The viral, connected nature of this world can be good to you and at other times it can kill you. 3 events in the media/online-world stacked up at the end of last week that have me thinking.
First, Jason Russell of Invisible Children had an unfortunate media meltdown. He was arrested in San Diego. It’s not easy to know what was going on, but the headlines have been brutal.
Second, Mike Daisey whose one-man show’s indictment of Apple’s manufacturing practices in China has ridden a rocket of acclaim. Turns out his hugely popular act contains significant fabrications (actually just making stuff up). He appeared on the NPR radio show two months ago, This American Life, and subsequent fact checking revealed the fiction. Unfortunately, the situation came to light only after This American Life’s episode on him aired (and was the episode with the most downloads in their history, naturally). This American Life’s show this week deals with the problem.
Finally, on American Idol (yes, a guilty pleasure at our house—I watch mostly to see Steven Tyler’s wardrobe and to try to parse out his best quotes) a contestant, Jermaine Jones, didn’t disclose outstanding arrest warrants to the producers. And, in true reality TV fashion, they confronted him with cameras rolling and aired the confession and his subsequent removal from the show.
As I write, Russell hasn’t made a public statement.
Daisey said that his fabrications didn’t change the facts . . . he said that his stage show was different from journalism and that is regret is letting This American Life air it as if it was journalism.
And poor Jones, on camera, managed to say something like: “I was hoping it would go away.” (Who hasn’t hoped that, huh?).
A few thoughts are rattling around in my brain about this . . .
I’m astounded by the people who rejoice, revel and have fun with these kind of sad moments. It diminishes us all. And for those of us who are Jesus-people, it is painful when members of our tribe join in the “fun.” I love what Eugene Cho has to say.
Secondly, Daisey and Russell are men whose lives are connected with their messaging . . . Daisey apparently says that his fabrications don’t change the facts — horrible conditions are present at factories in China — he just didn’t have the encounters he claimed to have. Russell’s troubles this week aren’t directly connected to Invisible People’s message . . . but it taints Invisible People’s cause — no way to avoid it.
Here’s what we can’t avoid: individuals are the message (I say that at risk of Marshall McLuhan rolling over in his grave). Daisey cannot dodge the bullet by claiming his act is theater and therefore his fiction doesn’t change the stituation. His show will suffer, plus he harmed This American Life, although Ira Glass will not only repair the damage, he’ll make it work to his advantage.
The stickiest, most memorable messages are connected to people. Either about specific, real people representing an issue or delivered by passionate people.
Russell brought a relatively unknown issue to the world’s attention — whatever you think about him, you were thinking about it. Agree or disagree . . . you thought and discussed the issue. 4 weeks ago I suspect it wasn’t even on your radar.
Daisey did the same. He had us Apple-guys cringing and hoping that they’d right that wrong. It was hard to enjoy great Apple technology and design if they were damaging people in the manufacturing. That wouldn’t have happened without Daisey’s act.
Of course, I’m not defending any of these guys. It appears they all have really blown it. Daisey’s fault was premeditated and probably born out of his passion, I’ll give him the over-zealous card. Russell may have had something medical happen or the pressure got to him . . . who knows? And Jones was afraid if people found out about his past, he wouldn’t be able to live his dream.
I’m always going to have sympathy for the rogues, trouble makers and broken people . . . that’s who I am.
Bottom-line? People are their message. You are your message. And what happens to you in your life, happens to your message. And as Jones, the ex-American Idol contestant learned, it won’t go away. That’s the way the world is.
So what do you think? Are we are our message? Does Daisey’s fabrications alter the impact of his message? Has Russell’s problem hurt Invisible People? Let’s hear it.
(photo credit: griffithchris)