The lady doth **bleep** too much!
We told you earlier this is the gift that keeps on giving. And sure enough, it is.
Now, the ever-excellent Adam Minter of Shanghai Scrap has two more points that haven’t been mentioned heretofore. One of those points, namely the second, is potentially damning, and should (we think) cause heads to roll:
1. The NYT story claims that the anecdote in question – an anecdote about a phone line purposely being disconnected when a speaker said “The lady doth protest -” – was verified by translating the same phrase into Chinese and generating the same result. But there’s a problem with this claim: Chinese doesn’t really have a 1:1 equivalent for ‘protest’ as it’s used interchangeably in English. Brendan O’Kane, the highly regarded Beijing translator and writer (and tweeter) emailed me on this point over the weekend: “the Chinese translation of that line does not use “示威,” “抗议,” “游行,” or any other words meaning “protest.” For that matter, any would-be activist discussing a protest would almost certainly not use the word either; they’d probably use “运动,” which is so common that it would render any hypothetical automated scanning system more or less inoperable.” Even if you don’t know Chinese, I think Brendan’s point is obvious and powerful: the one-to-one translation that the NYT claims that it did, is not really possible as a practical matter. And that’s a big, big problem.
2. So how, then, was this anecdote verified? At this point, I think it’s relevant to bring up something that’s been mentioned in whispers but not publicly [addendum: in connection with this incident]: the lead author of that story, Sharon LaFraniere, is the wife of the New York Times’ Beijing bureau chief, Michael Wines. Could that relationship have played a role in getting this otherwise unverifiable anecdote into the paper? Only Wines can answer that. As for me, I can only assume that Wines’ relationship to LaFraniere complicates, if not effects, any actions that the NYT might want to take (against LaFraniere, in particular) in the wake of this incident. In the meantime, we are left with a question fit for a journalism ethics course: “You are the editor of a major newspaper. How do you handle a case of potential journalistic misconduct committed by a reporter working for a bureau chief who is also her husband? Discuss.”
Good Lawd. Now that editor’s note needeth an additional editor’s note. Methinks.
Now even Shakespeare’s getting censored in China?
Breaking News: NYT report unleashes epidemic of China expats calling each other and quoting the Bard
NYT issues non-correction note on Shakespeare censorship story
Shanghai Scrap: Fact-checking the New York Times’ China Coverage