Saturday, June 11, 2005

Two fragments: Pizza tape or sloppy editing?

As you all know, a press release released June 2 in which the conservatives admitted that the Grewal tapes that they had released to the public the night before had been adulterated. (See here, with the discussions here and here, and the CBC report here.) They then released newer versions of some of the tapes. (This press release is sometimes referred to as the 'suicide note'--which is apparently how the Conservative press officer referred to it as he gave it to reporters at a bar in Ottawa.)

This press release makes statements that are demonstrably false: that only a few seconds had been dropped out (it's more like 15 minutes) and that the differences made no difference to the meaning. The differences are substantial as you can see in the slideshow. None of these mistakes are mentioned in the 'suicide note'.

The 'suicide note' did issue two minor corrections, both translated from Punjabi:
Part #1
"It depends how it is we meet."…
(difficult to hear … "associating" or "who else"…)
"If it is something good then it would be tempting"
"If there is no way then we'll talk about it later or at home"
Part #2
UD (in Punjabi) – Cabinet wrong
GG (in Punjabi) – I want to be someone up there[.] If I go with you guys[,] I want to be with someone up there[.] If I go with you guys, what commission[?] [ed.: I add punctuation]
(next passage in English difficult to hear, sounds like “very understandable”)
UD: What are we going to do with the numbers?
But here's the problem. Nothing like this appears anywhere that I can find in the new transcript (click here to download pdf, or you can click through to the individual pages here ).

What does this mean? I can think of only two possibilities. Either the new transcript is faulty and these words are in the tapes but not in the published transcript. OR this is from some other conversation between Grewal and Dosanjh. If the latter, could one or both of these excerpts be a fragment from the famous 'pizza tape'?

My own view is that is more likely to be the former. There are, I suspect, a lot of problems in the Punjabi translation/transcription--not least because Grewal was surely involved in the translation, but also because every other aspect of the transcription is tendentious. When the edits were made, they were made in ways that were advantageous to the Conservative message; when the first transcripts were made, passages were put in bold that the Conservatives wanted emphasized and descriptions were added (Murphy does not merely laugh, but cackles, for example). In this context, the process of translation--which is highly susceptible to slanting--is probably also tendentious.


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