Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rockerbikerdragking Mike
Mike Daisey: Perhaps tech writers ‘aren’t actually journalists either?’ | Poynter.:

I’d actually love to hear a follow-up to this question, because I don’t recall ever reading Tim Cook addressing a central point of Charles Duhigg and David Barboza’s deeply reported New York Times piece from January: Whether Chinese factories are responding to Apple’s demands for lower prices from their suppliers by treating their employees badly. From that piece:

“The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper,” said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. “And then they’ll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.”

Were Swisher and Mossberg duty-bound to follow up on the reporting of others during Cook’s first big interview as Apple CEO? No. It sure would have been nice, though. Mike Daisey’s style may not exactly goad Swisher and Mossberg into not wasting future opportunities, but he’s got a point here.

MCA bringing Stew, Handspring Puppet Theatre, Mike Daisey to Chicago in 2012-13 -

Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art has announced its 2012-13 season of live performances. The typically expansive, eclectic and inter-disciplinary season includes the following events:

The performance artist Mike Daisey will perform a new piece, "American Utopias," from Nov. 1-11, in a co-presentation with the Chicago Humanities Festival. Daisey was recently in the news following the controversy surrounding his show about Steve Jobs andApple Inc. His new show is about the American obsession with utopias.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Aim High
More loveliness from Kara:


Look, I'm sorry it hurt your feelings for someone to tell you the simple fact that you could have asked Cook hard questions, questions which were obvious and sitting in your hand, and you chose not to.

If it makes you feel better to taunt me instead, go ahead.

But people aren't stupid. There's good reasons you're not actually addressing my points at all, and you know it.

last night I posted about the AllThingsD Conference, where mutual masturbation session had just taken place between Apple CEO Tim Cook, and technology journalists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. I basically accused them of using me as a joke to softball questions on China to Cook, and for generally creating an event that exists as a kind of dog and pony show to exalt the WSJ a lot more than it actually asks hard questions of those in power.

Kara Swisher chose to respond to these serious allegations this way:


This is a classic tactic from the schoolyard called I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?

It's also funny, because it could be read as saying, "Hey, we're just amateurs at being hacks—you, you're the PROFESSIONAL."

I responded:


This morning I woke up to this:


And she blocked me, so the conversation is over.

But if anyone at AllThingsD wants to pick up the conversation, feel free--after all, nothing I'm saying is invented or fabricated. You all know it's true. And it's telling that it pricks her so sharply that she has to taunt, and has no other response.

The truth is journalists should be very concerned about the intimacy between the tech media and the industry that it covers. I'm hardly the first person to point this out, and the fawning interviews that fail to apply even the slightest heat to CEOs like Cook don't do the Swisher and Mossberg any favors in that department.

So block me if you like, Kara, and don't answer. You're the one who purports to be a journalist, not me. Glad you read the questions, hope you think about it even a little bit. I know that a number of people following AllThingsD are thinking about it, and that's good enough for me.

Since this was not enough, AllThingsD founder, godfather of tech journalism, and Twitter heavyweight Walt Mossberg weighed in as well:


I also love how there's an implicit defense in here--because of course, everyone lies. What's notable is that I've actually admitted it.

But this isn't about me, Walt. It's about you, and Kara, and AllThingsD's tenth anniversary, and the kind of place it, and all tech journalism, has grown into.

So if you're done with that same high and mighty chair, Walt, maybe you should wrestle with any of the points I made earlier. Snarking at me isn't going to change that you two chose not to do your jobs last night. And people know it. They've known it for a while.

Like I said before—really do have a great conference,


So the AllThingsD conference is happening now. For the rest of the universe, AllThingsD is a tech conference in which the tech media gazes adoringly at the tech CEOs who then lovingly bestow their approval back. This evening Mr. Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, took the stage, leading to

6:43 pm: On China, Kara notes, you have many critics, and not just fictional ones (a reference to Mike Daisey). Why doesn’t Apple have its own factories in China?

First, Kara, this isn’t even good wordplay—I’m not a fictional fucking critic. The word you would want is fictitious, though that wouldn’t really work either—you probably knew that, but I think then you got lazy and just said, what the fuck…who is really paying attention to that shit, anyway, right?

But it fits the evening—given the tone of the opening schtick, complete with marching band and “humorous” prop cakes, it’s clear that no one who actually worked in a theatrical context helps you with your industry mixer.

Kara and Walt—do you really think you asked hard questions tonight? Goodness, you got Cook to admit…that Ping was a failure! That’s amazing. If only you had another hour, so you could get him to tell us who he liked best on Dawson’s Creek and what kind of ice cream is best: vanilla or cookies and cream. (Trick question: it’s always cookies and cream.)

Since you dipped your toe into “comedy”, I’ll bite and tell you how you can do your job better.

Let me suggest some actual questions you could have asked Tim Cook.

You could have asked,

“Recently you went to China for the first time as CEO to tour Foxconn’s production lines. Apple’s first outside audits of Foxconn happened in 2006, after media coverage back then, and the report recommendations made six years ago are the same as the ones made by the FLA in 2012. Did it not seem important enough a priority for the CEO go until now, six years later? Why did it take so long?”


“You’ve worked at Apple since 1998, and are credited for creating an incredible supply chain that is a huge part of Apple’s success. But the New York Times and others have pointed to the squeezing of that supply chain as a big part of the problems at Foxconn. Do you think Apple’s responsible for some of the problems that Apple’s been documenting since 2006 without making inroads on until this year?”

I came up with these in less than five minutes, Kara—and as so many have pointed out, I’M NOT EVEN A JOURNALIST. Imagine what you, an actual living journalist with credentials and EVERYTHING—why, your questions must be devastating! You’re a journalist, so I’m sure you read all the stories I’ve read and more, so you know how documented the situation is…this is the kind of situation a journalist should kill for. You’re finally talking with Tim Cook! That dude is like the sphinx! Lashinsky couldn't even get word one out of him! This is your CHANCE.

But it is even more galling is that this has happened before.

When Steve Jobs at on that stage and spun a line of incredible horseshit about the amazing fairyland that was Foxconn, a fairyland that today everyone, including Apple, agrees must change. Jobs knew all that when he snowed you, Kara and Walt and everybody. You didn’t press him, you listened with your hands folded in your laps.

That was hard. But this is a lot worse. What’s even worse is that you know it, and you still won’t ask the questions.

Perhaps Ms. Swisher is not so much a journalist as a technology columnist. That was Mr. Pogue’s defense, after all, when confronted with massive ethics violations—that he was
never a journalist at all. (I guess when you use that defense and write for the New York Times it actually works, as Mr. Pogue still has his job today.)

The kind of journalists who ask hard questions and value inquiry over appeasement have a name. It’s a simple title. They’re called journalists. They are the people I tip my hat to, and to whom I feel ashamed when I fall short, and they inspire me, and many of us, to tell better stories.

Maybe the problem is in part that these tech journalists, whom I have been told over and over again these last few months that will now carry the banner, now that Apple is awake, they will do the job I never could with “real reporting” and “impartial objective coverage”…maybe they aren’t actually journalists either?

Perhaps instead they are “journalists”, in quotes, as almost every writer for technology outlets must feel like: hemmed between the corporations who make the devices, the PR teams, and all the forces that exist in our marketplace. Maybe they arrive at a place where they have an outlandish conference that feels like an industry kissing party because that’s precisely what it is.

But why should this be surprising? Walt Mossberg, who was onstage with Kara tonight, came and saw AGONY/ECSTASY over a year ago in DC. We spoke together in the lobby, where I was insistent that the tech media were exactly the people who should be telling this story. He fobbed me off, saying it was “interesting”…but it was so clear that unless the big boys snapped their fingers, no one inside the tech circle was going to bite the hand. And no one did.

Well, it surprised me. Because I had such hope that tech journalists would lead. I had such hope that they would stand up and do their jobs. But they didn’t. Other journalists, with much less to lose, did their job for them years after the fact…and that gap, that delay, is a direct and deep failure of technology journalism. And my anger at their failure is matched by their callow blindness—after the TAL retraction, they decided to go back to sleep as deeply as they can, which is what they've been trying to do in the first place.

I don’t call myself a journalist—I never did. And I have paid the price for where I’ve gone wrong. I fucked up, and I’ve owned it. The nice thing about coming through something like that is that afterward, you don’t have anything to lose.

And even if it makes the tech journalists bray and whine and stamp their little feet, we all know there’s a lot of truth in this. Everybody knows it. Just get off your high horses and fucking admit it.

Have a good time at your conference,


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Obama the Warrior - Glenn Greenwald -

Last week, the journal Foreign Policy published an extraordinary article – not extraordinary because of what it says, but because of who said it. It was written by Aaron David Miller, a lifelong D.C. foreign policy bureaucrat who served as a Middle East adviser to six different Secetaries of State in Democratic and GOP administrations. Miller’s article, which compared Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on foreign policy, was entitled “Barack O’Romney,” and the sub-headline said it all: “Ignore what the candidates say they’ll do differently on foreign policy. They’re basically the same man.” It began this way: “If Barack Obama is reelected, he ought to consider making Mitt Romney his new secretary of state” because “despite his campaign rhetoric, Romney would be quite comfortable carrying out President Obama’s foreign policy because it accords so closely with his own.”

Miller devotes himself to debunking one of the worst myths in Washington, propagated out of self-interest by conservatives and progressives alike: namely, that there is a vast and radical difference between the parties on most key issues and that bipartisanship is so tragically scarce. In the foreign policy context which is his expertise, Miller explains that — despite campaign rhetoric designed to exaggerate (or even invent) differences in order to motivate base voters — the reality is exactly the opposite.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So, this weekend the worm turned and now it's time for the world to rise up in arms against David Sedaris. If by arms we mean "strongly worded media insider blog posts and tweets" and by world we mean "obsessive guardians of media orthodoxy with time on their hands now that the Lena Dunham thing is in remission". 

Even the WaPo article that set off this "firestorm" has a hard time finding anyone who gives a shit about this, and you know Eric Farhi was calling far and wide to get the incensed comments needed to start this fire. Okay, maybe "incensed" was never going to happen—for an argument like this apparently all you need is media's new horrified buzzword: BLURRY LINES. 

BLURRY LINES is the new watchword, presumably because in a more perfect world none of our lines would ever be blurry, and that would solve the deep, entrenched problems in our media.

Except it doesn't. If people actually gave a sincere shit about BLURRY LINES, we'd be talking about FOX News. But media pundits get tired of talking about FOX News because it never goes anywhere, because FOX News is a massive corporation who frankly doesn't give a shit about these pundits, and ignores them. And humans hate being ignored.

So instead of doing the hard work of chipping away at real media injustices, it's easier to find an individual, who are always less armored than corporations are, and shit on them, because then you can make your points and pretend that you moved the needle. And the left has never tired of policing its own—a pattern we see again and again, as I write these words in a cellar bar in Prague—so why not see if we can get Sedaris fact-checked?

First, no-one is upset with Mr. Sedaris' work. NO ONE. No one is listening to SANTALAND DIARIES and then saying to themselves, "I am now informed about the true nature of Macy's elf policies from the early nineties, which is good as I am writing a PhD thesis on that very subject." No one is calling NPR complaining that they were terribly tricked by Mr. Sedaris' feelings about the pleasures of smoking, or cutlery, or whatever the fuck it is that David is talking about. No one cares what is factually accurate in the details of what his aunt said to him in his childhood, except maybe his family members, and they should be fucking used to it by now.

Second, this is about me, not David Sedaris. It's about what I did on TAL, and how everyone, including me, agrees it was unethical. We've had an entire hour of TAL dedicated to retracting that episode, and then hundreds of articles across the world wherein every last person who writes for a newspaper agreed that my actions violated journalistic trust. I've been open with the media and spoken publicly repeatedly about my actions, and I've apologized fully and completely for those whose trust I've breached. I haven't vanished, I'm right here, and I'm accountable for the decisions I have made.

You want to talk about that some more, fine. But it's mine. It's not the vanguard of some "movement", like one of those NYT Style section pieces where we've found two instances of something and now there is a "trend". It's not an excuse for media watchdogs to clamp down as though they are protecting the public from stories as though they need their food chewed for them.

None of this gives anyone the right to go headhunting for someone else who did *nothing* I have done, who has been open and clear in his work, and with whom no one has an argument. It's despicable. Just because you can't find any more meat on my bones in this matter doesn't allow you the right to hunt someone else. 

Leave David Sedaris the fuck alone.

NPR Frets About David Sedaris and It Is Mike Daisey's Fault

This is the problem with “This American Life” — it has conditioned listeners to accept creative nonfiction as a journalistic-ish mode of storytelling. Perhaps it should simply embrace the blurring that goes on in creative nonfiction and state that clearly to its audience.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Financial Times of London Review:

What is undeniable is Daisey’s huge energy and immaculate comic timing. He delivers his monologue sitting at a table under a spotlight, his only props some notes and a glass of water: it’s an intense experience, often funny and sometimes very moving.

Few people believe Daisey was right to mislead his audiences; the issue, how our heedless choices affect tens of thousands of factory workers, is too important. But what those who gave Daisey a standing ovation at HighTide were applauding, I think, was his ability to speak to their consciences, to open their eyes. His monologue is a piece of theatre unlike any other I’ve experienced – like HighTide’s programming, it’s not flawless, but it is brave.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Ira Today:

“My attitude has always been that the audience is sophisticated enough to know the difference between someone who’s on the show to be funny and the actual reporting, where we go into the field and do interviews and very rigorously try to define what is happening in a traditional journalistic way.”

He pauses, then adds that he has asked Sedaris if his stories are true, and the humorist always answers: “They are true enough for you.”

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

These translations from around the world are wild. Here's the opening of scene two from TATESJ in Portugeuse: " Meu único hobby é tecnologia. Eu amo tecnologia, amo tudo sobre ela. Eu amo olhar tecnologia, eu amo comparar uma peça de tecnologia com outra, eu amo ler os rumores sobre a tecnologia que ainda não existe, eu amo pesquisar tecnologia, eu amo comprar tecnologia, eu amo abrir tecnologia - mesmo quando está embrulhada naquele plástico bolha - eu amo. Eu amo o cheiro de uma nova peça de tecnologia - aquela espécie de cheiro de PVC queimado quando você liga na eletricidade pela primeira vez? - Eu amo isso. "

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Why All the Smashy-Smashy? A Beginner's Guide to Targeted Property Destruction. | Slog:

But first, let's clear something up: Reporters today on KOMO and Slog and beyond have made the mistake of calling today's targeted property destruction "violence." There is an enormous moral distinction between smashing a bank window and smashing a person. Lumping the two under the umbrella of "violence" is linguistically lazy and politically irresponsible. It is worth noting that in the dramatic property-destruction campaigns of groups like the Earth Liberation Front—burning SUV lots, ski lodges, and in one of their stupider and more infamous moments, a botanical research facility at the UW—people don't get hurt.

In fact, the only "violence" I saw today, aside from some minor pushing back and forth between protesters and police and some pepper spray, was a guy in a tie who was (understandably) pissed off when someone broke the rear window of his car. He chased down a protester and they both fell down in the street and had a minor scuffle. That was violence (however paltry).
Smashing a window is not violence, it's vandalism. There is a difference—unless you think of people as the moral equivalent of property.
Pink Spring [explored]
m a y

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

‎"Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond with the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Some times you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost." —Harold Pinter
NATO vs. Rogues? - IPS:

The controversy over Mike Daisey’s one-man performance highlighting the abuses of workers at Apple subcontractors in China continues to rage in blogs and the media world. FPIF columnist Hannah Gurman weighs in this week with her own recommendation: focus on what Daisey got right.

“Journalistic accountability is indeed important,” she writes in True Lies about Apple and Foxconn. “However, at a certain point, scrutinizing Daisey’s practice becomes myopic and even absurd. By all accounts, virtually everything Daisey said was true insofar as the things he described do actually occur in factories all over China. By focusing on narrow rules of journalistic accountability, this controversy seemed to lose sight of these larger truths. Questions about Daisey’s accountability threatened to displace the larger issues of corporate accountability, creating a gigantic loophole through which Apple/Foxconn might easily escape.”