Monday, June 13, 2011

Truth in Blogging

For some reason I feel compelled to remind you today that I am not really a dead dog. You get that, don't you, intelligent reader that you are, but you click back in here regularly, perhaps because you are bored senseless in your cubicle and find some mild amusement in our quirky mix of commentary, sophomoric humor, and randomly appropriated images? You understand, though, that the "I" who speaks here is a Dickinsonian "supposed person" -- er, dead dog -- and not an actual one, right? (We will save for another day -- or blog -- the vexing question of whether any and every speaker is not in some sense a supposed rather than an actual person. That conundrum is way beyond my pay grade.)

Anyhoo, kids, just wanted to clear that up. Truths are being announced or exposed all over the blogosphere this week, and we didn't want anyone to think we were trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes. We take seriously our blogger's oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, with stretchers occasionally thrown in when the truth is insufficiently entertaining. We also have strong opinions on the matter of pseudonymity in blogging (enunciated here), and we don't blame readers for getting ticked off when some a$$hat abuses the venerable tradition of writing under a fake name, even if he thinks his cause justifies it. My typist taught Riverbend's Baghdad Burning, the book based on a pseudonymous blog produced in occupied Iraq, in her blogging class, as a way of exploring with students both the power and the ethical complexity of pseudonymity in online worlds. Bloggers and other users of social media are risking their (real) lives to tell the (true) story of events in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. For them, pseudonymity is an essential tool aimed at assuring their survival. It's disheartening, to say the least, to see some white straight American guy undermine all that brave work by deciding to pose as a gay Syrian woman as a way to bring attention to issues he felt strongly about. Oh, dude, you so went about it in the wrong way. And you so don't get the difference between an apology and a mansplanation.

So, anyway, as I was saying: I am not a dead dog -- or the living mother of a living child or a gay girl in Damascus. I am just a -- Oh, never mind, my darlings. That is all for now. Carry on.


  1. Oh, Rox, I wondered how you would weigh in on this. I've only read a wee bit about it because, well, it didn't happen between 1969 and 1989 and doesn't involve lesbian print culture and everything my sweaty head is dedicated to that, but I am happy to read your musings on these events. I wonder, have Moose and Goose considered a seance to consult you directly on very important matters?

  2. As witnessed by the logorrheic blog post I put up today, I was also hacked off about MacMaster's stunt. Thanks for the links — I especially like Zuckerman's comprehensive analysis of the situation. I'm also impressed by the variations of "douchebag" that appear in the comments of Shakespeare's Sister. I'd say MacMaster deserves every one of 'em.

    And, even though I always understood the writing arrangement of this blog, I appreciate your clarifying of your blogging identity. ;)

  3. Nobody knows your a dog on the internet!

    (Nice clarification. I really found Dr. Koshary's post interesting and informative, too.)

  4. Anonymous8:56 PM EDT

    Sniff. Next you'll tell me those LOL cats don't really talk. Rosemary, never anonymous.

  5. Click here for Dr. Koshary's post on the MacMaster fiasco. Thanks for passing it along. I share your outrage and appreciate your logorrhea as well. Sometimes, ya just gotta vent.

    @Bardiac: Or, as my typist has been known to say, on the Internet, everybody thinks I'm a dog!

  6. Like Julie, I figured only you, Roxie, could do justice to the straight white Syrian lesbian American male blogger story. And LOLZ to Rosemary-never-Anonymous, too. (I can haz reefund naow?)

    Love you, Roxie! Thanks for the shout-out.

  7. Wait! Wut? You're not really a dead dogge? I WANT MY FUCKEN MONEY BACK!!!!!!!!

  8. Just wanted to add that when I posted the above comment, I was unaware of what MacMaster had done. Now that I have read Melissa's post about it, I wanted to clarify that I am horrified by what that fucken douchewacker has done, and don't want it to appear that I was minimizing it or belittling justified anger at the dude.


    Holy crappe. And the scrutiny of MacMaster has also led to the revelation that the editor of a (what I understand to be quite popular) lesbian news site is not really "Paula Brooks"--who identified herself as lesbian--but some fucken d00d from Vermont.

  10. Do you have any evidence that Riverbend was who and what she said she was?

    Or in fact whether 'she' is a she at all, and not the invention of another fat, bearded American?

    Why doesn't she come out and collect the royalties several book publishers owe her? Could it be because she doesn't exist at all?

    Riverbend's blog was merely a 'dramatic re-enactment' of the news that the international media pumped from Iraq. That was obvious even then (2003-2007), but we chose to believe nevertheless.

    What surprises me is that even after the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax, some people continue to embrace Riverbend, as though she couldn't possibly be a hoax. Why? Because she wrote so eloquently?

  11. Good points, sHx, but do you have any proof that Riverbend is/was not who and what she said she was? In my mind, not claiming royalties argues in favor of her truthfulness, not against it, but neither of us can really know.

  12. I can't prove a negative.

    The burden of proof is on Riverbend and her supporters to demonstrate that she exists and that she is what she says she is.

    The bit about royalties was merely a figure of speech.

    My point is that nobody has seen her, nobody has spoken with her, and nobody knows anybody who has seen her or spoken with her. Sounds familiar?

    All those claims that she had to remain anonymous because of safety reasons ought to have been negated once she and her family moved to Syria.

    Of course, the most likely explanation is that she doesn't exist at all.

  13. As you say, you can't prove a negative, but such a strong charge requires some evidence. Either way, however, the blog and the book version remain a powerful lesson in the ethical (and interpretive) complexities of pseudonymity. Still, my typist felt comfortable teaching them as authentic documents, given the publisher's willingness to vouch for their veracity. If at some point Riverbend is exposed as a fake, some details of the lesson will change, but it will still be a powerful one.


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