Oct 18, 2011

Just the Opinions, Please

I mostly agree with Terry Teachout's rave for Mike Daisey's new Steve Jobs show, an opinion shared by most critics. Daisey's assault on the blissful ignorance in which we enjoy our electronic i-gadgets made by hand under torturous conditions in China should really be beyond the usual partisan categories, since we all, red and blue, left and right, are in thrall to cheap electronics. Indeed, in its artfully comedy-wrapped outrage, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs reminded me favorably of Wallace Shawn's The Fever.

But I had to wonder: How might Daisey's attack on globalization's dark side play with conservatives, given that one of his targets is China's miserable "special economic zone" in Shenzhen?

Cue Tory Terry Teachout at the Wall Street Journal, a fan of the show and of Daisey:
Mr. Daisey, though his political perspective is well to the left of center, is no kind of ideological wind-up toy. Indeed, it's downright startling to hear him call China "a fascist country run by thugs," or speak of the "useful idiots" of the tech press who look the other way at the horrors of life in Shenzhen, which Mr. Daisey pungently describes as "a Stalinist wet dream." You can't get much more politically incorrect than that, at least not Off Broadway.
Really? To put it mildly, I think Terry has a rather caricatured, Cold War-era view of those to his left (which includes most of his critical peers, from whom we will await in vain, I think, howls of Sinophilic umbrage). Not to mention that while Teachout is content to relish Daisey's opinionating about China, he's less inclined to accept the playwright's firsthand reports of conditions in Shenzhen:
The trouble with The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, as with all theatrical journalism, is that Mr. Daisey is in essence asking us to take his word for it. He hasn't brought back pictures or named names, and the artful anger with which he tells his tale inevitably makes it still more suspect. You don't have to be a puritan to prefer that facts be served straight up.
Teachout's final gratuitous swipe at Occupy Wall Street (I guess we'll have to take his word for it that he counted "19 iPhones" in one block) only serves to remind us who his employer is.

Still, as he says, it's a thrilling show that's well worth your time, and indeed it will make you think twice about your next upgrade.

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