COMMENTARY: There’s trouble in River City, the gay and lesbian version

“Music Man” is playing on a local stage here in San Diego, and there’s a line in the Meredith Willson musical that comes to my mind this week:

“Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.”

In this case, there’s trouble in the gay and lesbian version of River City.

Look at the headlines lately:

Gay group chief under pressure over AT&T issues

Politico’s Ben Smith blogged about the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation controversy on Saturday, June 18, and during the weekend GLAAD’s president, Jarrett Barrios, apparently was forced out. So far, there has been no official word from GLAAD on the matter.

San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, which is a media partner with GLAAD, would like an explanation on this whole sorry mess. For a non-profit watchdog of the media, you would think transparency would be at the top of their list of things to do. Meanwhile, the AT&T scandal may be a lot wider and affect other civil rights groups, according to Bil Browning of The Bilerico Project.

Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly looks at Gay T & T and its attempts to influence policy statements of LGBT organizations. Stay tuned to this developing scandal.

Gay Girl in Damascus was an arrogant fantasy

Major media around the world followed the breathtaking story of Amina Arraf, the lesbian blogger known as Gay Girl in Damascus, who wrote about being on the front lines of the people’s revolt in Syria. Trouble is, it was an astonishing hoax by a straight, married American man living in Scotland and ended up becoming used as propaganda by Syria’s brutal regime bent on staying in power.

The hoax began to unravel when several news sources, including San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, began to question the one-source blog notice that Amina had been kidnapped in Damascus. For example, I made calls to London and San Francisco to talk to people who seemed to have contacts with Amina and came away convinced that she did not exist and therefore could not have been kidnapped.

I also warned several media people about my skepticism, and pointed out how I could not find one person on Earth who had actually met Amina. Yet several people tried to convince me that they knew of somebody who knew of somebody who knew she existed. Such sketchy evidence did not persuade me. Still, the LGBT bloggers went wild with the story and so did mainstream media in the United States, the United Kingdom and across the globe. Activists began petitions hoping to save her life … and now all feel betrayed by the fictional writings of Tom MacMaster.

‘Paula Brooks,’ editor of ‘Lez Get Real,’ also a man

Because Lez Get Real, a popular blog for lesbians, heavily promoted Amina Arraf and the Gay Girl in Damascus blog, the media turned its attention to Paula Brooks when the hoax came to light. Turns out Paula Brooks is a married straight man, too.

Melanie Nathan's Final Weeks at Fraudulent 'Lez Get Real'

Adam Polaski of The Bilerico Project interviewed Melanie Nathan -- whose blogs about LGBT rights in Africa have appeared occasionally on SDGLN -- about how she was hoodwinked by “Paula Brooks.”

I have had a number of telephone conversations with Nathan over the past year and know that this native of South Africa who lives in California is passionate about her work. She has been betrayed by the man posing as Paula Brooks, and it hurts her deeply; but knowing Nathan, I am confident she will be bigger and stronger in her next endeavor.

Postscript

In the Internet age, there is a rush to be the first to post the news. Bloggers gay and straight take great delight in posting stories before the mainstream media does. Be smart and discerning when reading bloggers; many are not trained as journalists, many are not posting original work and most do not fact-check. This is why they easily fall prey to hoaxes.

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.

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