolved around the idea of the Dickensian workhouse as written by Huxley. Realizing the banality of what manufacturing really was – long, boring hours spent doing the same thing over and over – he had to add dramatic spark. Sadly, he added too much.
Daisey’s play runs until August 5 and it’s my sincere hope that he’s done with it after that date. It’s no longer topical – when ABC takes cameras into Foxconn, you’re pretty much past the mainstream and into irrelevancy – and it’s definitely not true. While I agree that all workers everywhere should get a living wage, building a moral iPhone or Nexus 7 may cost us more than we can pay. Hardware manufacturers are strapped to a machine whose engine is commerce and whose fuel is neophilia. The machine has to move, no matter what any playwright has to say. How humanely it moves, however, is up to us.