'Lesbian Syrian blogger' confesses to being an American man
A cautionary tale: Don't believe everything you read on the internet.
For nearly a week, the world followed the saga of Amina Arraf, the blogger who was celebrated for her passionate, often intimate writings about the Syrian government's crackdown on Arab Spring protesters. Those writings stopped abruptly last Monday, and in a posting on her blog, "A Gay Girl in Damascus," a cousin said Amina had been hauled away by government security agents.
News of her disappearance became an Internet and media sensation. The U.S. State Department started an investigation. But almost immediately skeptics began asking: Had anyone ever actually met Amina? On Wednesday, pictures of her on the blog were revealed to have been taken from a London woman's Facebook page.
And Sunday, the truth spilled out: The gay girl in Damascus confessed to being a 40-year-old American man from Georgia.
The persona Tom MacMaster built and cultivated for years - a lesbian who was half Syrian and half American - was a tantalizing Internet-era fiction, one that he used to bring attention to the human rights record of a country where media restrictions make traditional reporting almost impossible.
On Sunday, MacMaster apologized on the blog. "While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground," he wrote. "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."
Is he right in saying that he didn't harm anyone? I beg to differ. He has dealt a blow to the credibility of those who are actually reporting on the massacres in Syria - people risking their lives to get the truth out while he sat safely in America commenting on events.
The perpetrators of these internet hoaxes all claim they didn't harm anyone. The fact is, they damaged the credibility of everyone who writes on the internet. We are all victims of their fraudulent posing.