"Outing" pseudonymous writers

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Of the writer who attempted suicide? I've seen no evidence of that. Is someone claiming that they actually sent her harassing messages elsewhere?

There was an orchestrated, coordinated attack directed towards her on Twitter during and after the various comment thread posts.

Much like what happened to the person referred to here.

Note also Requires Hate/ Winterfox posse member Alex Dally MacFarlane was actively involved in hounding the person discussed in that link off Twitter, to the point that MacFarlane killed her own original Twitter account for her new Twitter account.
 
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Amadan

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There was an orchestrated, coordinated attack directed towards her on Twitter during and after the various comment thread posts.

Much like what happened to the person referred to here.

Note also Requires Hate/ Winterfox posse member Alex Dally MacFarlane was actively involved in hounding the person discussed in that link off Twitter, to the point that MacFarlane killed her own original Twitter account for her new Twitter account.

Okay. Did not know about the Twitter pile-on. That makes RH's apology doubly dubious.

And that thread - ye gads, but Alex MacFarlane's behavior is nearly as vile.
 

Roxxsmom

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The behavior of this person's fans and followers is really what's so disturbing to me. Not just that there's an occasional rabid weasel on the web. Such people exist everywhere for all kinds of reasons. It's that so many are so easy to lead or easy to manipulate (or maybe they're just wanabee rabid weasels) that they're willing to be joiners when the hate fest begins.

Makes me think about those social experiments they did ages ago. The Milgram study, the Stanford Prison experiment, and even the Third Wave Experiment. Humans seem to be very vulnerable to projected authority and to situations where behavior that seems to sanction or excuse behavior that is normally considered sadistic or antisocial. And the web insulates people from even seeing the direct consequences of what they're taking part in.

What I find especially chilling is that some of the people engaging in the harassment and hounding might really not be sadists in their daily lives. They're responding to a situation or social dynamic (and acting according to one of the darker facets of human nature) that the internet environment is actually enabling. I wonder where this is going to take us as a society.

And this is one reason why I find the arguments that ignore, or even dismiss, the importance of tone and methods, to be particularly disturbing. Regardless of the substance of what's being said, the way it's said and the way people who support those arguments behave is very important.
 
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Amadan

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What I find especially chilling is that some of the people engaging in the harassment and hounding might really not be sadists in their daily lives. They're responding to a situation or social dynamic (and acting according to one of the darker facets of human nature) that the internet environment is actually enabling. I wonder where this is going to take us as a society.


I'm sure most of them think of themselves as good people fighting the good fight. I think the combination of herd dynamics and online interaction (removed from consequences, and your targets are faceless, more abstract representations of some "enemy" label than actual people) facilitates the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

And this is one reason why I find the arguments that ignore, or even dismiss, the importance of tone and methods, to be particularly disturbing. Regardless of the substance of what's being said, the way it's said and the way people who support those arguments behave is very important.

The "tone argument," like many notions, originated in a reasonable point ("You shouldn't dismiss someone's legitimate grievance just because they express it angrily"). However, it's now grown into a license to be as abusive as you like so long as the abuse is directed "upward."

Even with the best will in the world, it is not reasonable to expect someone to be receptive to a message delivered with personal vitriol. It just isn't.
 

HapiSofi

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There was an orchestrated, coordinated attack directed towards her on Twitter during and after the various comment thread posts.

Much like what happened to the person referred to here.

Note also Requires Hate/ Winterfox posse member Alex Dally MacFarlane was actively involved in hounding the person discussed in that link off Twitter, to the point that MacFarlane killed her own original Twitter account for her new Twitter account.
There was an orchestrated, coordinated attack directed towards her on Twitter during and after the various comment thread posts.

Much like what happened to the person referred to here.

Note also Requires Hate/ Winterfox posse member Alex Dally MacFarlane was actively involved in hounding the person discussed in that link off Twitter, to the point that MacFarlane killed her own original Twitter account for her new Twitter account.
Alex Dally MacFarlane's old and new accounts used the handles @foxtailedgirl and @foxvertebrae.

We know that Winterfox, an earlier version of RH, also used the handle Pyrofennec. The fennec or desert fennec is of course a variety of desert fox.

A few days ago, I experimentally googled ["alex dally" fox] and got a ton of hits: account names, story titles, stuff she linked to, the works. I can't count the number of "fox" connections in her personal nomenclature. I suppose it's her totem animal.

Here are two pictures. The white woman on the left is Alex Dally MacFarlane. The white woman on the right is ADM's partner and collaborator Tori Truslow, whose standard author bio begins, "Tori Truslow was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Bangkok, and now lives and writes in England..."

As far as I can tell, they both get their prepositions right.
 

Amadan

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Dang, that is some scary Internet detective work.

I was not really giving too much credence to the "Alex Dally MacFarlane is RH/BS" theory before now, but...
 

HapiSofi

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Dang, that is some scary Internet detective work.
Dang, that is some scary Internet detective work.
Thanks, but I feel like I was luckier than I was clever. It was all just theme-based searching.

Everyone's mentioned the Winterfox/Pyrofennec thing. When I saw a mention of @foxtailedgirl and @foxvertebrae being used by someone close to RH, it was a moment's idle curiosity to google ["alex dally" fox] to see what else might pop out.

Wow. Much fox. Definite theme.

The other obvious theme Winterfox/RH/Benjanun have going is the whole Thai thing, so I tried combining "alex dally" with some obvious terms: Thai, Thailand, Bangkok, etc. What I learned: there's a champion Muay Thai boxer named Alex Dally. I added "fiction" to the mix to narrow it down, and boom, there they were.
I was not really giving too much credence to the "Alex Dally MacFarlane is RH/BS" theory before now, but...
Not proven, but yeah, it's suggestive. On the other hand, Tori Truslow could be RH and ADM could be Benjanun, or vice versa, or they could both be RH/B, or (something else I can't imagine because it's too weird).

On the other other hand, if I were managing a forum where all of them were active, I would right now be cross-checking every IP address ADM and Truslow had ever used on my site.
 

Viridian

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This has been on my mind for a while, so I'm going to go ahead and speak up --

I don't think that RH/BS's perfect, idiomatic English is a sign that she is lying about her nationality or ethnicity. I think you guys are underestimating the ability of non-native English speakers, especially given that--as a writer--of course RH/BS would have a higher-than-average level of ability with language.

Guys, most of the internet is in English. BS/RH is a younger person from what appears to be a privileged family, a woman who has spent years and years and years talking and posting on the internet. A lot. Of course she uses internet slang and idioms.

For reference, here's a thread full of non-native English speakers. And here is another. Some of these people are expats, doubtless, but the people in these threads are all people who reside in non-English-speaking countries. Do they have below-average skill with English? In my opinion, no. There's some people with stilted language, some people with perfect syntax and punctuation, and some people who have no idea what commas are. Like any other internet users. RH/BS is the best of this. Which is exactly what she sounds like.

I think this is a case of confirmation bias. On the internet, the only people who sound like they're ESL are people who speak/write English poorly, so those are the only people who get identified as ESL.

Yes, RH/BS could be a white lady with some serious issues. Yeah, she has a couple friends who are similar to her. Yeah, she's friends with a person who also likes foxes.

I have a buddy here on AW. We're the same gender, near the same age, both bisexual, have almost identical taste in men and women, same opinions on social justice, both write m/m erotica--the same subgenres of m/m erotica, even! We play the same video games. She's my beta now because she saw a post about how much I loved a certain children's cartoon, and she loves it too and decided to start a conversation with me. We both have SO's who have been with us for seven-ish years, big bearded guys. She commented once that if her SO were a gay man, he'd be a bear. I have said that exact same thing about my husband many times.

People who travel in the same circles are likely to be similar to each other. People who are close friends for years? Even more so. Everyone thinks foxes are cool, guys. Alex Dally (or whatever) may think it's her spirit animal. RH/BS used it twice.

So while it's a possibility... don't get carried away. I have yet to see a non-native English speaker stand up and say, "She's not one of us, she [does such and such wrong]." And until someone does, I'm inclined to continue believing she is indeed a lesbian Thai woman.

Now don't get me wrong, I think she's a lying liar who lies. But it just seems weird to me that someone would choose to lie about their nationality and ethnicity, but choose the exact same oddly specific lie for two separate identities that were never ever supposed to be connected. What would be the purpose?

Long post is long, sorry.
 
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Mr Flibble

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Everyone's mentioned the Winterfox/Pyrofennec thing. When I saw a mention of @foxtailedgirl and @foxvertebrae being used by someone close to RH, it was a moment's idle curiosity to google ["alex dally" fox] to see what else might pop out.

It could just be imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. It happens. Hell I couldn't have my original preferred name on this sit because it was taken. And it wasn't what you'd call common.

On the other other hand, if I were managing a forum where all of them were active, I would right now be cross-checking every IP address ADM and Truslow had ever used on my site.

Fairly sure that is happening...

I don't think that RH/BS's perfect, idiomatic English is a sign that she is lying about her nationality or ethnicity.
Neither do I (and I agree with much of the rest of this post too)

I know several ESL people who are at pains to ensure their English is perfect. At all times. I see no reason to expect RH is not someone similar. Especially if she is a writer. It's a possibility, imo, that is all.
 
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Amadan

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I have known non-native speakers who achieved novel-writing proficiency, so I certainly don't think it's impossible.

I think the English proficiency and the coincidences are suspicious and suggestive, not proof.

However, HapiSoft's evidence, plus a few other things that clicked for me after reading it, does make the theory quite plausible in my mind.
 

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I live and work among non-native speakers of English, many of whom (a) are native speakers of one of the closest languages to English, and (b) have been studying it since they were ten. I also work with people from yet other countries, who have varying levels of proficiency in English. Most of them are techies, and have been immersed in the internet and global geek culture throughout their lives.

And the vast majority of them have "tells" that they're not native speakers. One of my roles has been to "English" their work: to turn documentation into clear, correct English. It's given me a lot of experience in picking out which pieces of their native grammar which people tend to reproduce in foreign languages. And once you know where to look, the markers are unmistakable.

For instance, Russian and Polish speakers (including many of the writers in ViridianChick's link) tend to include and omit the definite article ("the") in the wrong places. Many languages have different lines between perfect and continuous verbs (I run vs. I am running); some languages lack separate forms for specific parts of speech that English does distinguish (Dutch, for instance, forms adverbs and adjectives in the same way). English word order is quirky, and people often get it subtly wrong. And we have a lot of vocabulary, including some quite nice shades of meaning among ostensibly similar words.

I have met exactly one native speaker of Dutch who can produce prose that does not flag itself to me as being subtly foreign. It's certainly possible for someone with talent and intelligence to acquire that level of skill in any language. It's also possible for people who have not acquired it to write perfectly pleasing prose; I'm happy to read good writing, even when it shows marks of being produced by a non-native speaker. And people who haven't had my job or lived where I have may never see those tells as they read.

But from what I have read of RH/BS's writing -- and it hasn't been much, because neither one is really my cup of tea -- there are no non-native speaker tells. Now, it could be that I've missed them, because I don't know what the native tells for Thai are, or because they didn't happen to arise in the things I read. Or it could be that she is simply one of those lucky, talented individuals who really can go all the way in language learning. Or it could be that she's not what she says she is.

I have no way of determining further, but that's what I see when I read her prose.
 
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eyeblink

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Also, if a story gets published, especially professionally published as BS has been, that story will have gone through an editor who might have removed any such "tells". On a blog post, say, it's a different matter. And while I'm certainly no expert on ESL or on Thai, I haven't spotted any errors in what I've seen of RH's blog posts to suggest that she is writing in a second language.

There are certainly examples of some very distinguished writers working in second languages. Joseph Conrad's first language was Polish. In the SF/F genre Algis Budrys wrote in English when his native language was Lithuanian. Samuel Beckett's native language was English and he wrote his (later) plays and novels in French then translated them himself into English.

Aliette de Bodard (who I know personally) is French and writes in English. I've only once heard her make a usage slip (and I told her this at the time) and it was on a convention panel, not in written prose - she referred to writing in English as a "mercantile" decision (instead of a commercial one). But then she is very very good.

It may be that BS/RH is not who she says she is. If she is, her command of written English is good enough to have fiction published professionally at least. There's no proof otherwise as yet, but what HapiSofi and evilrooster say above is certainly suggestive.
 

Mr Flibble

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It is suggestive. Suggestive is not proof and rumour here could be nasty.

Making any kind of assumption here could be very damaging (esp if it later turns out to be false) There's always a "no smoke without fire" brigade. And who wants to be the maker of smoke that turned out to be mist?

I'd be exceptionally wary of making any accusations/suppositions without some damned fine proof to back it up (even if said proof is private) because of the shitstorm that could follow -- maybe needlessly

It's suggestive

It's a theory

That's all (as far as I am aware)

Any more than that could be hellish for anyone who ends up being falsely accused.
ETA once there is anything other than supposition...
 
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jjdebenedictis

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Also, there are people in the world who are genuinely bilingual. For example, someone born in Montreal, Canada, will often self-identify as French- or English- speaking, but they often have no accent whatsoever in their "second" language and can write it perfectly, as well.

That said, I too find Winterfox/RequiresHate's perfect grasp of colloquial English a cause for suspicion. It's not like any of us are willing to give this person the benefit of the doubt, right?

But like Mr. Flibble, I would not want to see the wrong person identified as WF/RH. There's too much anger built up over this particular internet skunk to risk aiming that anger at an innocent bystander.
 

Roxxsmom

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I think there are subtle differences that completely bilingual people can have, even if they're actually more comfortable in English, that might leave some small stamps on their syntax, grammar or word usage, even in the absence of an accent. And it's my understanding that these can show up, even generations down the line, and even when the person in question doesn't even speak the language their parents or grandparents did.

There was a thread here on AW a ways back where someone asked about usage of the phrases like, "People want educated" or, "The floor wants swept" and so on. The overwhelming majority of posters in that thread insisted that this was shoddy grammar that was in definance of all rules of English. But eventually a couple of people with some expertise in linguistic and regional dialects weighed in and said, no, it's a turn of phrase one encounters in western PA and other places where there are a large number of (if I remember right) Scottish ancestry.

Hmm, even the fact that I wrote "remember right" instead of "remember rightly" might say something about my background, though of course, there's a lot of regional variation in US English too.

But I completely agree that I'd hate to see such an intense desire to out whoever is behind this online persona that it leads to false allegations and persecution of an innocent person who just happens to be fond of foxes (heck, I'm fond of foxes. Who isn't) and to have some of the other online interests as RH. For that matter, even if this person is unequivocally outed, I wouldn't want to see her hounded, stalked and harassed the way she hounded, stalked and harassed her victims. I guess I'm not a big believer in revenge and punishment for the sake of revenge and punishment.
 
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Amadan

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The links are rather stronger than a common interest in foxes and SFF (including some things that, like I said, clicked for me but haven't been mentioned above), but contrariwise, I'm having a hard time imagining (a) how a published writer could find the time and energy to maintain two completely separate professional identities and writing styles (they have even been published together!); (b) Why - for the love of gawd, why?! I mean, that's a level of crazy that would cause a mighty disturbance in the Force.

But even those most eager to "take down" Winterfox/RH/BS have generally been pretty good about not advocating anything beyond, perhaps, professional ostracization. (Which I doubt would happen anyway, beyond getting cold shoulders at cons.)
 

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Uh...Occam's razor, people.

Why would this pair, years and years ago, pick a very specific alternate identity to write Knights of the Old Republic fan fiction under?

And something about this language analysis strikes me as maybe just a teensy bit Not Okay, for reasons partially outlined by Mr. Flibble.
 

Amadan

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Uh...Occam's razor, people.

Why would this pair, years and years ago, pick a very specific alternate identity to write Knights of the Old Republic fan fiction under?

And something about this language analysis strikes me as maybe just a teensy bit Not Okay, for reasons partially outlined by Mr. Flibble.


If she/they have been going pseudonymous all this time, I doubt it was with foreknowledge of some grand master plan. Maybe years ago she chose a pseudonym under which to write fan fiction and harass people who don't share her tastes, and then continued evolving a "real" identity that she wanted to keep separate from the one that trolls fandom.

Language analysis is a useful and interesting thing. No one is making hard assertions of fact. Just speculation.
 

jjdebenedictis

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Throws stones, hides Harry Potter fan fic.
To hell with that. If people are throwing stones, I'm hiding under my Harry Potter fanfic. There's enough of it to make a nice, squishy buffer.
 

HapiSofi

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This has been on my mind for a while, so I'm going to go ahead and speak up --

I don't think that RH/BS's perfect, idiomatic English is a sign that she is lying about her nationality or ethnicity. I think you guys are underestimating the ability of non-native English speakers, especially given that--as a writer--of course RH/BS would have a higher-than-average level of ability with language.
No. Since when is it inappropriate to examine any writer's language? And since when does examining a writer's language automatically imply that one is casting aspersions on their alleged ethnic group?

How do you come to be using one of RH's pet arguments? I haven't run into it elsewhere. I certainly wouldn't have expected to find it in a forum full of fiction writers, for whom the relevance of language and diction to identity is a matter of everyday practical knowledge.

I've been dealing with non-native English speakers all my life, and I have enormous respect for them. In fact, I think I may have more respect for them than you do, because I'm not pretending that what they do is easy. No one thinks English is easy; and as I've already observed in this thread, written English is far more difficult than the spoken variety.

Every language community that has a significant number of English speakers has its own version of ESL English. Some have more than one. These variations are a staple subject of academic linguistics studies. If this is news to you, you might start by reading the Wikipedia entry on Tinglish.

While you're at it, note that its distinctive use of Thai particles is for the speakers' own comfort and convenience. That's normal. Every group that uses English bends it to their own uses. I have yet to see an ESL variant that didn't import a few handy devices and maneuvers from the speakers' first language. (The practice we bring to other languages is our habit of freely adapting words from one part of speech to another.)

I have never said here that ESL variants are inferior. In fact, I've been at pains to make it clear that I don't think the difference means they're inferior. You're the one who's assuming that by saying their English is different, we're "underestimating the ability of non-native English speakers."

There's no real support for the idea that writers are so linguistically gifted that they can escape the influence of their mother tongue. Gifted they may be, but it's not enough to erase all markers. And I know everyone cites Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, and Joseph Conrad as examples of ESL speakers who published significant work in English, but Nabokov and Borges actually grew up trilingual, and Conrad's English was nothing you'd call standard.

One other objection. A piece of formal writing is a carefully constructed and much-refined artifact. However, what I observed about RH was that she writes literary English without grammatical errors even when she's in the thick of fast-moving online exchanges. The set of things we know, and the set of things we know how to do without thinking about them, are not the same.
Guys, most of the internet is in English.
But it's not all in literary English, and it's not all formally correct.

You know that. Why are you making this argument?
BS/RH is a younger person from what appears to be a privileged family, a woman
BS/RH/whoever has a long history of sockpuppetry and identity abuse. We know what she's said about herself, not what she is.

Personally, I doubt she's all that young, and it makes me feel downright cynical when I see her pleading youthful folly as an excuse for what she's done. The currently documented portions of her career trace back to the early oughts.
who has spent years and years and years talking and posting on the internet. A lot. Of course she uses internet slang and idioms.
That was never the point.
For reference, here's a thread full of non-native English speakers. And here is another. Some of these people are expats, doubtless, but the people in these threads are all people who reside in non-English-speaking countries. Do they have below-average skill with English? In my opinion, no.
That's irrelevant. The argument wasn't that RH's language was good or bad; it was that she consistently makes correct use of certain features of English that ESL or ESL-influenced speakers don't reliably get right.
There's some people with stilted language, some people with perfect syntax and punctuation, and some people who have no idea what commas are. Like any other internet users.
But not like RH. The point was that she writes literary English quickly and fluently, gets the finicky grammar right, and generally sounds like a lifelong educated standard English speaker who was taught to talk by lifelong educated standard English speakers.
RH/BS is the best of this. Which is exactly what she sounds like.
That's a fine large red herring you have there. Do please stop waving it around.
I think this is a case of confirmation bias. On the internet, the only people who sound like they're ESL are people who speak/write English poorly, so those are the only people who get identified as ESL.
There you go again with your offensive assumption that different English is inferior English. There are many fine writers who speak English as a second language. The point has never been that their English is inferior, but rather that it's different.

The point about RH is that her English isn't different.
Yes, RH/BS could be a white lady with some serious issues. Yeah, she has a couple friends who are similar to her. Yeah, she's friends with a person who also likes foxes.
If you're talking about Alex Dally MacFarlane, she's socially located at or near the center of the RH grouping, and has been active there for some time. The fox theme that's so visible when you google ["alex dally" fox fiction] goes back to the beginning of RH's documented online career. Her long-established partner and collaborator Tori Truslow has the whole Thai Asian thing going.

To repeat what I said earlier, it's suggestive. It's not proof.

In the meantime, I think your line about RH "having serious issues" is trivializing. Whoever she is, RH isn't just someone with issues. She's an abusive bully who's done real damage to some of the most promising writers in science fiction and fantasy. If writing and language and meaning matter, this matters.
I have a buddy here on AW. We're the same gender, near the same age, both bisexual, have almost identical taste in men and women, same opinions on social justice, both write m/m erotica--the same subgenres of m/m erotica, even! We play the same video games. She's my beta now because she saw a post about how much I loved a certain children's cartoon, and she loves it too and decided to start a conversation with me. We both have SO's who have been with us for seven-ish years, big bearded guys. She commented once that if her SO were a gay man, he'd be a bear. I have said that exact same thing about my husband many times.
I'm glad you have a friend who shares so many of your interests. Many of us could say the same. What this has to do with RH's online habits escapes me, I'm afraid.
People who travel in the same circles are likely to be similar to each other. People who are close friends for years? Even more so.
Malarkey. I have close friends of my own. Some of them have been my friends for decades. None of them have online profiles that could ever be mistaken for mine.

Established online identities don't grow similar; they differentiate.
Everyone thinks foxes are cool, guys. Alex Dally (or whatever) may think it's her spirit animal. RH/BS used it twice.
Assuming 2002/2003 is the real beginning of her career, RH used the fox thing early, she used it in multiple contexts, and she hung onto it for a long time. I'd guess that it was meaningful to her.
So while it's a possibility... don't get carried away. I have yet to see a non-native English speaker stand up and say, "She's not one of us, she [does such and such wrong]."
You've got that backward. Non-native English speakers would be likelier to care if RH/BS were one of their own, and analyzing her English is a job for language-sensitive English specialists.
And until someone does, I'm inclined to continue believing she is indeed a lesbian Thai woman.
Your beliefs are your own, and need not satisfy any external standards.
Now don't get me wrong, I think she's a lying liar who lies.
On that point, we are in happy agreement.
But it just seems weird to me that someone would choose to lie about their nationality and ethnicity, but choose the exact same oddly specific lie for two separate identities that were never ever supposed to be connected. What would be the purpose?
It's not weird at all. Habitual sockpuppeteers think they're terribly clever and won't be spotted by us groundlings, so they let themselves fall into patterns. I saw one once who thought he was undetectable even though his pseudonyms were all obvious references to Firefly/Serenity.

The first serious sockpuppeteer I got to see in action always made her user names the maximum length Usenet allowed, used identical syntax in their construction, always hit the spacebar a bunch of times at the end of paragraphs, used a relatively small vocabulary of words and phrases over and over and over again in her posts, and had near-zero interest in anything other than promoting herself and her terrible writing. She was astonished at being outed.

I wouldn't find it strange if RH had needlessly told the same lie about five or six or eight identities.
 

Viridian

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HapiSofi, I'm perfectly happy to chat about whether or not RH/BS is a native speaker or not. I think that's a fine discussion to have, and as a white kid living Whitesville, US, I admit I'm hardly an authority on the fine differences between the writing of a native speaker and an ESL person. And I'm happy to read your points discussing that.

That being said: straw-manning my argument, implying I'm associated with RH, and playing I'm-not-racist-you-are... I'm just not dealing with that. I started to write a long, involved post about it, but I can't see that helping things.

We're all on the same side here. If we can't chat like pals about the fine details, I'd rather bow out. Ciao.
 
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phantasy

I write weird stories.
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I agree with VC and Fibble above. The reply was powerfully uncool, esp implying VC is associated with RH or even siding with her just by voicing her disagreement.

As someone who is the child of immigrants and is constantly surrounded by non-native speakers, I think dissecting a writer's practically perfect prose for certain tiny quirks in order to make assumptions about their background smacks to me of lingual purity and 'you'll never be one of us'. I know there's a study for such things, but I think the possibility of us non-experts making a racist assumption is too high. I know tons of non-native speakers that can write English far better than they can speak it and I think that's because with writing, there is the element of planning and editing.

Even if we can figure out RH's background by it, what will that prove? She'd still have done awful things in the end and the assumptions we make on the way might take us down with her.
 
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