In October I wrote about the Darker Side of Steve Jobs, including allegations of continued child abuse in Apple-supplier firms in China.
This American Life radio show had broadcast those allegations in "Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory," and today it issued a RETRACTION on many aspects of the story. The writer, Mike Daisey, admitted fabricating some aspects of the story for theatrical and artistic reasons. There were no guards with weapons at the factory gate; and Daisey never met any workers exposed to N-hexane, a glass cleaner that produces uncontrollable shaking. He may not have seen the underage workers he alleges. He apparently is a well-meaning advocate who played loose with the truth to try to raise people's moral imaginations about worker abuses.
But do the ends justify the means? Is artistic license enough to justify fabrications and exaggerations, even in a "good" cause? As it turns out, Apple suppliers are probably guilty of some of the charges—as Apple's own internal reports testify. But Daisey's misleading the audience has done a huge disservice to this debate. To Climategate we can now add Applegate: distractions from reality that impede progress.
Coincidentally, the new iPad 3 went on sale today, to outstanding reviews.