When the person posing as "Candice Jarman" started his nasty "Paul Barford- heritage - the Truth" blog, he presented himself as a lesbian legal secretary, even gave a few details about "Candice's" partner. When it was pointed out by a commentator that real lesbians do not write about each other in such terms, that fragment of "Candy's" profile disappeared, the first of a number of things that were "adjusted" as the blog author developed his assumed persona.
It seems posing as a lesbian female is quite a common fantasy for male bloggers. Yesterday we had the case of Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old married masters student at Edinburgh University (Esther Addley, 'Syrian lesbian blogger is revealed conclusively to be a married man', The Guardian, Monday 13 June 2011). He posed as Amina Abdallah Aral al Omari, a gay girl in Damascus, who set out to inform people of the "truth" about being a gay woman in Syria (see the 'explanation' here).
Today a third one has been exposed. Paula Brooks, who claimed to be editor of LezGetReal.com, which set out to inform people of the "truth" about being a gay woman in the US, admitted to the Washington Post that 'she', too, was a man (Esther Addley and Ben Quinn, 'Second lesbian blogger exposed as a man', The Guardian, Tuesday 14 June 2011 ) in this case, a 58-year-old retired construction worker from Ohio called Bill Graber. Interestingly "Brooks" claimed to have a PhD in archaeology from Bryn Mawr college, falsely.
There seems to have been an element of sexual fantasy in the activity in all three cases, Tom MacMaster masquerading as "Amina" exchanged around 1,000 emails with Sandra Bagaria, a French Canadian woman and led the latter on to believe that she was in a romantic online relationship with "Amina". In addition "Amina" often "flirted" with LezGetReal.com's "Brooks" – with neither man apparently realising that the other was also a man pretending to be a lesbian. "Candice Jarman" claims to be receiving bouquets from "darling friends" in Turkey.
Candice Jarman: "About me" (first version, before 12th October 2010)
Hi, my name is Candice - I am a secretary with a firm of Solicitors in Hampshire, United Kingdom. I live with my partner, Sophie, in Bournemouth with a big soppy labrador and two cats - sorry Guys, I am a girl's girl. I am passionate about archaeology and history. I have many metal detecting friends - all of whom report their finds to the PAS and only search with the landowners permission. I am incensed at the misinformation and lies spread by the anti-metal detecting/anti-collecting archaeological lobby - hence this blog which will expose their lies and set the record straight on a legitimate and lawful activity. But this will be more than a single issue blog campaigning against one man - it is hoped it will also become a forum for examining how archaeology is done in the world today. I passionately believe that archaeology belongs to the people - to all of us - and not just to archaeologists. Is it not time to examine whether more excavations can be done by amateur societies, of which there are many? In todays straightened times, can we afford to support so many University Archaeology Departments and Archaeology Units from the public purse?The beginning and end of that text have now been altered.
Part of the fallout from this affair prompted an article by Dan Gillmor in the Guardian on 'anonimity'
Sounding real is not the same as being real. The fake Amina's blog was especially well done, with details that sounded authentic even to native Syrians. Its unmasked author said he was telling larger truths, but we have a name for this technique: fiction. We also have a name for the technique of identity in this case: pseudonym. This is a much-used method online – not revealing one's own name but having a consistent identifier. It's one step away from outright anonymity, where there is no accountability whatever. As I wrote last week, the lack of accountability in such cases puts more responsibility on the audience. It is up to us to cultivate an abiding distrust for speech when the speaker refuses to stand behind his or her own words – that is, by using one's own name.