News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks is having an increasingly turbulent week (and that's putting it kindly). Across the Atlantic another Rebekah Brooks is also dealing with unexpected pressures, after Twitter users suspected her account belonged to the former News of the World editor. She's shown a lot more grace in dealing with the situation than her #evilBritishtwin. By THERESA MALLINSON.
Rebekah Brooks, a resident of Dover, New Hampshire, has known she shares a name with the British journalist of dubious morals for a while now. “I became aware of her a couple of years ago after she married and took her husband’s last name of Brooks. I understand before that her last name was Wade and many Brits still call her that,” Brooks told the Daily Maverick. “I found out about her by Googling my own name and discovering pages and pages of news reports about her hacking into phones and bribing police. I told my friends and family about it and we all laughed at the thought of me having an evil British twin.”
Rebekah Brooks, the “good twin” (and, ironically enough, she actually has a real life twin sister called Jessica), has been on Twitter for two or three years now, tweeting as @Rebekah_Brooks. However, she said, “This is the first time I’ve ever been mistaken for the British Rebekah Brooks even though the phone-hacking scandal has been going on for years.”
Since Tuesday, Brooks has gained about 260 more followers on Twitter. “I get lots of tweets with people swearing at me. Since it’s gotten out that I’m not the real Rebekah Brooks I haven’t gotten as many rude tweets, but I did just get one a few minutes ago that said I’m a disgusting human being and that I should be arrested,” she said.
As well as sharing a name, the two Rebekah Brookses also share a profession; the US Brooks is a freelance journalist and writer. “I used to work as a news journalist for small papers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but I became disillusioned with it a few years ago because I was always being asked to cover car accidents and write about new businesses that just wanted free advertising so I decided to write about topics I enjoy instead, like history,” Brooks said.
She patently has a very different approach to her work than that of her namesake. “My husband summed it up today when he told me she’s the type of person who has no problem stabbing someone in the back, and I’m not,” Brooks said. “He said that’s why she is a wealthy well-known journalist and editor and I’m a little freelance writer just barely getting by. It seems sometimes that you have to be a ruthless person to get ahead in life, but I don’t want to be like that so I guess I’ll just stay where I am.”
And as a journalist herself, Brooks understands the public’s distaste and anger at the illegal behaviour of some News of the World employees. “It’s horrible and I completely understand why everyone is so enraged. If what everyone is saying is true, then Brooks and everyone involved should be held accountable,” she said. “I think the big reason why I have been mistaken for her is because people are just so angry about the alleged phone-hacking and police-bribing that they just want to yell, so they look for a place to vent, find my name on Twitter and just start yelling. I don’t mind. People should be angry and I’m glad they are speaking up.”
While many of Brooks’ new Twitter fans initially followed her because of the name confusion, several have stayed on as fans, and congratulated her for the grace, tact and humour with which she’s handled the situation. “I’m enjoying it a lot actually, mostly because people have been so nice to me once they find out who I really am and it really makes up for all the mean comments and tweets. I know those angry tweets aren’t really directed at me though, so I don’t get too worked up about it,” Brooks said. “I’m kind of enjoying it because I find it so funny. I think it will all blow over very soon and it’s not as crazy as everyone is making it out to be. I find it amusing because I’m a big Anglophile so I love British culture and talking with British people.”
Brooks situation has drawn comparisons with that of Ashley Kerekes, an American whose Twitter handle is @theashes. During the England-Australia Ashes cricket series last year, she gained more than 10,000 new followers. Originally Twitter users assumed the account belonged to a cricket lover. When they found out their error they proceeded to teach Kerekes the workings of the game under the hashtag #teachtheashestotheashes. Kerekes was ultimately flown to Sydney by Qantas to watch the last Test of the series.
One of Brooks’ new followers, @londonspeaking, suggested she be treated to a similar experience. “Hi Rebekah, you made it to the British papers this morning. Hope you get an all expenses paid trip to London, courtesy #NOTW,” he tweeted. We’re sure she’d love that. If she made it to London quickly enough, she could join former News of the World staffers down at the pub, after the last edition of the paper gets put to bed on Saturday. But this isn’t going to happen: Rupert Murdoch has much more important matters to focus on right now – like salvaging his empire. Not to mention deciding what to do about the other Rebekah Brooks. DM
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