Read this outrageous story:
Blogger admits ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ hoax
LONDON (AFP) – Rights campaigners reacted furiously after a US student based in Scotland unmasked himself as the author of the “Gay Girl in Damascus” blogs, which charted the security crackdown in Syria.
Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old Edinburgh University masters student, admitted Sunday that he was “Amina Abdullah”, who had described “herself” as a Syrian political blogger.
The Abdullah character rose to fame with her reports on the pro-reform movement, posting as “an out Syrian lesbian’s thoughts on life, the universe and so on”.
Then last Tuesday someone claiming to be her cousin wrote on the website that Abdullah had been snatched off the street by three armed men and bundled into a car bearing a pro-government window sticker.
The report sparked a wave of alarm among her online followers. Supporters even set up a “Free Amina Abdullah” group on the social networking site Facebook, attracting nearly 15,000 followers.
MacMaster finally came clean in a posting on his blog Sunday, after doubts began to emerge as to whether Abdullah really was for real. He admitted that he was the sole author of the posts.
“I never expected this level of attention,” MacMaster wrote in an “Apology to readers” posted on the blog.
“While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not misleading as to the situation on the ground.
“I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about,” MacMaster added.
“I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in this year of revolutions.”
The Guardian newspaper said that in recent days, bloggers had uncovered evidence that pointed towards MacMaster and his wife Britta Froelicher.
MacMaster is a Middle East activist, while his wife is studying at Scotland’s St Andrews University for a doctorate in Syrian economic development.
In his apology, MacMaster said he had been touched by the reaction of readers.
But the revelation of the hoax has sparked fury among some former followers of the blog, particularly those who had been campaigning for Abdullah’s release.
“This just makes me so angry,” said one comment on the Facebook group set up to press for her release.
“The situation in Syria is too dire for this sort of gameplaying!”
“Time and effort was taken away from other vitally important news stories happening in Syria,” another contributor protested.
As an Honorable Skeptic, I took little notice of “Amina”, but find the case of someone pretending to be her intolerable! Now the voices of REAL Arab political activists, gay rights activists, and others communicating via the internet will be less likely to be taken seriously, for how do we know they are not fake? Tom McMaster (or perhaps I should call him McBastard) should immediately be arrested, tried and either heavily fined or imprisoned for fraud. If Amina had been a real person that McMaster had been impersonating, he would have been committing identity theft. How can making up and portraying a fictional person, but claimed to be real, be any better?
Indeed, one of my basic principles is that it is NEVER acceptable to do bad things for a good reason or cause. The long term credibility of the cause is more important than any possible short-term gains from the deception.
Incidentally, this relates somewhat to what Rep. Anthony Weiner did with his Twitter account and the aftermath of that incident. Putting a picture of your crotch publicly on Twitter, intending it to be a private message to a woman not your wife, is stupid, but it can be overlooked. What CANNOT be tolerated or ignored is that Weiner LIED afterwards about the matter, claiming that a hacker had broken into the Twitter account. He should be condemned for that and made to resign. Back in the 1990s, I was appalled at that Bill Clinton did, having affairs with women, including Monica Lewenski, and then lying to everyone about it. He should have resigned too. But I also recognize that the attempts by Republicans to get rid of him were self-serving as well, and they have had too many of their own scandals among themselves to be taken seriously when they condemn people like Clinton or Weiner.
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I actually see an upside in reminding people that on the internet, you never really have proof that anybody is who they claim to be. It’s a wonder that incidents like this don’t happen more often. I’m also amazed by the way that some folks will readily accept anything they see online as genuine.
As for the notion that it will specifically harm Arab activists, I never put too much hope into online activism in the first place, in that part of the world or any other.