Mike Daisey got relativity favorable press coverage about his attack on Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, the co-producers of the AllThingsD conference, for allegedly not asking Apple CEO Tim Cook tough questions about Apple’s subcontractors in China. The labor practices of those subcontractors were the topic of Daisey’s one-man show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. In March journalists exposed key sections of Daisey’s purportedly true show as fictional or greatly exaggerated.
On Tuesday, May 29, 2012, the Opening Session of the tenth AllThingsD conference was a public Q & A of Tim Cook with Swisher and Mossberg doing the questioning. The event was live-blogged but not live-streamed and ended at about 8:00 pm. Mike Daisey read the live-blog and based upon it wrote a post on his blog criticizing Swisher and Mossberg harshly. Daisey claimed he was outraged because they had asked Cook “easy” questions about what Apple is doing to protect the employees of its Chinese subcontractors. The only question he actually quoted, however, was one that referred to his history of passing fiction off as truth.
At 11:11 pm Daisey sent Swisher and Mossberg an insulting tweet that included a link to his blog post. “An open letter to AllThingsD. Short version: you hacks. ” Why did Daisey ensure he would antagonize Swisher and Mossberg by calling them hacks? Twitter made him do it.
Shortly before midnight AllThingsD announced that video highlights of the Cook event were posted on the AllThingsD website. One highlight was the full exchange about Apple’s involvement with manufacturing in China. This video contains significant information that wasn’t caught in the live-blog, including Cook’s reference to extensive documentation about Apple’s oversight of its suppliers posted on Apple.com.
As any rational person would expect, Swisher and Mossberg refused to engage with someone who called them hacks. Instead they responded in kind. Swisher tweeted: “well, you’re a professional at being a hack” and Mossberg replied: “Hmm…being attacked by an admitted liar is sort of a badge of honor.”
Daisey announced to his twitter followers (some of whom are very gullible indeed) that Swisher had ceded the high ground. The implication he held the high ground was accepted as fact by many of his lazy followers who didn’t bother to check where the name calling began.
The next morning Daisey could have looked at the AllThingsD website and watched the video clips of Cook. Instead he wrote a new blog post vilifying Swisher and Mossberg. Daisey quoted Swisher’s tweet to show how “Kara Swisher chose to respond to these serious allegations.” But there had been no serious allegations in Daisey’s tweet to Swisher, just “Short version: you hacks.” Perhaps Swisher’s tweet was simply a response to being called a hack? Impossible. As far as Daisey is concerned reading links contained in a tweet is mandatory. (Now you know how to get Daisey to read something you’ve written.)
What about Mossberg’s comment that Daisey is an admitted liar? Daisey treated it as a badge of honor. “[E]veryone lies. What’s notable is that I’ve actually admitted it.” Not quite. What’s notable about Daisey is that he got caught telling lies for a living. Daisey tweeted a link to his new blog post at 7:30 am: “Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg respond. Short version: nyah nyah nyah, can’t hear you! http:// ”
At this point something truly remarkable happened. Noam Cohen of the New York Times wrote about this conflict for the NYT’s Media Decoder blog using Daisey’s two blog posts as his primary source. Cohen ignored the video clips of Cook on the AllThingsD website and the wealth of information on the Apple website. Instead he repeated what Daisey had written, casting Daisey in the role of hero in the process. According to Cohen, Daisey “has not given up the cause” of exposing working conditions in China. Unfortunately Daisey’s “past gave Mr. Mossberg and Ms. Swisher all the ammunition they needed.” Cohen didn’t decode anything, he just rehashed Daisey’s version.
Once Daisey’s semi-accurate tale got the stamp of approval from the New York Times it spread quickly throughout the journalistic Twittersphere. Poynter chimed in with a lament (based on the live-blog not the video) that Swisher and Mossberg hadn’t followed up on a January NYT article about conditions at Apple’s Chinese supplier’s factories. Andrew Beaujon would like to know more about them. He just doesn’t want to have to personally go to the trouble of checking to see what information is available at AllThingsD.com and Apple.com.