The Conversation


The latest victim of fishy video editing turned out to be none other than Vice President Joe Biden - who, to be sure, was in the middle of saying something dumb, but the video that flew around the Internet was maliciously edited to make it seem much worse.  (I'm not sure who did that, but I saw the same clip everyone else did, and I found it at the Washington Free Beacon.)

In the course of rolling out a domestic violence initiative, Biden was quoted, and shown, discussing severe forms of abuse including strangulation attacks and firearms threats, then saying: "These are tell-tale signs to say this isn’t your garden-variety slap across the face."

In fact, he only paused there, and continued his sentence.  Taken in full, he said: "These are tell-tale signs to say this isn’t your garden-variety slap across the face, which is totally unacceptable in and of itself."

I will not sit still for this, or try to pretend I didn't see and respond to the edited clip as so many others did.  The bar for Biden saying incredibly dumb and insensitive things is set pretty low, and contrary to his popular media image as a lovable old bumbler, he's a vicious piece of work - he's accused his political opponents of support for rape and slavery.  And let's not forget his mendacious, deranged performance in both vice presidential debates, especially the one in 2012.

But cutting anyone off in mid-sentence to make a bad line seem vastly worse is, to borrow the bottom half of Biden's edited sentence, totally unacceptable in and of itself.  

Yes, what he said is still bizarre and insensitive - was there no way to make this point without reference to "garden-variety slaps across the face?" - and I doubt any Republican who said something like this would be spared a stiff does of Akin-ization.  Plug a variety of other first- and second-degree horrors into that sentence, instead of the garden-variety slapping of women, if you're not already offended.  

And while we're at it, the assertion that so many men smack women around that slaps in the face could be regarded as "garden variety" should be offensive to all gentlemen. 

The difference between the full and edited version of Biden's remark is the difference between the partial, and total, dismissal of relatively mild abuse.  Both versions are outrageous, but let's not pretend for a moment that the edited version doesn't float in a whole different solar system of outrage.

The quest for full "context" has been going since before the advent of radio and television, but it seems like it's becoming more of a problem in the Internet age, where audiences are accustomed to accessing very short, to-the-point clips from longer presentations.  Anyone who sets about preparing 30 or 60 seconds of excerpted video from a 20-minute speech is going to make some serious editorial decisions.  If the speaker says something hair-raising in Minute 2, but modifies it with more discussion in Minute 18, it's not always easy to find both parts and line them up neatly for full "context."  But in cases like this, it's absolutely clear that lopping the last ten seconds off a single sentence is scurrilous, and inexcusable.


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