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 thÄ±s blog are true and not mÄ±sleading 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.
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.