Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Propaganda and Disinformation
The ferocious and funny Anna Merlan takes an impressively deep dive into the made-up career of Rachel Brewson, the JT LeRoy of womens-interest clickbait.
“The Team of Men Behind Rachel Brewston, the Fake Woman Whose Trump-Fueled Breakup Went Viral”
by Anna Merlan
October 4, 2016
In December 2015, readers at women’s site xoJane were enthralled and filled with all-caps rage by Rachel Brewson, a self-described “giant liberal” who boldly declared her love for a Republican named Todd. She described, in rapturous terms, how the couple’s political disagreements fueled an ecstatic third-date bipartisan fuck-fest that soon flowered into a real relationship.
Mid-date, they got into a “heated debate” about politics, Brewson wrote. They fought from wherever the date took place (she didn’t say), into the street, and into a cab. The discussion ended when Todd—who, as it turned out, was a gun-loving, Iraq-war-supporting libertarian—manfully invited himself up to her apartment.
“What followed was the best sex of my life up to that point,” Brewson wrote, whose author bio said she was a “dating editor” at a site called Review Weekly. “Somehow the political tension between us had transformed into sexual tension. I was hooked.”
The post was a modest success—it was shared just under 3,000 times on social media, and racked up 1,000 comments on xoJane itself (whose editor-in-chief is Jane Pratt of Sassy fame. The site was purchased by Time. Inc last fall). Many of those comments complained about Rachel’s privileged white-woman version of liberalism, which allowed her to ignore “petty differences”—her term—between her and Todd on issues like immigration.
“He flashed some money your way and you’re ready to label things like rape culture and systematic racism as ‘petty differences,’” one commenter fumed. “You aren’t as liberal as you want to believe you are.”
Three months later, the fairytale was over.
Brewson revealed in March that the couple had broken up over Donald Trump, with whom Todd had become enamored. There was an ugly scene at a party, she wrote; Todd had called Hillary Clinton a cunt and her supporters “ugly feminazis.” Brewson was shocked. She was hurt. She walked out. She bemoaned the coarsening of our national discourse.
“Trump has lowered the debate into the sewer,” she wrote in her second piece. “And it’s become toxic.”
This isn’t great writing—it’s cliched and hackneyed, and that sentence construction makes it sounds like the sewer became toxic, not the debate, which is a silly and redundant way to describe a sewer. The pieces were undeniably attention-grabbing, in other words, but they weren’t very good, both seemingly only lightly touched by an editor.
Or, for that matter, a fact-checker: as xoJane’s observant and perpetually exasperated commenters soon noted, Brewson’s author photo and the photo she used in the first piece looked nothing alike. The first piece showed a blonde woman, the author bio a brunette with sharper features. Read more.