The Margaret and Helen blog - anyone have definite proof that they're real?
February 8, 2012 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Is the blog "Margaret and Helen" real or fake?

In the grand scheme of things, I guess it doesn't matter, but I can't find any proof that Margaret and Helen is real--or fake.

The Internet (i.e. google results) seems split on the provenance of the blog. Some say it's them, some say it's not them, it's the grandson, and some say there are no two such women.

Anyone know for certain?
posted by tzikeh to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
No, I can't say for sure, but I would bet -- heavily -- on fake. Two old ladies who don't know how a donation button works casually drop hipster insults like "asshat" into conversation? I don't buy it.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:26 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It reads as fake to me, too, though I know you're looking for more than just opinion here.
posted by purenitrous at 7:30 PM on February 8, 2012

You're hoping to prove a negative, here, but I agree that use of the term "asshat" is as solid evidence for fakery as you're likely to get.
posted by ulotrichous at 7:33 PM on February 8, 2012

Response by poster: You're hoping to prove a negative, here

Well, there's the chance that someone who reads Ask Metafilter could vouch for it because they live next door to one of them, or something, which is why I asked here. :D
posted by tzikeh at 7:34 PM on February 8, 2012

Are you for real
Why is that so hard to believe?  Now I know what Santa Claus must feel like.

Hah. Either they are very clever or not clever at all. I'm betting clever/fake.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:47 PM on February 8, 2012

I'm going with fake not because women in their 80s can't say "asshat" or handle tech. They have kids and grandkids, and a woman who is 80 now was 40 in 1972, and could have been tearing up the women's movement like many women I know. There's nothing about their age that makes those things impossible.

Where I smell a fish is stuff like: "My grandson says that if you “click” on the underlined words in the previous sentence it will take you to a place you can make a donation on the internet. It couldn’t be any easier than that." "Clicking on those words and you can make a donation? How fancy."

Even taken as intentional satire, that's too disingenuous to be for real. I know women this age who can work the technology, and women this age who are sardonic and angry about politics, but I don't know any who can do all that but would still write some fakey-sounding shit about "my grandson says."
posted by Miko at 7:49 PM on February 8, 2012

Agreed. There are repeated instances of "my grandson told me" all throughout. Never a son or daughter or grandaughter or niece or nephew. Always the same grandson seems weird. The cursing seems gratuitous. The political bent of some of the posts is out of line with the octagenarians I know, not red vs blue, just the language they use. I studied textual criticism in school and was taught that normally when an author is insisting their writing to be authentic, it almost never is.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:58 PM on February 8, 2012

The speculation here makes a good point or two in favour of fakery.
posted by peagood at 8:15 PM on February 8, 2012

peagood, that was a good point and had occurred to me too:

If these two old girls were for real, they’d have been invited to speak at some of the most popular colleges and universities in America. Big money in that, girls! I'd travel pretty far to see the two of them in person and to hear them speak.

After having seen what those Having Our Say ladies got to do, that was one of my thoughts: if these ladies were for real they'd be getting interview requests and speaking requests.

Might be interesting to write the blogger with an interview request...
posted by Miko at 8:29 PM on February 8, 2012

I was just googling around and looking for blogs by older people and there a ton, lefty ones included. So it's not their age or views, it's the stilted writing and grandson mentions that are getting me. Too much trouble trying to sound authentic rather than talking about what they want to talk about.

That just doesn't ring right. People waste less time the older they get worrying about how they come across and just get right down to it.
posted by Miko at 8:36 PM on February 8, 2012

Take a look at the writing style. People that age were not taught to write two-word sentences and so on. The grammatical structure is not that of an older person. Neither is "asshat" part of their typical lexicon.

As for tech, I know several 80-somethings on Facebook. Even my grandma Facebooked me for my birthday. If they wanted to write, someone could hook them up with a blog. But the lexical and grammatical parts of the blog seem to be red flags to me.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:58 PM on February 8, 2012

If it is fake there's a comment in the MOD section that would need to be fake too because otherwise someone has met them:
I wish I had known, when I met two lovely ladies at the Sippin for the Seven fundraiser in my hometown last night, that I was in front of two of my cyber heroes! Ladies, thank you for letting me take your picture, for your warmth and generous support and I hope you look me up next time you’re in town!

By: Bobbi Dreier on March 1, 2009 at 4:55 PM
posted by unliteral at 10:02 PM on February 8, 2012

Response by poster: unliteral - that's what I'm after. I know there are indicators in word choice and style and so on that it's likely a fake, but I really want someone to find some kind of proof one way or the other. MetaFilter has been great at uncovering hoaxes in the past; I hold out hope that I'll get a firm answer sooner rather than later.
posted by tzikeh at 10:44 PM on February 8, 2012

I live in a building with 150 apartments, all of which are occupied by people over 62. I can promise you that "asshat" is not at all an unusual word here and neither are the others that you're thinking old people just don't say. Most are very opinionated, quite aware of current events and politics, and impatient with whining and complaining and the sense of entitlement they perceive in our society as it is today - IOW, they're a lot like Margaret and Helen, really. Stop by any morning or afternoon and spend an hour or two in our community room and I'll guarantee you your ears will be ringing and you'll have an entirely different viewpoint when it comes to the old people in your community; they're neither doddering fools nor angry curmudgeons - they're just like you, to tell the truth. Some are cranky, some are in bad shape physically and/or mentally, some are pleasant and helpful and optimistic, some are fearful and convinced that there's no hope for this country or anyone in it, some are uber-religious, some are working/volunteering and staying active in their communities and others are recluses, etc., but most are educated and interested and tolerant and patient, and there's a wicked sense of humor you might be surprised at. Most have seen plenty of hard times and struggles and they've had terrible pain and great loss but they've also seen things turn around, even when they thought it couldn't happen, and they've known great love and yes, wildness and freedom of spirit, too. In short, they've lived a long time and they're still living and plan to go on doing so for awhile yet.

Margaret and Helen are magnificent. I'd be really surprised if their material was being made up by the "grandson" because they sound exactly like my neighbors. And, oddly enough, many of my neighbors don't "get" much to do with computers - they really don't want to bother, but prefer just to learn what they need to in order to do what they want to do on a daily basis now - after all, even we know that whatever's the big deal in electronics today will be obsolete by tomorrow, so it seems like a waste of energy we no longer have to learn all about computers and cell phones, and such. I'm on the younger end of the age spectrum here so I've been more involved with computers and consequently spend some time fixing and helping as best I can.

Oh - and many of us drive electric scooters and power chairs, just like Margaret and Helen. Our legs or lungs might not work, but in most cases our brains still do.
posted by aryma at 1:09 AM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

It reads as fake to me, too. Not because of the strong opinions --- if anything, its always seemed to me that old ladies gradually stop behaving as they were long ago taught: seen-but-not-heard as a girl, quietly deferring to their husbands as brides. Well now they're old and widowed, and they often DON'T CARE if people disagree.

Rather it's the name-calling with things like 'moron' and 'stupid'; the current term 'asshat' instead of the basic 'asshole'; the lenght of some entries (most older folks would get in, write what they want to say, and get out --- a conversation IN PERSON, as opposed to in writing, WILL be long); as Chausette says, the writing style is all wrong for that generation; and, yes, the constant references to 'my grandson' but never anyone else.

Oh and about that 'Bobbi Dreier' comment unliteral mentions: even that strikes me as fake. Wouldn't it be more natural to write that they'd seen the bloggers "at the Sippin for the Seven fundraiser in NYC" rather than "in my hometown" --- and after all, stating just the city where this fundraiser happened won't identify the commentator, but COULD prove whether or not such a funraiser ever happened there.
posted by easily confused at 5:23 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sippin for the Seven occurs at the Masonic Hall, on Pennsylvania Avenue, in Roslyn, WA. It's an annual event.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:43 AM on February 9, 2012

My neighbor is 83, graduated from Vassar in 1952, and is as "on-trend" as anyone I know. She also curses like a sailor in person and in print. She has one IT kid she trusts to help her with computer stuff, and he's 16. We hear about "The Kid sez..." all the time. He's even got her on an Android smart phone.

Our elders do not sit and knit anymore. The ones I know think old age and treachery beat youth and mad skills any day.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:56 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, to be clear, I totally think their language and attitudes are believable. What I don't find believable is the kowtowing mentions of the grandson, as if he'd be needed to help parse something like "words you click to make a donation." That, I don't buy - if you can blog and you have some help you can figure that out and you don't fan yourself about it.

But I totally agree with aryma -- if you think older people couldn't write these words and opinions you don't hang around enough older people.
posted by Miko at 6:12 AM on February 9, 2012

The fictional Helen Philpot (they’ve changed names for security reasons, as I mention above) was born in 1926. She would have entered college in about 1926 or ’27 and gotten out in about 1932. Yet, she reminisces recently about Cliff Notes Books which didn’t appear on or around college campuses until 1958. I guess there’s no reason why she wouldn’t have seen them around the bookstores!

I believe the math in the "proof" is a little off.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:17 AM on February 9, 2012

So there's this blog where someone seems to have investigated the timestamps and found something quirky...I don't know enough about that to know whether it means anything:
Not to burst anyone’s fun bubble, but Margaret and Helen appear to be fakes. I loved them as much as anyone, but then some friends and I investigated the time stamps of their posts through Google Reader (all posted on the exact same day and time, faked on the blog itself) and scrutinized some of the content and comments. I’m not going to do an in-depth analysis here, but you can investigate it yourself if you’re inclined.
Unfortunate, since I’ve known such spunky old ladies in my time and their blogs, if they’d had them, would have been a riot.
In thinking it over, I'm willing to believe that this is half real. Say, for instance, Margaret writes post and her grandson edits them. There are some things Margaret says that have the 100% ring of truth for me, which are harder for me to imagine coming from the mouths or minds of someone younger. Other things don't feel right.

Why doesn't someone just write him and ask? Or let him know about this thread.

I know we have great detective work here and I love internet research, but you can only find what's online. I suspect Margaret and Helen are real people and at least some of this is their real writing, but I also find some of it feels heavily edited/shaped by another person.
posted by Miko at 6:21 AM on February 9, 2012

Well, goes to show you how naive I am! I totally bought it. I enjoy reading it so whomever is writing it entertains my ass off and that's fine by me. Wonder if we'll ever know.
posted by Mysticalchick at 6:38 AM on February 9, 2012

Not to burst anyone’s fun bubble, but Margaret and Helen appear to be fakes. I loved them as much as anyone, but then some friends and I investigated the time stamps of their posts through Google Reader (all posted on the exact same day and time, faked on the blog itself) and scrutinized some of the content and comments.

If they moved the posts from one system to another, for say, higher traffic capacity, they would all have the same time stamp on the server, but the post dates would reflect the original postings.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:47 AM on February 9, 2012

There was plenty more MeFi speculation here in 2009 and a link to a would-be debunker.
posted by Miko at 6:54 AM on February 9, 2012

Old people are awesome. Let me tell you a little story about my great-grandmother, who was born in 1913. Dramatis personae:

Me (14, just shaved part of my head)
My father (her favorite grandkid)

Dad: [fuming] stupid hair blah blah blah [I was kind of blocking all this part out]
Grandma: Oh, go on. I shaved my head when I was her age. I think it looks cute!

aaaaand scene!

If Grandma was still around today, I know for a FACT she'd be saying "asshat" and doing the same kind of crap Margaret and Helen do. I'd be the 'grandson' in question hooking her up with the tech, and I know damn well she would NOT SHUT UP about it, because she loved me, and always wanted to talk about me me me.

Damn it. Now I miss my grandma. I wish she were here so we could start a food blog. And dude, she'd HATE Gingrich like razorblades to the feet, I just know it! Just like Margaret and Helen!

In short: I don't think the reasons mentioned = automatic "it's fake," though I could see where someone with limited exposure to kickass old people might think so.
posted by at 10:13 AM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The consensus is "Absolutely most probably in the face of no provenance this is a fake," but nobody's got a smoking gun, like people have with things like kaycee nicole, etc.

Ah, well.

I will say that I don't buy the argument that it's obviously fake since no senior citizens would ever say "asshat," because I know two who do. Our word choices are influenced by our day-to-day interactions with other people. I started using "asshat" online because I *encountered* it online.
posted by tzikeh at 4:41 PM on February 10, 2012

The consensus is "Absolutely most probably in the face of no provenance this is a fake," but nobody's got a smoking gun...

I read all the same stuff and I don't think there's a consensus or that you can confidently say it's a fake. It's just an open question.
posted by Miko at 6:28 PM on February 10, 2012

Response by poster: *sigh*

I want to knoooooooow!
posted by tzikeh at 8:01 PM on February 10, 2012

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