TAL admits to having excerpted the fabricated story from "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," a one-man show that Mike Daisey had been performing across the country, and which is currently in production at the Public Theater in New York. In a press release, TAL says it first learned Daisey had fabricated parts of his story when another public radio program, Marketplace, tracked down Daisey's interpreter, who disputed parts of Daisey's monologue. After being caught lying, Daisey apologized to NPR, explaining that:
“I’m not going to say that I didn't take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard.  My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it's not journalism. It's theater.'"Daisey's rationalization of his lies reminds me a lot of the response of an author after I reviewed his book entitled "Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes", and pointed out some of the numerous inaccuracies in the book regarding patent law in general, and gene patents in particular. In the book, the author characterized himself as an intellectual property attorney, but when he was unable to refute the many inaccuracies in his book that I pointed out in my review, he dismissed them, and asserted that it did not matter because he had approached the issue as a philosopher, rather than as a lawyer or scientist; very reminiscent of Daisey's explanation that his report on NPR was "theater," not journalism.
The problem is, these people target a lay audience largely unfamiliar with the subject matter they cover, and push forward their work as evidence allegedly supporting their position. It would be one thing if Daisey had explained to his NPR audience that he was merely engaged in theater, or if the author of "Who Owns You?" had explained that his book was nothing more than philosophical ponderings, with no grounding in fact. But that is not how they present their work, and unfortunately their works can play an important role in motivating others (including judges and members of Congress) to take action.
For example, according to NPR the TAL piece featuring Daisey made him "Apple's chief critic and it also inspired a Change.org petition that collected more than 250,000 signatures demanding that Apple better the working conditions at the factories.” Books like "Who Owns You?” have no doubt played a role in shaping the current widespread antipathy toward gene patents.
I also found it interesting that Daisey characterizes his fabrications about Apple factories as "shortcuts in [his] passion to be heard." I suspect that this sort of mentality might explain the bending of reality routinely engaged in by the opponents of gene patents and agricultural biotechnology. They are convinced that gene patents and genetically engineered crops endanger society, and that companies like Myriad Genetics and Monsanto are evil, and will seemingly say anything in their passion to be heard. Like Daisey, they do not appear to be bothered by specific facts, and are willing to take shortcuts around the truth in seeking to eliminate these evils from the world.
The disturbing thing is that there is so much incentive for people to propagate these myths. People like Daisey clearly love being in the spotlight, and the more sensational he can make his reports of condition Apple factories, the more people he will have listening. NPR reported that this episode of TAL had the largest audience that show had ever achieved, and that Daisey became the most prominent critic of Apple factories because of the coverage. Unfortunately, I think there are also incentives at play, particularly in academia and with respect to advocacy groups such as the ACLU and Public Patent Foundation, for making overblown and sensationalistic allegations on hot button issues such as gene patents and agricultural biotechnology.