Unlike politics, unlike sport, literature doesn’t appear an obvious candidate for scandal. Most literary controversies can’t be easily packaged along the Camillagate, Zippergate, Weinergate lines; can’t be easily explained by inflated egos and reckless libidos.
And yet, the gentlest scratch of the surface reveals that a deluge of scandals accented by intrigue, deceit and treachery have long plagued the published word.
James Frey even embroiled Oprah when his exaggerated tale of substance abuse was exposed as less fact than fantasy. Margaret Seltzer earned notoriety when her elaborate yarn, Love and Consequences, about life as a half-white, half-native American gang-banger was exposed as folly.
Native American Nasdijj won kudos and awards a’plenty for his Navajo tales of abuse and hardship only to later be exposed as the alter ego of whiteboy erotica writer, Timothy Barrus.
Laura Albert birthed “JT Leroy”, a transgender, drug-abusing, former prostitute, and Australia contributed its own dirty tale with the Helen Darville/Demidenko brouhaha.
Literary scandals are nothing new. So when a couple of middle-age men impersonate lesbians in the modern day memoir known as the blog, my immediate response – replete with a sigh – is “big deal”.
People go online and pretend they are somebody else all the time. People we know in real life demonstrate all kinds of delusion and absurdity on Facebook. Craggy paedophiles routinely go into chat-rooms and pretend to be adolescent skaters and both single and married folks rapidly drop kilos, years and play up the pep constantly on dating websites.
The internet is all about anonymity.
Since when does one lone blogger – be they a heterosexual a magician or a Philadelphia philatelist – ever get to speak on behalf of an entire community?
Since when does a reader assume that everything they ever need to know about a topic is encapsulated in the musings of one lone blog?
Nobody likes to be duped. Nobody likes to be tricked or deceived or feel that they’ve been sucked in. I get that. What I get a whole lot less, is that anybody is really surprised by this story.
For me, the only real newsworthy thing to emerge here is that media have cherry-picked this as a story worthy of attention.
The number of blogs is incalculable. I’m relatively sure that investigations aren’t this afternoon being conducted to reveal whether that food blogger really made his own pastry. I doubt that anybody is out their probing whether that sex blogger really did the deed in all of those terribly risqué places or whether that parenting blogger is really raising the next Picasso.
As a writer, my only real grievance with false memoir is that novels – novels which might never otherwise have seen the light of day – were published exclusively because of a seductive backstory.
But that’s just my own bitterness talking and is an argument irrelevant to the free-for-all world of online publishing.
Sane people approach blog content with varying degrees of curiosity, joy in the written word and the simple appreciation of a good story. That’s not to say that we can’t be captivated, can’t be touched, can’t be disturbed, angered or inflamed, but being able to read and be moved is something completely different to thinking you need to be assured that every word is gospel.
Blogging is a platform where good writers and bad writers, confessors and charlatans each have a platform. Read it, don’t read it. It’s an effortless choice.
Outrage that a “fake” blog made you care about something – somebody – that isn’t real is symptomatic of gross naiveté about online content and an unreasonable expectation for truth in a forum renowned for fabrication.
Hardly worthy of the “gate” suffix.
June 15, 2011
© Lauren Rosewarne