Friday, June 17, 2011

Exclusive: Stonewall Society founder Len Rogers tells me about his suspicions dealing with fake lesbian blogger Paula Brooks

Len Rogers
While the mainstream media and Jon Stewart have been having a gay old time with the fake lesbian blogger story of Bill Graber, a/k/a Paula Brooks, creator of LezGetReal, the LGBT blogosphere has been scratching its collective head and wondering how they could not have known that so much about Brooks' story just wasn't right.

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend is attending this week's Netroots Nation, the annual convention of liberal bloggers being held in Minneapolis. I asked Pam via FaceBook what the reaction to the LGR hoax was at the gathering. "... disbelief", she said. "Some talk that there were indications "Paula Brooks" may have been a fraud some time ago, no proof of course, but it's easier in hindsight."

Roanoke's Len Rogers, founder of The Stonewall Society and host of Rainbow World Radio, told me he had his own suspicions about Brooks/Graber, but it wasn't in hindsight.

Rogers says he first encountered Brooks/Graber in the Topix GLBT forum in 2008. "It was via our arguments on representing our community with a bit more journalistic integrity that 'Paula' approached me to write especially regarding Virginia, McDonnell, and the Presidential race." He adds, "She claimed I had a style she liked and that I was not afraid to combat so wanted me as a political columnist."

When the two spoke on the phone, Rogers says things got weird. Brooks/Graber claimed to be deaf, so her father was supposedly the one on the phone who would interpret the conversation via American Sign Language (ASL). "I have a few friends who are unable to speak and deaf so I am familiar with how those conversations go with an interpreter", he says. Rogers adds that he was immediately suspicious, as the conversation was "nothing like I had experienced".

"Usually you can hear the object of the conversation somewhat [in the background], but not in that call. The translator/interpreter was right up front with being very candid on how well he knew Paula and could speak for her. This is not the Paula I knew from online or emails and I stated that. It was quickly explained he had worked as her interpreter for years. However in the email setting up the call, [Brooks said] she had to find one."

Rogers says the conversation only got stranger as it progressed. "By the end of the call, lapses were gone and the interpreter was answering way too quickly to be getting input via ASL, which was supposedly how they communicated. My experience with ASL and talks like this is that the interpreter will clarify meaning [before repeating the response] so you hear it all. That did not occur."

Rogers relates his suspicions about Brooks/Graber's ethics about a story s/he posted about a New York Rite-Aid in July, '08 that had a negative sign on the door directed at the GLBT community. "Paula claimed to be the first to report it", he recalls. "A real media mess was initiated by 'Paula'. It was pretty obvious it was some sort of prank and not actually the manager of Rite-Aid who posted the sign. [The end] result was Paula had to do lots of retractions."

The actual credit for breaking and getting to the bottom of the story goes to Queerty.

One of the more extreme examples of Brooks/Graber's inconsistencies came in her/his postings on other sites, where s/he advocated that gays should arm themselves and fight anti-gay violence with violence, views that were never expressed on LGR.

"Paula posted on Topix many times that the GLBT community should arm and use [weapons]. She was very adamant about that. I was 100% on the other side of that fence. The only thing worse that one angry person with a gun is two, in my opinion."

According to Rogers, Brooks/Graber also claimed to have a press pass he could use and that s/he had worked with Rachel Maddow and MSNBC. He checked it out and could not verify any affiliation between Maddow or MSNBC and Brooks. The press pass turned out to be worthless. At various times Brooks/Graber claimed to be living in Maryland, the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Ohio.

In the aftermath of the exposure of the LezGetReal hoax, the remaining writers at the site, Bridgette LaVictoire, a transexual lesbian who sometimes posted under the name SEI, and her mother, Linda Carbonell, who have been running the site after the departure of South African lesbian activist and contributor Melanie Nathan, are trying to salvage the site. Rogers says the mother-daughter team may not have been as in the dark about Brooks' true identity as they claim to be.

"My contact with Bridgette a/k/a SEI was through and around her articles," Rogers says. "Usually in discussion or I was questioning how she could have been at events when she lived in Vermont. The answer was she was sent the information or was [the result of] a telephone interview."

But Rogers says it was SEI's strong defense of "Paula" and past claims of knowing her very well that just do no fit with her current claims in the interview she gave with the Bilerico Project this week that she and her mother were duped. "I am not convinced SEI knew nothing," he says.

LaVictoire says in the Bilerico interview that Brooks/Graber was trying to extricate him/herself from the site because s/he was engaged to be married and wanted to focus on raising her/his three fictitious children. LaVictoire and Carbonell were to share the duties of running the site with Melanie Nathan, who disclosed to Bilerico that she felt that the pair were edging her out after she raised questions about the identity of LGR contributor Amina Arraf, who turned out to be an American man perpetrating a hoax of his own.

Melanie Nathan has revived her own site, O-Blog-Dee O-Blog-Da and continues to speak out against "corrective" rape in South Africa.

Len Rogers can be heard on his online radio show, Rainbow World Radio, where he shares and promotes music by LGBT artists. Many thanks to Len for his continued support and for sharing his story.

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