Mel Gibson is back in the news, this time for a series of audio recordings in which he allegedly threatens and berates his ex-girlfriend (and mother of his eight-month-old child) Oksana Grigorieva. The audio was apparently secretly recorded during private conversations, and depicts Gibson as very abusive.
It’s easy to get outraged, yet there may be more — or less — to the story. The source of the leaked audio, Radar Online, is clearly enjoying the free publicity and website traffic. The site is plastered with teasers about exclusive, profanity-laced audio recordings of Gibson involving his favorite topics, everything from racist rants to oral sex to death threats.
Yet the recordings have not been authenticated. According to an audio expert interviewed on Good Morning
America at least some of the recordings have been edited and tampered with.
For example, there are gaps and fades in the audio, and the sound quality varies dramatically between the woman’s voice and that alleged to be Gibson’s. Her voice is much better quality and sounds like it was recorded with a professional microphone, perhaps during the conversation, but perhaps at another time.
It’s possible that the tapes are completely faked, and that one or neither of the voices is actually who it is claimed to be. Or, perhaps more likely, both voices really are of Gibson and Grigorieva, but the conversations are faked: the words are real, but the exchanges are not. Perfectly reasonable responses to one question may be rearranged so as to appear bizarrely answering another question. (The screaming rage, on the other hand, seems awfully real.)
Of course, the tapes seem all the more believable given Gibson’s previous rants and outbursts, some of which were recorded and are indisputably authentic. Part of the reason the tapes are making so much news is that they fit neatly in the context of his past behavior. And, of course, the fact that the recordings surfaced amid a nasty custody battle has not been lost on the public.
Is Gibson a crazed abuser, victim of dirty tricks, or both? With a malicious streak, some creative editing and enough source material, any one of us could be recorded saying things we didn’t mean, or that were taken out of context. Most people speak differently at different times with different people; we say different things to our co-workers than we say in private to our loved ones.
I know that if someone recorded even half of everything I say over an average month (or even week), he or she could assemble a potentially embarrassing audio of me. But, unlike some of Gibson’s rants, it would not include racist remarks or death threats.