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October 30, 2008

On the Internet, everyone will believe you're a dog

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You've probably heard about this Margaret and Helen blog supposedly written by two women in their 80s. Andrew Sullivan said it's proof that blogging rocks "because every now and again a new blog emerges that knocks your socks off."

And also, I'd add, because you can pretend to be anyone you want and people will fall for it.

Seriously, how are so many people reading this and not smelling a rat? I mean, it's funny and clever and well written and all that, it's just not the blog of two octogenarian ladies. No way, no how. I've known some sassy, foul-mouthed, funny, liberal octogenarians in my time. I'm just not buying this one. Not for a second.

Alanna Risse (if that is her real name) makes a case against it, and an even better case for why that matters.

Id like you to consider the fact that this blog has received tens of thousands of hits in just one week. And Id then like to ask you, if this blog were written by a 32 year old democratic white male, or a 20 year old college student, would it have spread across the internet like it did? In many of the references Ive seen, people forwarding the links always mention that the blog was written by an 82 year old and it seems nearly all of the responders, and the people who forward the link on, mention the fact it was written by an 82 year old woman, and usually have some cute comment like go grandma! etc. When I raised questions of authenticity to my friend, I was accused of being ageist, but I have to ask, would she even have sent me the link in the first place if the author wasnt an 82 year old grandma? Is this just a case of the blogs true author taking advantage of reverse ageism?

My own suspicions were raised first of all by the "too good to be true" factor and then by some of the syntax and the unlikely combination of professed lack of tech-savvy and clear signs of being avid blog-readers. They were confirmed with a 15-minute Google Blog Search investigation. (I admit I don't know how GBS works exactly, so this could be off-track).

Helen's first political post appears on Oct. 3. Before that, there are six very sporadic posts about family vacations and sunsets, clearly backdated. We're to believe that these two friends, who managed to communicate by fax in 1970s, set up this blog, then almost never used it until this month, when they (or at least Helen) started posting daily about politics. Here's what Google tells us:

Search results for the Margaret and Helen URL before Oct. 2 2008: zero.

Search results for Oct 3: One (the initial political post)

Search results for Oct. 5: Helen's second political post plus a confused "how did all these people find our site" post from Margaret, which has since been removed from the actual blog (too heavy-handed?)

Search results for Oct. 7: For the first time, the July 4, 2007 post appears in Google's archives. Why not before? Also there: a post backdated to August 29 comparing Sarah Palin to Karen from Will and Grace. This post is also gone from the blog. For what it's worth, the hoaxers are actually pretty savvy. I think they realized that it would make more sense if Helen suddenly decided to go on a poli-blogging tear than for her to have weighed in once in August and then stopped until October.

Also, Helen counters suspicious readers who apparently were unable to find any information about "Helen Philpot" in the public record by saying that she changed her and Margaret's last names on the site because they started getting angry e-mails after writing about Sarah Palin. Google's archives show only the name Helen Philpot going back to the beginning of its archives.

One final note (and again, correct me if there's a technology aspect I'm missing here): It strikes me as highly unlikely that posts that supposedly went up in July 2007 would have tags, when WordPress didn't add native tagging until version 2.3 in September of that year.

Posted by Daniel Radosh

Comments

Come to think of it, how do we know you are who you say you are, Daniel? You've created this dashing persona, complete with a backstory about 1970's political connections. Are you going to say you changed your name when a google search for "teen girls" turned up this site first?

Come out from behind that mask, commenter. Or should I say, "Senator Kerry"?

Four years, and that joke still kills.

I think you're onto something. In fact, I'll bet all purported octogenarians are actually thirtysomething hipsters!

Goddamnit, Rubrick, now you've ruined "Harold and Maude".

Thank you, thank you! You'd be surprised at how many people have criticized me for even caring about authorship. Sure, sure, sure, If the words speak to you, that's great, but it's being promoted under false pretenses, and it's being promoted a lot. Both by the writer him/herself and by a deceived audience. I just think readers need to check their sources before jumping on a bandwagon driven by a fictional character. By the way, I am not an actor, I am a real horse (sorry, Ren & Stimpy reference).

As a sizzling-hot 19 year-old bi-sexual woman with an amazing body and beautiful blonde hair dangling to my firm perfect butt, I am outraged that anyone would fabricate their identity on the Internet!

Hadn't seen the Helen & Margaret blog till I read your post.

No way in hell is is real.

Furthermore, after reading a couple of entries, I got the feeling that it was written by a man. Don't really know what made me think that, but ...

Anyway, I plugged the URL into the Gender Analyzer, and it agrees with me:

http://tinyurl.com/5m2hd8

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