Thursday, March 22, 2012

Art is a Lie

Art is a lie that brings us nearer to the truth. Pablo Picasso said that, or something close to it.

Mike Daisey is a brilliant storyteller. Period. He made a mistake. I cannot say that put in his shoes, I wouldn’t have done the exact same thing. Like ALL of us in the theatre, Mike has worked in relative obscurity his whole life trying to bring a little light into the world. While crafting his extraordinary stories that enlightened me and made me think, and yes, made me a little uncomfortable, he watched Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum and all manner of ninnies get the spotlight and spout their half truths and their hateful invective. And then one day that spotlight turned on him and CBS news called and he said yes, shine a light on me and shine a light on my issues, shine a light on social justice. I care about workers in China and I care about where my ipad gets made and you should too. Give me that light. And by the time he realized what was happening and where he was it was too late. He couldn’t turn back and he lied to Ira. And we love Ira, brilliant storyteller in his own right…a journalist…not an artist. And when the news broke, I’m fairly certain a PR person would have told Mike the last thing in the world he wanted to do was go back on Ira’s show, in fact a PR firm would have probably avoided the whole debacle in the first place, but I digress. I can’t be sure but I don’t think Mike hired a PR firm, instead he went back on the show and he looked really bad, but he stood up to it and admitted he lied and he admitted he was wrong. Do his monologues need to be absolute facts? I would say resoundingly no, and I would challenge any piece of theatre to stand up to a test of journalistic integrity, it doesn’t mean they don’t tell the truth.

The undisputed facts are these. Conditions for workers in China are abysmal by American standards. China is the second largest economy in the world and it got that way in part by manufacturing goods for us, the largest consumer society in the world. American workers need jobs, our economy needs help. Apple posted a mind boggling $13.06 billion in net profits for the first quarter of 2012. They are sitting on so much cash they literally don’t know what to do with it. Apple should manufacture their products in the US (my opinion, not a fact). I admit to being somewhat conspiracy oriented, but I have to wonder why “Mike Daisey lied” is such a huge story. Partially, its because we live in Chicago and we love Ira and we are justifiably mad at Mike for lying to Ira. But is it also because the facts make us uncomfortable? Is it because the people who are sitting on all that money make the rules and they want us to be looking the other way. They want us to keep using and buying our Apple products and not worry about how they are made and in fact, that’s what we want too.

I wish Mike had someone standing next to him long before he appeared on TAL saying “think about it Man, think about what you are about to do,” you are moving out of the realm of art and into the realm of personality cult. When you walk off the stage and you speak into a camera or a microphone you are held to a different standard and we will bring you down. The creator of the Kony 2012 campaign went berserk on a San Diego street corner the other day. All the cameras turned in that direction. In fact, the cameras never turned toward Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord indicted by the International Criminal Court for Crimes Against Humanity in 2005, a man about whom the undisputed facts are that he kidnapped children and turned them into sex slaves and soldiers and he is still on the loose. The cameras turned toward a film that had more than 80 million views worldwide and toward the man who made that film and then we brought him down and we turned our attention toward his non profit organization and their fiscal practices and I gotta say I might go berserk under those circumstances too.



A Filmer said...

I love your posts. Big fan, I am.
Thanks for keeping our attention on things that should have our attention.
Re: Mr. Jason Russell. Stripping down to one's underwear and pounding the pavement in protest, in craziness, in despair seems to be a completely authentic and sane reaction to our upside-down world.
-- Ann

Francesca said...

The thing about this whole story is that it was turned from art into an in-depth news report and taken as such. But where was Apple in all of this? They were amazingly quiet until the "lie" was revealed and suddenly jumping on the beatdown bandwagon "See we're not that bad." Well, sorry but you are. Now that the new ipad are burning laps everywhere... maybe they should invest some of their huge -- some might say 'ill gotten' profits off the back of basic Chinese slaves -- and invest in some art and artists.

David Schmitz said...

I agree with Ann....I too love your posts, read them often and appreciate the thought you put into them.

I've been following the Mike Daisey story with honest interest. Its not often that a theatre artist does work that inspires this kind of attention. What happened once he got the attention is terribly unfortunate. I bet he would pay a lot of money to go back in time and hire a publicist.

On the topic of Mike's work and the facts, and why maybe he needed to lie, I really appreciated this article in the Washington Post technology section: Why Mike Daisey Had to Lie to Tell the Truth.

Keep 'em coming Deb!

David Cerda said...

I was squirming during the retraction interview on NPR. Big. Fat. Liar. Just f*cking admit it and move on.