"Bondservants"

CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
Here's an interesting case of motivated translation. It's based on an academic article by Samuel Perry titled "Whitewashing Evangelical Scripture: The Case of Slavery and Antisemitism in the English Standard Version" from the June 2021 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. It's available for free at that link if you'd like to read the original, but for those who prefer a less formally academic presentation there's also this interview with Perry where he summarizes his paper. I'll mostly be excerpting from that.
All Bible translations have to navigate these waters, so the English Standard Version is really just an example of it, and they're kind of a fascinating example because they have marketed themselves as an essentially literal translation that resists the PC push. The general editor, Wayne Grudem, had for years denounced contemporary Bible translations, like the New International Version, for doing those kinds of things: becoming PC, changing the language to conform to modern sensibilities, that kind of thing, especially with regard to gender.

So for years they have said, "Hey, we're not going to translate certain things in a gender-neutral fashion, because we want to be as literal as possible, and if you like that it's capitulating to the feminist PC culture." So ESV has marketed themselves as a very popular evangelical translation that is used most faithfully by complementarian Protestant Christians for that reason: because it's conservative and because it's supposed to be literal.

But at the same time, the fact that that the "slave" language in the New Testament is so obvious creates a real apologetics problem, because of all this talk about "slaves obeying your masters," and how slaves should subject themselves not only to good masters but bad masters, and how slaves should stay in the station of life where they were called. It creates this really ugly impression of the New Testament, and especially Paul advocating for slavery.

So what you can see in the English Standard Version is that with each successive wave, from the 2001 revision of the Revised Standard Version to the 2011 revision and then finally in 2016, our most recent revision, was that they started by introducing a footnote in 2001 to the "slave" word, and then in 2011 they replace the slave word and put it in a footnote, and then they said, "We're going to call this a bondservant. So it's different from a slave."

By 2016 they didn't use slave language at all. If you read that translation you would have no idea that the original translation — and I think the most appropriate translation — would be "slave." All you see is this kind of Christian-used churchy word "bondservant," which you never hear outside of a biblical reference. Nobody knows what that means, but it's a way that the English Standard Version and other Bibles like it can kind of say, "Hey, these are slaves, but they're not real, real slaves. They're not really bad slaves like we think of in the antebellum South, like chattel slavery. It's something different."

So a couple of points here, based on the whole interview and not just the excerpt above:
  1. Perry is correct that "bondservant" is a pretty obscure word to most modern readers. Given this, it seems like using it is meant to conceal more than it is to illuminate.
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  2. This seems to demonstrate either the insincerity or unworkability of Biblical literalism as an interpretive framework. The basic idea as I understand it is that the plain meaning of the Biblical text will be obvious to any reader of good intent. The fact that a deliberately obscure word ("bondservant") has been substituted for a clear one ("slave") would seem counter-productive to someone genuinely working from the premise of Biblical literalism.
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  3. The argument that Roman (or Israelite) slavery wasn't "as bad as" New World-style chattel slavery seems dubious and premised on comparing American agricultural slaves with enslaved domestic servants in Roman Senatorial households. A more accurate comparison might be between American plantation slaves and slaves working in Roman mines or latifundia. This seems like an exercise in motivated wishful thinking, assuring people that something they know very little (or possibly nothing) about isn't as bad as something very similar with which they are much more familiar and hoping that the audience is similarly motivated to believe what's being presented to them.

For these and other reasons it seems like using "bondservant" to mean "slave" is a bad translation choice, one that seems politically and/or socially motivated. Thoughts?

Comments

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Superb @Crœsos, thank you. Hypocrites.
  • Crœsos wrote: »
    [*] The argument that Roman (or Israelite) slavery wasn't "as bad as" New World-style chattel slavery seems dubious and premised on comparing American agricultural slaves with enslaved domestic servants in Roman Senatorial households. A more accurate comparison might be between American plantation slaves and slaves working in Roman mines or latifundia. This seems like an exercise in motivated wishful thinking, assuring people that something they know very little (or possibly nothing) about isn't as bad as something very similar with which they are much more familiar and hoping that the audience is similarly motivated to believe what's being presented to them.[/list]

    For these and other reasons it seems like using "bondservant" to mean "slave" is a bad translation choice, one that seems politically and/or socially motivated. Thoughts?
    I agree, it looks like a sanitisation.
    The Romans enslaved girls to service the brothels in Londinium and some domestic slaves in households were clearly used for sexual purposes too. I think the fact that some slaves were later freed and prospered has coloured our perspective on what life was like for the average slave.

  • It's a clear demonstration that the "ideal" of a literal translation that doesn't carry over something from our own culture is impossible to achieve - and even if it was possible to produce such a translation we'd still be reading it with a particular cultural perspective which will colour our interpretation and application.

    On the slavery issue it's obvious that you can't compare Roman era domestic slaves with 18/19th century plantation slaves. In the 18/19th century domestic slaves and plantation slaves had very different experiences of life - though with some common features of being property. A fair comparison of domestic slaves in both eras and agricultural slaves in both eras would show very little difference. We can't escape the uncomfortable fact of Paul not condemning slavery outright by arguing that the nature of slavery at the time was fundamentally different from that of the 18/19th century. That's just lazy exegesis (if it can be called exegesis at all) and seeks to avoid actually dealing with the passages.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Is it that Paul, and of course Jesus whom we never question on it, didn't forbid slavery for Christians? Is there any other integral socio-economic practice that they forbad? Or should have done if they were to forbid slavery? Jesus never quenched a smoking flax, why should Paul?
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »

    For these and other reasons it seems like using "bondservant" to mean "slave" is a bad translation choice, one that seems politically and/or socially motivated. Thoughts?

    I think it can be, and often is, motivated by apologetics. However, there are real reasons of fidelity to the text to use "bondservant" or the like, at least in some contexts. Consider:
    But it is not this way among you. Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
    --Mark 10:43-45 (NET)
    To my mind, "bondservant" would better serve this passage than the "slave" that was chosen. The image is of Christ selling himself into servitude to raise the money to free others. I interpret it as referring to Christ becoming flesh so that we might rise. The image better suits the idea of a circumstance that can be overcome, which resonates more with the notion of "bondservant" than of "slave." Further, my understanding is that people really did "sell themselves" into bond service if their situation were dire enough, but I am not aware of people selling themselves into permanent slavery. Perhaps I just lack sufficient familiarity with the historical record, but I don't believe so. Of course, many folks on either side of the argument over which word to choose will be more committed tot he politics of the word choice than they are to the theology or philology thereof.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    Consider:
    But it is not this way among you. Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
    --Mark 10:43-45 (NET)
    To my mind, "bondservant" would better serve this passage than the "slave" that was chosen. The image is of Christ selling himself into servitude to raise the money to free others. I interpret it as referring to Christ becoming flesh so that we might rise. The image better suits the idea of a circumstance that can be overcome, which resonates more with the notion of "bondservant" than of "slave."

    I'm not sure that many people have a "notion of "bondservant"" so I'm unconvinced that there's much resonance to be had from using the term. It's certainly not a word in common use outside church services.
    tclune wrote: »
    Further, my understanding is that people really did "sell themselves" into bond service if their situation were dire enough, but I am not aware of people selling themselves into permanent slavery. Perhaps I just lack sufficient familiarity with the historical record, but I don't believe so.

    It depends on how broadly you mean "selling themselves into permanent slavery". Once a society has invented the ideas of commercially-saleable slavery and debt some bright creditor will hit on the idea of selling his defaulting debtors into slavery to make good on their debt. As you can imagine enslaving formerly free citizens is an immensely socially destructive practice and societies that endure usually find a way to put an end to it. In Athens and Rome the solution was a blanket ban on the enslavement of citizens. (Non-citizens were obviously still fair game for enslavement). The Israelites took a different path, specifying a fixed term indenture for debtors who couldn't meet their obligations. At any rate, if falling behind on your debts counts as selling yourself into bond service for a society that practices such, the same would hold true for selling yourself into permanent slavery for societies that engage in that much rarer (and usually short-lived) practice.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »

    I'm not sure that many people have a "notion of "bondservant""

    Anyone who paid attention in his High School American history class would -- although that may, indeed, be a very small group.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    I'm not sure that many people have a "notion of "bondservant""
    Anyone who paid attention in his High School American history class would -- although that may, indeed, be a very small group.

    Most American history classes use the word "slave" fairly frequently and "bondservant" approximately never, preferring a different term for temporary forced laborers. As I said, I'm not sure there's a lot of contemporary resonance to the word "bondservant", especially if most people have to do a mental translation from another term they may not have come across in decades.
  • Fawkes CatFawkes Cat Shipmate
    Isn't the place to start with what the scripture says in its original language? What is the meaning of the word(s) commonly translated as slave/bondservant? Once we've got this - however longwinded it might be - surely that's the time for translators to work out what current word(s) in the English language best represent the original thought.

    So has this process been applied to the texts in question? And if so, does 'slave' or 'bondservant' best represent the original text?
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Most American history classes use the word "slave" fairly frequently and "bondservant" approximately never, preferring a different term for temporary forced laborers. As I said, I'm not sure there's a lot of contemporary resonance to the word "bondservant", especially if most people have to do a mental translation from another term they may not have come across in decades.

    Is your point that you would prefer the use of the term "indentured servant?" My original point was one of the appropriateness of the term "bondservant" to "slave" in many NT contexts on the grounds of theology and philology, but I would find "indentured servant" equally appropriate on those grounds.
    In truth, when translating or reading a book that was written millennia ago, one may reasonably expect to encounter words and concepts that are not part of one's quotidian routine.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    Isn't the place to start with what the scripture says in its original language? What is the meaning of the word(s) commonly translated as slave/bondservant? Once we've got this - however longwinded it might be - surely that's the time for translators to work out what current word(s) in the English language best represent the original thought.

    So has this process been applied to the texts in question? And if so, does 'slave' or 'bondservant' best represent the original text?

    As I explained above, doulos is often best rendered as bondservant (or, to @Crœsos 's point, "indentured servant."
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    Isn't the place to start with what the scripture says in its original language? What is the meaning of the word(s) commonly translated as slave/bondservant? Once we've got this - however longwinded it might be - surely that's the time for translators to work out what current word(s) in the English language best represent the original thought.

    You'd think that would be a place to start, but unfortunately as @tclune context matters. For example the Hebrew word used for "slave" in the First Testament is 'ebed (עֶבֶד). Unfortunately it's also the generic word for "worker" and you have to depend on the immediate context to tell whether this is a free laborer, an Israelite serving a fixed term of indenture, or an outright slave.
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    So has this process been applied to the texts in question? And if so, does 'slave' or 'bondservant' best represent the original text?

    It has not, at least not in the case of the ESV. They started out using "slave" in the 2001 edition, in 2006 added a footnote to slave indicating that this might mean bondservant, in 2011 translated the term as bondservant with a footnote saying this might mean slave, and in 2016 got rid of the slave footnote and just used the term bondservant. This rapid (by the standards of Biblical translation) shift over multiple editions makes the effort seem a bit underhanded.

    For example, the ESV describes Philemon as a "bondservant", even though there's no indication that he's anything other than a slave in the sense a modern person would understand the term. On the other hand the ESV seems a lot more willing to use the term "slave" when translating from Hebrew. A quick search reveals no use of the term "bondservant" in the ESV's translation of the First Testament, despite most Western systems of indenture taking their inspiration from there.
  • I am really not clear on what the difference is between a slave and a bondservant. A quick Google gives me no answers either. Both are forced workers. Both are unfree. Neither has a set term to the end of their bondage, which may be lifelong.

    Indentured servants are different in as much as they have a definite term limit to work toward. But AFAIK nobody is using that term in Scripture. Similarly serfs, who are bound to the land they work and to that land's owner. So neither of these terms are helpful.

    Is the argument simply that "slave" and "bondservant" mean the same thing, but somebody is substituting the less recognized term in order to somehow pull a fast one on readers?

    If so, sure, you can impute evil motives for this. Short of asking them, I suppose we'll never know. Alternately you could take this to be an early manifestation of the movement that in the United States has recently led news media to drop the terms "slave" and "slavery" in favor of "enslaved persons" and "enslavement"--a desire to put the "people" aspect up front.

    Has anybody actually asked, or are we just speculating in a vacuum?
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    Isn't the place to start with what the scripture says in its original language? What is the meaning of the word(s) commonly translated as slave/bondservant? Once we've got this - however longwinded it might be - surely that's the time for translators to work out what current word(s) in the English language best represent the original thought.

    You'd think that would be a place to start, but unfortunately as @tclune context matters.

    A compact example of the complexity is
    ...the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ’s slave. 
    1 Cor 7:22 (NIV)
    In both cases, "slave" is doulos. But the two uses cry out for different words in translation -- although that would destroy the parallelism Paul is constructing. The thing is that doulos means something like "subject" in the second usage -- a person who was under the authority of a king was designated as the king's doulos. In Paul's culture, it made complete and natural sense to use the same word for a slave and a subject. But we have a hard time imagining that equivalence. Perhaps, if our political culture continues to unravel, we may once again find that elision a natural one.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    I am really not clear on what the difference is between a slave and a bondservant.

    Here is a brief explanation from the Smithsonian. It may be that "bondservant" is used by some as a synonym for "slave," but its primary meaning is the same as "indentured servant."
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    I am really not clear on what the difference is between a slave and a bondservant. A quick Google gives me no answers either. Both are forced workers. Both are unfree. Neither has a set term to the end of their bondage, which may be lifelong.

    Bondservant is much vaguer term than slave, and can encompass a wide variety of types of forced labor (chattel slavery, indenture, serfdom, etc.). As such, its substitution for situations which clearly refer to slaves is a form of obfuscation.
    Is the argument simply that "slave" and "bondservant" mean the same thing, but somebody is substituting the less recognized term in order to somehow pull a fast one on readers?

    Pretty much, with the additional hypocrisy of Wayne Grudem et al. openly criticizing folks like the publisher of the NIV and similar for making changes in translation to appeal to modern sensibilities.
    If so, sure, you can impute evil motives for this. Short of asking them, I suppose we'll never know.

    I've never been a fan of the notion that you should prefer to judge people by their words rather than their actions. Seems like it's backwards, and more weight should be put on what people do than what they say.
    Alternately you could take this to be an early manifestation of the movement that in the United States has recently led news media to drop the terms "slave" and "slavery" in favor of "enslaved persons" and "enslavement"--a desire to put the "people" aspect up front.

    Again, Grudem and his collaborators on the ESV have been openly critical of changing translations for those reasons in other contexts. From the Perry interview.
    So for years they have said, "Hey, we're not going to translate certain things in a gender-neutral fashion, because we want to be as literal as possible, and if you like that it's capitulating to the feminist PC culture." So ESV has marketed themselves as a very popular evangelical translation that is used most faithfully by complementarian Protestant Christians for that reason: because it's conservative and because it's supposed to be literal.

    But at the same time, the fact that that the "slave" language in the New Testament is so obvious creates a real apologetics problem, because of all this talk about "slaves obeying your masters," and how slaves should subject themselves not only to good masters but bad masters, and how slaves should stay in the station of life where they were called. It creates this really ugly impression of the New Testament, and especially Paul advocating for slavery.

    So what you can see in the English Standard Version is that with each successive wave, from the 2001 revision of the Revised Standard Version to the 2011 revision and then finally in 2016, our most recent revision, was that they started by introducing a footnote in 2001 to the "slave" word, and then in 2011 they replace the slave word and put it in a footnote, and then they said, "We're going to call this a bondservant. So it's different from a slave."

    By 2016 they didn't use slave language at all. If you read that translation you would have no idea that the original translation — and I think the most appropriate translation — would be "slave." All you see is this kind of Christian-used churchy word "bondservant," which you never hear outside of a biblical reference. Nobody knows what that means, but it's a way that the English Standard Version and other Bibles like it can kind of say, "Hey, these are slaves, but they're not real, real slaves. They're not really bad slaves like we think of in the antebellum South, like chattel slavery. It's something different."
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    I once heard that among the leaders of protest against certain translation change that changed servant to slave were African Americans wanting to avoid using the term to refer to themselves - I don’t remember where - maybe Romans 6:22 where they talk about being slaves of God?

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+6:22&version=NIV&interface=amp
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    A few disjointed thoughts:

    1. I'm inclined to agree with @Lamb Chopped, it doesn't seem to me that there's much difference between 'bondservant' and 'slave'. (For very obscure reasons, I was once trying to find a French word that would translate naturally into English as 'bondsman' rather than 'slave', and couldn't find one.) The fact that @Croesos is arguing that 'bondservant' is broader while @tclune argues that it's narrower kind of proves the point.

    2. If one word is more generic, ISTM generally bad practice to translate a generic term with a precise term even if the precise term is factually correct - e.g. I don't think 'the oak-tree in front of the station' would be an acceptable translation of l'arbre devant la gare even if the tree (arbre) was in point of fact an oak-tree.

    3. I'm not sure of the value of contextualising a translation with footnotes or commentary if the context is actually the text itself - by which I mean, most of what we know about OT slavery comes from the OT itself. So if you want to know about the rights of an OT slave / bondservant / worker, then the best place to look would not be a commentary but, say, Exodus 21.
  • What bugs me is that the OP categorically states that the shifting about between "slave" and "bondservant" is down to evil motives. And it may well be. But the alternative I suggested--that it is another example of the (at least) U.S.-wide recent discomfort with the term "slave," for which people are substituting the awkward "enslaved person" and so on--has gone completely unaddressed. Instead we get this:
    I've never been a fan of the notion that you should prefer to judge people by their words rather than their actions. Seems like it's backwards, and more weight should be put on what people do than what they say.

    Well, fine. What we observe is that there has been a change in that set of translations that by and large favors the term "bondservant" over "slave." But motives are not laid out for this. Nobody has said, "And here's why we're doing it," unless someone on this thread knows of a place? No?

    So we observe a change. We guess at motivations. And my suggestion, that we ASK--just ask, not necessarily believe--is pooh-poohed. Apparently it's more sensible to take the worst motive our minds can think up, and settle on that as the explanation.

    If you're going to take an action without stated motive, in a case where multiple possible motives exist, and assign it a motive wholly according to your own choice, and THEN proceed to judge the persons taking the actions on that basis, because "more weight should be put on what people do than what they say"--well, that looks very like a logical circle. You are apparently so certain that what they say will fall below your standard of decency that you refuse to allow them any words at all. Your guess is paramount. How is this sensible?
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    If you're going to take an action without stated motive, in a case where multiple possible motives exist, and assign it a motive wholly according to your own choice, and THEN proceed to judge the persons taking the actions on that basis, because "more weight should be put on what people do than what they say"--well, that looks very like a logical circle. You are apparently so certain that what they say will fall below your standard of decency that you refuse to allow them any words at all.

    I'm not the one refusing them words, they did that to themselves through the process of first inserting a footnote (footnote says "slave" may mean "bondservant", then inverting the footnote ("bondservant" may mean "slave"), then getting rid of the footnote altogether. That's a lot of change in fifteen year's time (which is the blink of an eye in Biblical translation timescales), especially for people (e.g. Wayne Grudem) who are on record as having nothing but contempt for other Biblical translators who alter their translations to better fit with modern sensibilities. By Ockham's razor the translator's self-imposed silence on the matter (we know that they know how to use footnotes) indicates that they're being deliberately furtive about this decision.

    Still, if you want to hear the ESV translators in their own words there's a brief (~4 minute) video of them discussing this exact issue. This was for the 2011 edition where the term "bondservant" warranted a footnote indicating that it might mean "slave" rather than the most recent edition where those footnotes were deemed unnecessary. In other words it's not their most recent thinking but still gives us a pretty good idea where they're coming from. Starting around 2:27 Mr. Grudem starts comments about how scholars have to protect the ignorant masses from concluding that ancient slavery was all that bad.
    For the average English reader the word 'slave' has irredeemably negative associatons and connotations.

    Yes it does Mr. Grudem, and for good reasons. Trying to soft-pedal this reality is something Grudem would scorn in other contexts (e.g. using more gender-inclusive translations of terms) but it's okay when pursuing his particular agenda. He goes on with what could be called "aristocratic sociology".
    In people's minds it's a permanent condition, whereas in the Old Testament and certainly in the time of the New Testament it's temporary, it leads to freedom. And it was often voluntary, at least in the first century.

    This is just outright false. Most Roman slaves in the first century would die as slaves. Scholars of related fields (like Biblical translation) who aren't historians themselves often fall victim to the unrepresentative nature of the narratives available to us. (I'm not a historian either, but I know this much.) In this case we know a lot (relatively speaking) about wealthy freedmen who were able to influence (and thus be recorded in) history or buy themselves expensive (and durable) tombs. We have very few mentions of agricultural or mining slaves who don't enter the historical record except on those occasions when they inconvenience their owners by revolting. So the amateur historian assumes that, because they're mentioned a lot, slaves who later become wealthy freedmen are common and, because they're mentioned rarely, agricultural slaves were so uncommon as to be neglected in any analysis of ancient slavery.

    As for whether slavery was "often voluntary", I guess it depends on how much wiggle room is associated with "often". The most common way to become enslaved in the first century Roman Empire was the same as it was in the nineteenth century United States: being born into slavery.

    The background here seems to be the eighteenth and nineteenth century arguments using the Bible to support the North Atlantic slave system. The most commonly used passages from the pro-slavery side seem to be the ones that got marked out for translation as "bondservant". Essentially it's a way to retcon those argument out of history by altering the text on which they were based. This also seems consistent with their footnoting the passages often used by anti-Semites to justify their beliefs, as mentioned in the Perry interview and, more prominently, in his academic article. This seems like a deliberate effort to make the Bible say the "right" things, even if the original authors got it "wrong".

    And maybe it's just me but it seems somewhat jarring to watch an all male, all apparently white panel discussing who is and isn't a slave and how slavery isn't so bad sometimes.
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    edited July 28
    Not everything can been seen validly through the lens of the speaker's race. If they are the relevant experts, they are the ones to have the discussion.

    There may be other things that need to happen as well, like the issue being aired and those affected by parallel contemporary issues engaged, but the issue of translation and/or historical social order can most validly be discussed by those who understand them best, whatever their identity in other respects.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Not everything can been seen validly through the lens of the speaker's race.

    Yeah, but if the argument is about the connotations and associations the term "slave" has for a contemporary English-reading audience I'm pretty sure you can't leave aside the lens of race. If the modern lens of race is invalid in this context then there's no real justification for substituting the word "bondservant". Though I will say that one of the panel seems to tacitly disagree with you when he pulls the 'I have a black friend who says . . . ' maneuver (starting around 1:50 on the video).
    If they are the relevant experts, they are the ones to have the discussion.

    I question the assumption that the only relevant experts on Biblical translation are white men and that they alone possess a supposedly neutral viewpoint. The composition of the panel points to selection bias.
  • It's all I was asking for, that somebody should raise the question with them.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    To my mind a spade is always a spade unless it's a sanguinary shovel.
  • I will say that the video appeared to me to be very staged. I have sat on such a committee myself, and the conversation at its most focused was considerably more rambly, filled with esoteric and elliptical references, and far less "lick and a promise". I know the video is allegedly edited down from an actual session, but I find it hard to believe that none of that was specifically shot for the camera.

    Part of my reaction is fueled by the fact that there is major jumping to conclusions, unsupported by any references. Again, someone will say to me "editing," which is .... possible? .... but no, it smells wrong to me.
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