This weekend, This American Life outed monologist Mike Daisey as a liar who embellished his stories with overheard hearsay and claimed events that never occurred as first-hand accounts. The fallout has been devastating for Daisey's reputation, and the hits to his credibility continued today in a blog post from a former Amazon co-worker.
Matthew Baldwin says he used to work with Daisey and claims an earlier book-turned-monologue (Daisey's account of his time at Amazon, entitled "21 Dog Years") was also rife with inaccuracies, embellishments, and factual liberties. Baldwin posted this on his blog yesterday:
A lot of my coworkers saw "21 Dog Years", and most enjoyed it. Some thought it was great. But the consensus was that it was "truthy" (<--see video below to explain) at best, a slurry of his actual experiences, exaggeration for comedic effect, some good stories he'd heard from others cast into the first person, and maybe a little bunkum.
The monologue performance "21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com" was subsequently released as a book in 2001.In his post, Baldwin referenced an old Seattle Weekly interview and says that, even at the start of his career, Daisey was already exaggerating his personal experiences:
Seattle Weekly: How much did you really deal with Jeff, and have you heard anything from former co-workers about his reaction to the show?
Daisey: I saw Jeff all the time, almost every day.
I worked like 100 meters from Daisey, and saw Bezos maybe three times in as many years. Like I said: truthy.
In the context of an interview, "I saw Jeff all the time" is a lie, plain and simple. But if Daisey said the same thing on stage as part of "21 Dog Years", I wouldn't have objected. I guess I agree with Daisey when he says that the tools of theater are different than the tools of journalism.
Geekwire noted yesterday that Daisey has already changed his monologue to include the controversy, but not his semi-apology to Ira Glass, host of This American Life. He now emphasizes that "What I do is not journalism." In a blog post today Daisey writes: "(Ira Glass is) a storyteller within the context of radio journalism, and I am a storyteller in the theater."
We asked Daisey in that same 2001 interview about the repercussions from his time at Amazon:
Daisey: We wanted to change the world, but I learned you need to be careful what you wish for . . . and how you plan to pay for it.