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LezAin’tReal

Jim Burroway

June 14th, 2011

It was just last week when we learned that the so-called Lesbian Syrian Blogger known as Amina Arraff was actually Tom MacMaster, a man who was born in Georgia and is currently living in Scotland. Before MacMaster revealed his hoax, one of “Amina’s” strongest defenders was LezGetReal’s Executive Editor Paula Brooks:

On Friday, the editor of Lez Get Real, a lesbian news Web site based in Washington, told readers she and Amina had corresponded after Amina posted a thoughtful comment on her site. The editor said she had determined that Amina’s e-mails had been sent from a computer in Edinburgh.

In several interviews, the editor — who spoke on condition that she be identified only by her pseudonym, Paula Brooks — said she encouraged Amina to write more, first on Lez Get Real and later on a new blog, titled “A Gay Girl in Damascus.”

Yesterday, MacMaster apologized on the blog, saying “While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground, I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.”

Others on the ground in Syrian disagree sharply. MacMaster really did put a lot of people in harm’s way because of his vanity:

“MacMaster’s hoax aimed at enhancing continuous fabrications and lies against Syria in term (sic) of kidnapping bloggers and activists,” a report on state-run news agency SANA said.

Syrian state TV aired a report on MacMaster’s “lies.”

Linda S. Carbonell, Managing Editor of LezGetReal, also worried about MacMaster’s lies causing harm as well — to their web site:

The website that identified you, Electronic Intifada, thinks we are zionists working against the Palestinians. …Worse, that same site is accusing us of not existing. They accused our executive editor of being an avatar, called into question her qualifications and entire life experiences. …

Both Paula (Brooks) and I have close family members who work for the government. … Paula and I have always worked under pseudonyms to protect our families. Furthermore, because our site is blatantly and unapologetically liberal, we risk our own jobs if our site is connected to us. America is not free. It just pretends to be.

That was yesterday. And so today, we now learn that Paula Brooks isn’t who she says she is:

Just one day after the author behind a popular Syrian lesbian blog admitted to being a married, American man named Tom MacMaster, the editor of the lesbian news site Lez Get Real, with the tag­line “A Gay Girl’s View on the World,” acknowledged that he is also a man.

“Paula Brooks,” editor of Lez Get Real since its founding in 2008, is actually Bill Graber, 58, a retired Ohio military man and construction worker who said he had adopted his wife’s identity online. Graber said she was unaware he had been using her name on his site.

Linda S. Corbonell responds to this latest body-blow to LezGetReal’s credibility with this rambling post just hours ago:

I am Linda Carbonell. That’s my maiden name. Back in the stone age when I got married, there was no question of keeping my own name, but it’s the name I call myself, and when one of the people my husband worked for in the Federal Judiciary threatened his job if I ever wrote another letter to an editor, I started using my maiden name to keep writing those letters and joining on-line political groups. Even though he’s retired, I’ve kept it up because I am me, not an extension of him.  So I will continue to write as Linda Carbonell, even though the Washington Post has, in my sister’s words, “outed” me as Linda Carbonell LaVictoire.

Maybe I’m too naive. It honestly never occurred to me that there were people who could take someone like my Reiny and create a life on the internet with it. I’m not dumb enough to believe everything on the net – heaven knows there is way too much junk, hate and conspiracy nonsense out there, but I never really questioned whether or not the people were real.

The past three days have been devastating for all of us on LezGetReal. “Paula Brooks” has been a part of our lives for three years now. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. It has been especially hard for Bridgette because theirs was a very good friendship.

Would that be Bridgette P. LaVictoire — who now happens to share the same last name as Linda Carbonell LaVictoire? Bridgette’s “interview” of “Dr. Paula Brooks” seems rather fawning, don’t you think?

If I sound suspicious, it is because at this point I don’t know who or what to believe over there. I can vouch for the real-life existence of Melanie Nathan, one of the writers at LezGetReal. I met her last year at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention in San Francisco. She does appear to be who she says she is. Melanie is no longer associated with LezGetReal. But as for the others I think a heavy dose of skepticism is in order for everything posted over there until all of this is sorted out.

I can also personally vouch for all the writers here at BTB. I have often wanted to expand the number of writers at this web site, but I have always insisted on watching, vetting, and getting to know something about each of our writers before inviting them on. I’ve met them all except one, and that one I’ve spoken to on the phone and he came highly recommended by other good friends of mine who know him.

And everyone writes under their own given name. BTB is a pseudonym-free zone. It didn’t become that way because of policy; it’s just the way it has worked out. But I do think that it will be a good policy to have from now on.

UPDATE: I’m told that Bridgette P. LaVictoire is Linda Carbonell LaVictoire’s daughter. I’m waiting for the long form birth certificate.

Comments

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Boo
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

Ok, I admit it.

I’m not a real Boo.

Kidding aside, this is really sick.

TampaZeke
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

It would break my heart to find out that Timothy or Jim was really a straight woman. :)

For the record, I’m really in Tampa and one of my real names is Ezekiel.

Timothy (TRiG)
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

I come from h2g2, where pseudonyms are normal. (As someone there said recently, “Our anonymity is, I think, a relic of the 90s internet.”) That’s why I’m TRiG. And when I first ventured into the blogosphere, it was to talk to fellow h2g2 people who’d started blogging, so I kept the TRiG but added my real first name.

My own website identifies me as Timothy Richard Green. I understand why some people need to be anonymous, and in many cases it makes little difference. The BTB bloggers are not, generally, talking about their own lives, so it wouldn’t matter much to me if they were anonymous, though I suppose in some people’s eyes it would undermine their credibility.

TRiG.

Priya Lynn
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

Jim said “UPDATE: I’m told that Bridgette P. LaVictoire is Linda Carbonell LaVictoire’s daughter. I’m waiting for the long form birth certificate.”.

Now that’s funny!

MKYLL
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

Everybody, including those at Lez Get Real, need a blow to their smugness once in a while. They got fooled. Move on.

Jarred
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

For those who haven’t read it, MacMaster’s gave a longer apology in which he talked about his original reason for inventing Amina. His original intent was not to raise awareness of LGBT issues in the Middle East, but was to experiment with creating a character. I bring this up because, to me at least, the first apology suggested his motives were the former. His actual motives bother me even more for various reasons.

I’m also particularly disturbed about the kidnapping story, given the following comment from the longer apology:

And, regularly, I tried to stop. Amina moved overseas, she dropped out of sight repeatedly and so on and so forth. I meant to stop her … but is was hard

So was the “kidnapping” the latest attempt to “stop”?

Priya Lynn
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

http://www.unc.edu/depts/jomc/academics/dri/idog.jpg

Jarred
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

Of course, sitting here thinking about this, one person comes to my mind: Zach Stark. I wonder how his history-making MySpace blog post would be received if he had posted it today, after the revelations that two well-known bloggers weren’t really who they claimed to be. Would some people be more inclined to be suspicious than they were back then? Would people be so quick to scrutinize LiA, as we all did back then? Or would we be too busy scrutinizing and doubting Zach’s cry for help?

chiMaxx
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

I’m not sure about the no-pseudonyms policy.I think the problem in this case was that the writers were pretending to be real people that they weren’t. One of the blogs I followed regularly until the author’s death last year was written with an obvious pseudonym: http://jonswift.blogspot.com/ . I could imagine a situation where BTB would admit a blogger using an obvious pseudonym–say, a correspondent in Uganda–but not someone using a pretend persona that readers believe is real.

I’ve been using chiMaxx for two decades online (yes, starting on FidoNet bulletin boards before there was an Internet as we know it today, and on NewsGroups, and while I’d happily use my real name on my own blog or as a blog author, as a commenter I’m kind of loath to give it up and am distressed at the sites using Facebook’s commenting system.

Timothy Kincaid
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

Are there any lesbians at LezGetReal?

Regan DuCasse
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

I can state in all honesty, I’m really a straight ally, tall, black woman who shaves her head.
Tim Kincaid and I have traveled together. I just met Ben in Oakland (LOVE you, my brother!) and I regularly call Priya Lynn and talk to her on the phone.

It was bad enough when certain writers like JT LeRoy, or James Frey and others who claimed to be writing autobiographically, but were really writing fiction were lying, bloggers are even worse. Their reporting reaches millions.
Un ringing their bell, would be an even bigger impossibility.
I was a huge fan of JT LeRoy. The lyrical quality of the prose did reveal a talented writer.
But being a liar will foreshadow all of that.

With using such fiction, endangered gays and lesbians or stories of their kidnappings or murders will be suspect.
And gays and lesbians, can least afford those who make a cheap profit, whether for money or attention at their expense.

Timothy Kincaid
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

And I can confirm that Jim is a real man as well…
though, I’ve never actually seen his ID…
and I have no personal evidence that he’s actually gay…
Oh Noes…
conspiracies everywhere

;)

Oddly enough, for me this has worked a bit in reverse. I’m much more cautious about giving out my last name in public lest my personal life (and that one extra margarita) somehow reflect negatively on the site.

There are, in a sense, two Timothys. In my personal life, I don’t lecture random strangers (much) and my personal friends and I have relationships that don’t focus on politics or world events. That is probably true of all people who have some public persona – be it a Senator or just a blogger like me. Separation is an absolute necessity.

So I do understand the instinct towards a pseudonym. And I have in the past blogged with a person who uses a nom de plume – though based on conversation, I certainly believe him to be genuine in the few personal details he’s given and in the opinions he states. And he has legitimate reasons.

But my decision to write under my name came down to this: I try very hard to say what I believe and to be sincere. I also often take stands that run contrary to the way the wind’s blowing or which are not politically correct. Many of those who do so on the internet enjoy the protection of anonymity. And it is my opinion that this often leads to excess, to extremes, to taking a position out of controversy with the knowledge that it comes at no cost.

It is my hope that my use of my real identity serves two purposes: 1) it lends credibility to the positions I hold, and 2) it keeps me in check and reminds me that it’s not all theory and real people – who know me in person – can be impacted by policies that I support.

I also hope that it makes me a better man, someone who lives up to a public image… or that’s my goal, anyway (reality falls short).

Priya Lynn
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

XXOO, Regan.

Darina
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

LOL I don’t think anybody here would be able to read my name on my birth certificate because it’s in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Seriously, I agree that writing under a pseudonym (or user name or whatever) is one thing, and assuming a fake persona is quite another.

BlackDog
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

For the record, I am not personally a black dog. I do however own one, and he is available for comment if needed.

However, he is sleeping under the bed and that would mean I would have to wake him up.

BlackDog
June 14th, 2011 | LINK

As for the whole bit about Lez Get Real and the whole bit about the fake Syrian blogger…for the love of God WHY??

First of all, you’re not a very good bullshitter if you fall for someone else’s bullshit…

As for the rest, it just seems hella creepy. Why would a straight man bother doing something like that in the first place? There are much better ways either to advocate or harm a cause, that don’t involve making an ass of yourself.

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