Sunday, August 24, 2008
Nicky Cooper Redux or, Is this deja vu all over again?
Several months ago a lovely young man from Michigan named Matt left a comment on this blog. I wrote a comment welcoming him and checked out his blog, A Gay Life Unexplored. He was 17, looking forward to college this fall, dealing with coming out with great aplomb and he wrote interestingly about his life. I discovered that two blog friends, Jess (Splenda in the Grass) and Marc (The Bokey Chronicles) were readers and frequent commenters on Matt’s posts.
The Nicky Cooper blog fraud blew up shortly thereafter. Disappointed by that mess, Jess, Marc and I kept reading and corresponding with Matt. As time rolled by, we each noticed a few things about the whole set-up; we three were the only ones who commented for months and months (except for one short, isolated comment from an Australian guy), which seemed strange to me for a blog that had been going for a while; Jess noted how centered and mature Matt seemed and was particularly amazed at the sophistication of a playlist and player Matt had added recently.
Yesterday evening at the very end of the day I sent this to Jess:
I was hauling rock around the property today, building a planter in front of the house. It was pretty mindless work, so my mind wandered into in interesting question: what if this lovely young gay man is the latest creation of grandma in British Columbia or of somebody else, and we're getting drawn in to some illusion again?
Now I don't think for a minute this is the case. Lightening COULDN'T strike again so soon (could it?). But the thought kept running through my mind. It also struck me that for the past several months, you, Marc and I (with the exception of just one comment from somebody else) have been the only people to comment and dialog with Matt in the comments section. Given how long he's had a blog going, that's a bit strange.
Anyway, this is NOT an attempt to shake your confidence in Matt. I just wrote because you and Marc are involved and the idea hit me hard when it did.
Actually, however, I WAS questioning Matt’s existence. And Jess wrote back that they, too, had begun to wonder seriously if Matt was real. There followed a rapid-fire back and forth in which Jess told me that he and Marc had done some sleuthing via Google and discovered that Matt had a second blog on greasy.com, identical to the one we read on Blogger, with lots and lots of comments. I checked it out and found one comment that struck me as particularly suggestive from a woman whose bio said she was the mother of 15 and 17 year old boys.
But Jess and Marc are more computer-savvy than I and their brilliant find was the blog from London of James O’Malley.co.uk. James’s current post on getting pulled over by the police for speeding and “Matt’s” latest post on getting pulled over by the police for speeding were word for word identical, but for a few tell-tale signs.
I wrote back to Jess:
Remember all those reiterations of the saying that if a thing seems too good to be true it probably is? So, my sudden feeling may have been prescient!
In your first post you directed me to re-read "Matt's" most recent post and something came roaring out at me that I hadn't caught before: "especially when there's police cars around, as it's bloody terrifying" (emphasis mine). Red flags should have gone up in my head all over the place--what American teenager in the upper mid-west is going to use "bloody" like that? They don't use it across the border in Canada, British Canada though it may be.
The lifting of text from the British boy's blog is more extensive and even more verbatim than the lifting from the young mother's blog done by "Nicky." Do we expose this? Do we just say nothing and walk away?
PS in a follow-up email: I also should have noticed the strangeness of “Matt's” being made to sit in the back of the police car--that's far from standard procedure in this country for a simple speeding pull-over.
I suspect the fraud was perpetrated by a Brit who knew enough about the difference between American and British English to edit kerb to curb but not enough about the difference in police procedures or that Americans don’t use “bloody” unless quoting or making a humorous reference.
Jess posted his findings this morning after our email dialog and, as of 11:30 AM, “Matt’s” A Gay Life Unexplored had been deleted from Blogger; all posts had been deleted from the greasy.com site, leaving only a one-line bio, some comments and a music player.
As of noon today, James O’Malley’s site was up and running. He may well be a completely innocent party, as he has both photos and videos of himself and a public persona as a columnist on media, politics, religion, etc. along with a birth date that makes him 20 or 21 years old and a coherent Facebook page. His commentaries about Britain comprise most of his blog.
But somewhere there’s another person out there faking the blogs of young, intelligent and personable gay men. Is it a third party, or is Matt a real person who simply appropriated another bloggers' identities? Jess said that they had found the origins of some of “Matt’s” posts in several blogs.
Interestingly, Father Tony of perge modo outed another fraudulent blogger recently, one who has severely cut his existing posts, removed his picture and all references to himself as a children's book author (he'd stolen the picture and profession of the real author), although his blog remains on line in reduced form. There's a small epidemic going on, apparently.
As I read this, I fully agreed with you that we don't use "bloody" in Canada they it is used in the UK.
But then I read Brian Finch's acidrefluweb.com and there, in black and white, so to speak, was: "It took almost two hours to get into this bloody thing."
He refers to the lineup to get into something called Fan Expo Canada.
But I still think that "bloody" is more a British swear word than a North American one.
Well, apparently for some people, just being one's self isn't enough.
I remain disappointed and saddened, but I refuse to become a cynic. I may be a bit warier in future, but I must keep a positive outlook. I've supplemented my "real life" friends with a nice group I've met through blogging. Even the frauds have led to some nice friendships--like "Nicky" leading us to meet Patrick, who has become a friend "in real life." So, on balance, blogging remains a positive thing, but this is another sad reminder that what we see online doesn't always reflect reality!
Jess--I've read Partick several times. he seems a very nice guy and I bake his read recipe every now and again. You're right about not being cynical--you just push on in life and be yourself. Besides, if anyone hs the right to be cynical, it's Patrick who actually went to meet "Nicky", not any of us who just read the blog.
Thanks, mkf--it was Jess and Marc who did the real legwork (OK, finger work) on this. They dug out the real story.
Richard--you know, I wouldn't be surprised. I certainly borrow the occasional story but I have a lot of respect for guys who blog and I always give credit. It's usually because I think their opinions or stories should have a greater audience and I want to make sure people know about them.
Those of us who post anonymously rather than under created identities are afraid of being lumped in with such individuals. That's why I'm always careful not to pretend to be either young, intelligent, or personable.
I picked up the story of the Baltimore "childrens' author" yesterday via a comment Father Tony left on another blog--I then went to the faked blog and yes, it's the same guy. I didn't realize the real work had been done by the others you name, and assumed Tony had one the leg work. Thanks to you I now know he was just spreading a warning.