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Burriss on Media: Apple Story

MURFREESBORO, Tenn.  (Burriss)  --  I remember back in high school I did a term paper about Julius Caesar. One of the sources I used for information about Caesar’s assassination was William Shakespeare. But, although the Bard was undoubtedly a tremendous poet and writer, I don’t know that his Julius Caesar death scene was all that historically accurate.

Now Apple Computer, The New York Times, American Public Media and National Public Radio, are dealing with a 21st century play that has been passing fiction off as fact.

Last year Mike Daisey began performing an off-Broadway monologue, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” The writer was supposedly describing harsh working conditions in Apple-run electronics plants in China. He told of guards carrying guns at the plants, of on-the-job injuries, and of 11-year-old workers.

Unfortunately for most of the main-stream media that covered both the play and Chinese working conditions, most of what Daisey said was false. And apparently a lot of people, including officials Apple Computer, knew it, too.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the New York Times did a story about Apple Computer that officials spoke out.

Apparently Apple was trying to “spin” the story, and chose not to say anything, fearing any comments would simply give Daisey another platform to criticize the company.

And there’s more. American Public Media had to retract a story about the play, which had run on National Public Radio.

But here’s a question for the rest of us: why would anyone take the word of actor doing a play as truth in the first place? And then, how many people heard the errors and lies, and then passed them off as fact?

Of course, most individuals don’t do a lot of fact checking. But here’s a question anyone can always ask: Are any other major media reporting these facts, and if so, what are they saying? Even a simple Google search using the relevant topic and the word “hoax” will clear up a lot of rumors, urban legends and outright lies.

We’ve all heard the expression, “If it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t.” Well, there’s a corollary: “If it’s too bad to be false, it probably is.”

I’m Larry Burriss.