White man from Georgia is "Gay Girl from Damascus"

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124 Responses to “White man from Georgia is "Gay Girl from Damascus"”

  1. voiceinthedistance says:

    Whoh! I had to zoom in to make out the image on Che’s shirt. It’s Bart Simpson. Can’t tell who is on the shirt that Bart is wearing. Che, perhaps?

    Before everybody jumps to conclusions, perhaps this is actually the most sophisticated, multi-layered disguise a Syrian lesbian (that’s fun to say) could possibly adopt. Anybody tried pulling on the beard to see if it is real?

  2. redsquares says:

    Perhaps journalists, bloggers, and human rights advocates should begin to research their sources more thoroughly before trumpeting an anonymous one.

  3. Andrea James says:

    “I never expected this level of attention.” The first sentence of the apology perfectly summarizes why these type of hoaxers do what they do. Such a pathetic way to get it.

    @voiceinthedistance: Lebanese lesbian is even more fun to say…

  4. Anonymous says:

    You mean “Christ, what a propaganda asset for US Intel.”

    Dig a little deeper. Don’t lazily conclude that this is just some bored insurance salesman or plumber with time to kill. WHY is this man pretending to be a blogger in the Middle East? Dig and I guarantee you’ll find military involvement. So-called “cyberwarriors” and astroturfing on behalf of the Pentagon. He’s being paid.

    • karl_jones says:

      Dig and I guarantee you’ll find military involvement.

      By “guarantee”, do you mean you’ll pay money if you’re wrong?

      Better yet, how about you put up the money in escrow, before making sweeping absolutist statements in public without evidence.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong; but I am saying that your hyperbole is misplaced.

  5. txhoudini says:

    Why is he an asshole? Because people didn’t do their research before blogging and retweeting about the plight of a never before known Syrian girl? Too many “citizen journalists” aren’t doing their due diligence. Real journalists get tips and research them before reporting.

    • Anonymous says:

      He’s an ‘asshole’ because he caused a lot of people to feel duped, even though he caused those same people to actually get up in arms about injustices that they otherwise wouldn’t have cared / known about.

    • archmagetrexasaurus says:

      Seriously. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to assume a blogger account like that is a primary source of high enough quality to be tossed around as such by journalists.

      Besides, isn’t it still a win for raising the visibility of real, non-fiction issues? And for allowing Amina to speak on behalf of actual gay girls from Damascus who may well have suffered, IRL, the fictitious fate that Amina did, had they done so for themselves?

      • GrrrlRomeo says:

        Anyone who thinks this has at all helped LGBT people in the middle-east should read this: http://gaymiddleeast.com/news/news%20317.htm

        This has put LGBT activists in the region in real danger.

        Men posing as lesbians on the Internet is gross exploitation in general. I certainly do not appreciate a man pretending to be a lesbian online, duping lesbians, and stealing our voice.

    • Anonymous says:

      He’s an asshole because he felt an irrepressible urge to mansplain things but wasn’t comfortable enough in his own skin to do it as himself. He resorted to masquerading as someone with the currency required to speak about a situation, he co-opted an identity and took so much satisfaction from it that he committed internet suicide with his victim avatar; manipulative, mansplaining, privileged asshole behavior from beginning to end.

      • Anonymous says:

        >anyone would listen to a male from the US about the plights of lesbianism in the Mid East

        RIGHT! Talk to me when that’s true.

  6. aspec says:

    Has anyone else noticed that the trolls on BoingBoing haven’t been very good lately?

  7. okkent says:

    Devil went down to Georgia….

  8. Mister44 says:

    So – no idea on his motives?

    Sadly – the injustices, while made up in the blog, are real to others in Syria and in the middle east. Except in Iran. There are no gay people in Iran.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Mister44 “So – no idea on his motives?”

      Attention seeking needy white guy who wouldn’t get enough attention if he posted his opinions as himself creates an avatar which hits keywords that appeal across the board to activist men and women. When the time is right, he commits internet suicide/kidnapping and causes a panic. Then he ejaculates on his keyboard.

      Sound about right?

  9. Teller says:

    I think it was Mr. Cory who introduced “C,w a a” as a phrase applicable to anything. Which, of course, it is.

  10. SuperGauntlet says:

    He seems like (judging by the shirt) someone who did it for the lulz.

    I dunno. On one hand, it was really kind of a dick move to do that, and a lot of people are now gonna think the situation is better than it is.

    On the other hand, that is the greatest troll I’ve seen in a while.

    I guess if you’re gonna troll, go big or go home? ;)

    Also, as people have said before, it’s the bloggers faults for not checking their sources.

  11. knoxblox says:

    My first thought was he did it because posing as a girl on an MMORPG was too mainstream.

  12. noen says:

    What is this world coming to when you can’t believe what you read on the internet?

    • Gulliver says:

      What is this world coming to when you can’t believe what you read on the internet?

      2+2=4

      This sentence is false.

  13. Methusedalot says:

    Well it is no surprise he was able to pull this off, the quality of his writing was very high. I read he studied writing under Jane Somers.

  14. Anonymous says:

    he is a Syrian lesbian trapped in a white mans body!

  15. frankieboy says:

    New Yorker cartoon, I don’t know, seems like twenty years ago,
    two dogs, one sitting at a computer and saying to the other
    “on the internet no one knows you’re a dog”.

    Now I’m off for some tweeting in the nude.

  16. blueelm says:

    Wow. Now I feel conflicted between guilt and relief that I didn’t follow this story much from the beginning. I’m not going to pretend to be smart as say I could tell something was wrong with it. Other things just kept occupying my thoughts.

  17. EeyoreX says:

    The real irony in all this mess is that MacMaster would very likely have gotten away clean with his ruse, had he not decided to put “Amina” in jail instead of just letting he fade away like most fictional internet personas eventually do.

    Because “Aminas” arrest is what brought out the activists.

    Furthermore, it seems that MacMaster’s decision to put such an abrupt end to the story at least partly came because he had written himself into a corner in “Aminas” ongoing e-mail flirtations with a canadian girl. She wanted to meet up and take the relationship to the next level.

    So, artist: no. Asshole troll: yes.

  18. teufelsdroch says:

    The top comment at NPR says it all:

    “This man didn’t make up any story, the media did, if they were good journalists they would have checked on the background of the article they were about to write and not just write anything without looking at the facts first.”

    Sooner or later there’s gonna be a pushback against the total lack of journalism in TV news. A story that really misleads people and finally gets them mad. The Breitbarts of the world will eventually find the line. (God I hope so)

    Cheers to Xeni for crediting the guy who did all the hard work.

  19. ThinkCritically says:

    And readers who treat conspicuous reports from the middle east are labelled conspiracy theorists? If a politically motivated citizen with a blog can dupe so many for so long, how well do you think funded government organizations (domestic and foreign) can succeed in duplicity to achieve geo-political goals? That’s right – let’s all be a little more skeptical when it comes to reports from Lebanon, Syria, Libya, etc. Please and thank you.

    • Jeremiah Cornelius says:

      > let’s all be a little more skeptical when it comes to reports
      > from Lebanon, Syria, Libya, etc.

      Syria and Libya? How about Toronto and Miami? London and Madrid?

  20. Pakkal says:

    Good god people, performance art? Raising awareness? People are getting killed and tortured in Syria and this sick fuck thought it would be ok to lie and invent to benefit from the attention paid to REAL FUCKING TRAGEDIES.

    For obvious reasons bloggers from the middle east (let alone those that are also LGBTQ) often have to remain anonymous. This moron has now reduced the credibility of ALL those people trying to let the world know about the TRUE events happening in their countries. What this guy did is sick, irresponsible, words fail to describe the magnitude of his jackassery.

    As to why he did it, well, from following his blog (fucking stupid that that makes me feel now…) and reading what has been said about him it seems all this may have been an attempt to romanticize Islam to the “west”. Check out this blog post: http://damascusgaygirl.blogspot.com/2011/06/their-islam-and-ours.html
    where “Amina” tries to convince her readers that like, honestly, Islam is not anti women’s, LGBTQ, or universal human rights. At the time I was willing to grant that *maybe* in her own personal experience the Muslims she’d met had been surprisingly liberal. Now though, it looks like the pathetic attempt of a westerner trying to romanticize and promote an imaginary version of Islam. Myself and other commenters on that post presented plenty of evidence showing that, guess what, Muslim societies are LESS accepting of equality between genders and sexualities than the “west” is (in general of course, and it’s not like Europe or the US are perfect either) but the prick has deleted all the comments on his blog.

  21. adonai says:

    So what can we learn from this? Hack journalists will be hacks, and then blame anybody but themselves.

    Are any bloggers or journalists out there actually saying “yeah, my bad, I didn’t check it thoroughly” or are they just getting pissed at the white, white man from Georgia, who is white?

  22. Niagra says:

    Just a pig farmer from Stone Mountain, Georgia…

  23. Jack says:

    If they wanted to find out who Amina is, they should have just gone and asked Alice.

  24. sergeirichard says:

    So, is there actually an uprising going on in Syria?

  25. Anonymous says:

    Probably its because I’m a gay man but I don’t feel he’s an asshole anymore that half the people on the internet are. I like Boingboing, but if you really believed this guy was the lesbian gay in Syria without any proof, you’re an idiot. You can’t believe who anyone on the internet is until you’ve eithermet them in person or they have enough social media presence and actional photography about themselves that you can’t deny they exist anymore. (I say the gay man thing initially because if you’ve ever tried looking at a gay social website, there are a lot of sexy young gay guys who just happen to look a lot like various celebrities, porn stars, models, etc.)

    Next time check who you’re reading first.

  26. JoshuaZ says:

    Yes, there’s no question that this guy is an asshole. I know multiple people trying to deal with human rights issues, most of whom are now spending a lot of their focus on issues in both Syria and Libya. Every minute that this guy spent distracting people was one less minute that could be spent helping out the people who are actually in trouble. This didn’t just waste time. Some people probably died because of this shmuck.

    • Jack says:

      I think you are a wee bit hyperbolic, but on the right track. It seems like there is a larger trend of pudgy white arseholes who decided to “highlight” the plight of some “cause” by simply lying and fabricating some “authentic” story to “inspire” others.

      I can understand how the formal publishing world (for example) falls for crap like this, but what sickens me is the Internet is a great equalizer when used but is often just undermined by nonsense like this. And people eat it up because it pushes all of the right buttons.

      We live in such a marketing driven world that authenticity is too “dirty” to be sold as the real thing anymore.

  27. Blue says:

    lokulin – Sorry Xeni, but by flinging mud like that you just lowered yourself to a level that you really shouldn’t go to. You could have made a more intelligent comment, perhaps bringing in to question his judgement without the name calling.

    You must be new here.

  28. archmagetrexasaurus says:

    I’ll concede that he should’ve signed his name when it started. Without doing so, you’ve got a good counterpoint to my earlier questions. He’s at least a bit of an asshole. I still don’t have any sympathy for embarrassed hack journalists, but it is unfortunate that this could’ve led to someone actually being harmed, and I can see at least a fairly solid argument that it’s his fault.

    Still, it’s Syrian culture and government that’s at fault for anyone being in danger, not some guy in Georgia playing a character on the internet. While practical matters, in hindsight, see him as possibly doing harm, I’d much rather avoid deflecting guilt away from those causing the problem to begin with.

  29. Jake0748 says:

    Has anyone said, or figured out what this Tom MacMaster guy’s actual motive or intent was? Has he said? So far his whole “project” seems like a pretty stupid and hurtful exercise in look-at-me-ism. He hasn’t even bothered to TRY to claim it was a research project for his PHD or whatever.

    As someone who hungers for real, unfiltered news about what’s going on in Libya, Egypt, Syria and all the other countries in that region – this guy just made the whole picture even muddier. BOO on him. He’s a jackass. And Allah, what an asshole. :(

    • ThinkCritically says:

      Hah! Nice! Are you drawing attention to Xeni’s habit of casually taking JC’s name in vain? ;) Yeah, I noticed that too.

      • Jake0748 says:

        Not necessarily, TC. I would have said “Christ what an asshole” meself, (I say it all the time), but I thought I’d spread my disgust more broadly this time by including a different deity.

        I like to think of myself as an equal-opportunity blasphemer.

    • Jack says:

      Has anyone said, or figured out what this Tom MacMaster guy’s actual motive or intent was?

      His intent and motive is stated very clearly. On a deeper level he is a classic narcissist asshole with sociopathic tendencies.

  30. ackpht says:

    Lies don’t help. Lies -and liars- are the problem.

  31. Felton / Moderator says:

    For those who don’t know the origin of the “Christ, what an asshole!” meme:

    http://boingboing.net/2010/03/30/recaptioning-new-yor.html

  32. Anonymous says:

    The only part of this that offends me is the author of this article calling Mr. MacMaster an asshole.

    People have been writing fiction under a nom de plume for many years and for a wide variety of reasons.

    Authors often take a pen name to make their audience more accepting of their writing or to insure acceptance among prejudice critics. This was often the case with female writers as late as the 19th century who would adopt masculine pen names when it was felt they would not be taken seriously by male authors.

    Can you please explain why you feel Mr. MacMaster is an asshole for adopting a persona under which to write his fiction?

    • Gulliver says:

      @ Anon #121

      Can you please explain why you feel Mr. MacMaster is an asshole for adopting a persona under which to write his fiction?

      Because he didn’t tell his audience it was fiction. If he had, problem averted. Fiction becomes a lie when its author fails to inform the audience it’s fiction.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I really think Ali Abunimah and Benjamin Doherty deserve credit here. They’re the ones who uncovered Tom’s identity.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Andy Carvin, Jillian C. York (@jilliancyork) & Liz Henry (@lizhenry) were among the first to voice doubts & raise questions about Damascus Gay Girl’s identity & to locate some key pieces of the puzzle, but major credit for cracking the case should go to Ali Abunimah (@avinunu) and Benjamin Doherty (@bangpound) of the Electronic Intifada. Here’s their final report:

    New evidence about Amina, the “Gay Girl in Damascus” hoax
    http://electronicintifada.net/blog/ali-abunimah/new-evidence-about-amina-gay-girl-damascus-hoax

  35. Lilah says:

    I would agree with the “can’t be mad at performance art” argument if it weren’t for a couple little things:

    1. He posted numerous pictures of an uninvolved woman to “Amina”‘s facebook page claiming they were “Amina” without the real woman’s permission.
    2. He carried out private email correspondences with people for as long as 6 months and then used these people by mentioning them on the blog as friends.

    Not cool.

  36. lazymycroft says:

    I have not read the blog, but i read a news report on it, and the blog was lauded before it was reveled that it was a white male southerner with a beard.

    It seems that he wrote in this character’s voice for 5 years, not what i would call a lark. This is not an asshole, but an artist, who admittedly, through his writing, drew attention down from the abstract and global to the individual and personal. I think that is what writers are supposed to do, or at least that is what i lead to think.

    Who cares about the media, they must learn, and this is one more lesson.

    I am far more interested in the gender identity politics and the sexism i am reading here. According to some of the commentators i will have to give up reading anything whose authors do not fit ridged guidelines. Kinda reminds me when my brother in law was upset because a song was not grammatically correct. He believed that poetry should strictly follow grammatical rules. I thought he sounded fascist.

    • Jack says:

      Your justifications of this pudgy arsehole’s behavior is 100% the same song-and-dance that defenders of James Frey spit out when it was revealed that James Frey fabricated A Million Little Pieces.

      Last I checked the Mid-East is filled to the brim with bloggers and others using the Internet to communicate and organize. The whole slew of democratic revolutions is directly connected to that. So it’s clear there are voices out there that are speaking to the issues of that world.

      The only reason you like this guy’s stuff is not because he’s an “artist” but because he packaged it in such a way that makes Westerner’s feel comfortable. Which is to say, Western culture generally wants a clear narrative and none of the messiness of real life. First act, second act, third act, FIN! Lesson learned!

      Life is not that simple.

      • lazymycroft says:

        remember: I said that i have not read/like his/her work. Yes it is the same argument that was given by defenders of Fry, and it stands. Nonetheless, thanks for the self-righteous/elementary ‘lesson.’ And, please do not presume to know what i think, or why i think something.

    • Neon Tooth says:

      The classic non-apology:

      “I regret that a lot of people feel that I led them on. I regret that … a number of people are seeing my hoax as distracting from real news, real stories about Syria and real concerns of real, actual, on-the-ground bloggers, where people will doubt their veracity.”

      I’m sorry that YOU THINK that I led people on….

  37. Anonymous says:

    Can you still get t-shirts?

  38. Anonymous says:

    Speaking as a straight white dude in North America, here is the thing: my experiences with racial and sexual discrimination are very limited. They do sort of exist – television stereotypes, blog comments, that sort of thing – but these are faint and occasinal glimpses of what other people experience as a constant presence. So while I’d prefer you don’t judge me by my skin color and gender, they do almost certainly guarantee that I can’t speak on these matters with any authority.

    There is nothing wrong with being blind, but it means you shouldn’t critique paintings. There is nothing wrong with being a virgin, but you might get mocked for it if you run a sex advice column. And being a white dude is fine, but it usually means for some things you should listen instead of talk.

    On which, I’d like to repeat the linkt to http://gaymiddleeast.com/news/news%20317.htm for a reminder of what actual GBLT Syrians think of this.

    • Gulliver says:

      @ Anon #122

      Speaking as a straight white dude in North America, here is the thing: my experiences with racial and sexual discrimination are very limited. They do sort of exist – television stereotypes, blog comments, that sort of thing – but these are faint and occasinal glimpses of what other people experience as a constant presence. So while I’d prefer you don’t judge me by my skin color and gender, they do almost certainly guarantee that I can’t speak on these matters with any authority.

      You don’t have to personally experience iniquity to understand it’s wrong. It’s the responsibility of every human being to speak out when they see people being judged by the color of their skin. If we only speak against bigotry when and where it’s unpopular, those who would do evil under its aegis will use it with impunity.

      There is nothing wrong with being blind, but it means you shouldn’t critique paintings. There is nothing wrong with being a virgin, but you might get mocked for it if you run a sex advice column. And being a white dude is fine, but it usually means for some things you should listen instead of talk.

      Bigotry is still wrong no matter how dilute it is and no matter who is its target or who their ancestors were. Hate or denigration of someone because of how they were born is unjust in any direction or degree of severity.

      Were black slavery and Jim Crow laws and segregation monumentally worse than soft racism in blog comments? Yes, and they deserve proportionally vastly greater opprobrium than the latter. Does that make the latter okay? No.

      Moreover, I don’t believe that most of the decent and enlightened people who read Boing Boing believe it is right to hate anyone for the circumstances of their birth. But if you don’t acknowledge that hate when you see or express it, we will never achieve a world where there aren’t women being systematically oppressed for their sexual orientations and many other injustices. Injustice is a symptom of hate. If we only wait for injustice to bloom before addressing the root cause, we’ll never get control of the vicious spirals that spread it in the first place.

  39. blueelm says:

    I think the issue here also is that he helped put real gay bloggers in Syria in more danger. They exist. Not only that people are going to be less likely to believe them.

    That’s selfish, and yeah saying no one would care if this white guy hadn’t lied about being one of you is pretty shitty.

  40. blueelm says:

    I don’t know because I did not read his blog, but I wonder if this is not an example of the reality seems less real than fiction phenomenon, whereby one has to lie to seem believable to an audience that has distorted expectations of reality.

    • emmdeeaych says:

      “I did it for the audience” sounds like a pretty common justification for narcissism, no?

      • blueelm says:

        Indeed.

        I guess I just can’t help but think that the fact that the person who apparently resonated so well with a western audience was a westerner might be a reason to look at our own expectations.

  41. TheSpaghettiman says:

    So a guy wasn’t who he said he was on the internet. I am shocked.

  42. WMC says:

    I’m a blogge…I mean, journalist! Is this where I come to be outraged that this guy managed to overcome our journalistic due diligence? Because I checked, and s/he was on FB _and_ Twitter. If that’s not enough checking, then Jesus, what do you people want?

  43. Gulliver says:

    I’m with Xeni, this guy is the Platonic ideal of an asshole.

    That said, there’s blame to go around. Bloggers/journalists should take this as a lesson to be a little less credulous when accepting facts from an online avatar. Verification is important. There are assholes who lie and always have been. On the blogger/journo side this is the ethical equivalent of not following up citations on Wikipedia.

    Lastly, I think what this guy did was reprehensible and would still be every bit as reprehensible if it was done by a poor black woman in Nigeria. Do you? If so, why do so many of the condemnations on this thread mention his skin color but not the fact that he’s, for example, a brunette? If not, why not?

    • Cowicide says:

      How about blaming Syria too?

      You can pretty much say anything you want about Syria. That’s what they get for having such a closed country. People can’t easily verify disinformation.

      • Gulliver says:

        How about blaming Syria too?

        Nope. Just the deceiver and, to a much lesser extent, the bloggers/journalists who could have tried to verify his story but evidently didn’t. Do you disagree that they had an ethical responsibility to verify, Cowicide?

        People can’t easily verify disinformation.

        Clearly someone figured it out. Why did it take 5 years?

    • blueelm says:

      It is worse because of this message:

      Are you a female mid-eastern lesbian? Want to know how to get people to care about you or your oppression? The answer is simple! Don’t be a female mid-eastern lesbian, but rather a white male westerner! I, a white male westerner, will show you how to be a better you. All others, well really, you just don’t *pop* with the people who matter (white male westerners, if you didn’t pick up on that)

      • Gulliver says:

        Are you a female mid-eastern lesbian? Want to know how to get people to care about you or your oppression? The answer is simple! Don’t be a female mid-eastern lesbian, but rather a white male westerner! I, a white male westerner, will show you how to be a better you. All others, well really, you just don’t *pop* with the people who matter (white male westerners, if you didn’t pick up on that)

        Good point. Do you think it wouldn’t have worked if the deceiver had not been a white male westerner?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Verification is important.

      It’s a nice thought, but given that the White House, the Kremlin, 10 Downing Street, etc. have no qualms about putting bold-faced lies in official statements, where do you go to verify your stories? Who doesn’t lie?

      • Gulliver says:

        It’s a nice thought, but given that the White House, the Kremlin, 10 Downing Street, etc. have no qualms about putting bold-faced lies in official statements, where do you go to verify your stories? Who doesn’t lie?

        You verify it from as many sources as you can. The more verification, the more credit the story deserves and fewer grains of salt you should take it with. No one keeps themselves honest. We all have to keep each other honest or we really will have zero trust and pure anarchy. If one of us claims something is a fact, others should ask us what our sources are, even if the one doing the claiming is the White House or the New York Times. Taking “facts” at face value is a road rife with errors. In this particular case NPR deserves credit for not just accepting the avatar for who it claimed to be. The rest of us should take note, especially those that reported and blogged the story while not checking it out.

        I’m not claiming to be impervious to gullibility. I’ve been duped plenty of times, obviously since we all have. I’m saying there is a lesson to learn here from accepting a story whole cloth. Is this really a controversial position I’m taking?

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Is this really a controversial position I’m taking?

          Depending on the situation, it can be appropriate advice or it can be like saying, “Let them eat cake.” Verification isn’t always available. In this case, proving that it’s a hoax might have been valuable, but had she been real, tracking her down would most likely have gotten her killed.

          There are lots of people blogging anti-government ideas and suppressed information from inside totalitarian countries. You can’t verify them without helping to murder them. Would you just not report on them? That doesn’t seem very helpful.

          • Gulliver says:

            Depending on the situation, it can be appropriate advice or it can be like saying, “Let them eat cake.” Verification isn’t always available. In this case, proving that it’s a hoax might have been valuable, but had she been real, tracking her down would most likely have gotten her killed.

            Good point.

            There are lots of people blogging anti-government ideas and suppressed information from inside totalitarian countries. You can’t verify them without helping to murder them. Would you just not report on them? That doesn’t seem very helpful.

            I would say report on them with that very caveat while at the same time trying carefully to find a way to verify without imperiling them. At the very least a reporter could try to poke holes and look for inconsistencies as NPR did. I don’t accept the dichotomy that you either have to not report the story or accept it without any doubt as to its veracity. There fact that the Syrian government persecutes its people makes it critical both to pay attention to accounts of abuse and to discover any impersonators.

            It’s not a perfect solution, but I think it’s better than not asking questions.

          • Jack says:

            And this verification issue—and the muddleness about it—is 100% exactly why what this guy did is pure evil.

            Now anybody else speaking their minds online in the Mid East will be treated to the kind of scrutiny “Amina” did. Which will make an already difficult task even harder. And to whose gain? Some pudgy schmuck in Atlanta.

          • John says:

            Jack I dont know – it could also be characterized as the ultimate sacrifice to a cause when you think about it – in a few ways. The marketing was well played.

            Without foreknowledge of a piece of art being attributed to an artistic expression of art; as performance art I stop short of calling it art or performance art.

            Some dont.

            There is a complex situation involving a argument on definitions of art as well as scope and range in there. Not to mention some intent and artist/audience issues.

            Fooling the eye to create content is different than fooling content to create the eye. It probably isn’t a good idea to go there.

          • Jack says:

            Jack I dont know – it could also be characterized as the ultimate sacrifice to a cause when you think about it – in a few ways.
            You know what the Mid East needs? Just a few more pudgy white guys telling other people how to live.

            The marketing was well played.
            SEX! Now that I have your attention, this MacMaster guy is an asshole.

    • emmdeeaych says:

      If so, why do so many of the condemnations on this thread mention his skin color but not the fact that he’s, for example, a brunette?

      in a sentence: white guys are already a privileged elite in Georgia, even when they’re not. To pretend to be someone else -for attention- when easily half the world wishes they had it as good as you do. well. what an asshole.

      • Gulliver says:

        in a sentence: white guys are already a privileged elite in Georgia, even when they’re not. To pretend to be someone else -for attention- when easily half the world wishes they had it as good as you do. well. what an asshole.

        Fair point. My concern is with what I perceive, possibly incorrectly (and, even if correctly, certainly not universally), to be a social trend of first asking what a person’s skin color and nationality are and then using that as a caliber by which to gauge how worthy of empathy (if they’re the victim) or condemnation (if they’re the victimizer) they may be. It seem to me that a victim is just as worthy of society’s concern whether they’re a westerner or Syrian, and a person who is a victimizer is just as worthy of society’s scorn whether they’re Syrian or a westerner. The worst human rights abuses generally come about because a group of people’s value gets determined by their heritage rather than their humanity. Hate begins with dehumanization and leads to precisely the kinds of atrocities that reinforce that hate in a vicious cycle. The only way to break the cycle is to treat people and human beings and not their superficial characteristics.

        Sorry if I’m coming off as a sanctimonious asshat, but it’s what I believe.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      If so, why do so many of the condemnations on this thread mention his skin color but not the fact that he’s, for example, a brunette?

      Besides the fact that he’s a light golden brown/dark ash blond?

      The point of “40-year-old white man” is to highlight the differences between him and his avatar. Do you have any idea how many furious comments I would have to field if Xeni had used the technically correct “European American”?

      • gravytop says:

        This is only partly satisfying. The fake Amina characterized herself as being born of a woman from VA, and a father from Syria. Is there something in her posts to suggest that she didn’t consider herself caucasian? For that matter, do we know anything about the parentage of the big phony, apart from what we can guess by looking at his pudgy white white white face?

      • Gulliver says:

        The point of “40-year-old white man” is to highlight the differences between him and his avatar. Do you have any idea how many furious comments I would have to field if Xeni had used the technically correct “European American”?

        Point taken. I guess it’s not a big deal. I just worry that the focus is more on skin color/nationality than on the fact that this person did something reprehensible and spat in the eye of everyone who ever was an actual victim of oppression regardless of their physiognomy. And while I think that probably still is a problem in the world at large, I fear I have Streisanded it in this particular thread. I’m not good at leaving questions be. Usually that’s a good thing; sometimes it’s a distraction. I simply wish well-intentioned folks could stop hanging theirs and others’ sense of identity on their bodies.

  44. John says:

    Welcome to the Internet guys – where that 19 y/o beach bunny in California that likes you for your personality is really a 500 pound 63 year old man living in his parents basement in south Arkansas.

    We got reality everything now, then only thing is reality is no longer honest or real. Its pure marketing.

    • Gulliver says:

      Welcome to the Internet guys – where that 19 y/o beach bunny in California that likes you for your personality is really a 500 pound 63 year old man living in his parents basement in south Arkansas.

      So are you saying that because the internet is a poor mate-matchmaking tool that its costs outweigh its benefits? Why are you using the internet then?

      We got reality everything now, then only thing is reality is no longer honest or real. Its pure marketing.

      So you don’t believe the world is real? That’s called solipsism.

      • John says:

        Is that what im saying? Buyer beware is hardly anything new or really worth repeating again. Its not really a yes or no or good or bad, although dishonesty is always wrong, even creatively.

        Perhaps:

        A good argument is logical and reasonable and is not a result of perspective, appearance or celebrity – especially location. It is also not always what you want to hear.

        “Argument is meant to reveal the truth, not to create it.” – Edward De Bono

        • Gulliver says:

          Is that what im saying?

          I don’t know. That’s why I asked. It wasn’t clear from your post.

          A good argument is logical and reasonable and is not a result of perspective, appearance or celebrity – especially location. It is also not always what you want to hear.

          Thank you clarifying. Yes, truth can be jarring. But it is surely better than living in delusion. The internet is a tool. Like any tool, it can be leveraged for both good and ill. So I’m guessing when you said reality is no longer honest or real that you meant the perception of it was no longer honest or real. Does this seem so because fewer falsities are ultimately exposed, or more? What makes you think the past societies had fewer delusions?

  45. Willie McBride says:

    Sorry, are there real lesbians on the internet?

    Paula Brooks, the editor of the bog where Amina started posting is a man too, Bill Graber, 58, from Ohio. He appropriated his wife’s identity.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/paula-brooks-editor-of-lez-get-real-also-a-man/2011/06/13/AGld2ZTH_blog.html

  46. Jake0748 says:

    Screw this guy Tom MacMaster. He fucked up. He mislead a LOT of people (maybe most of them were too credulous, I plead guilty). He has cause untold, actual harm. He has increased skepticism and reduced sympathy.

    If he actually has a reckoning and apologizes for real, I might think better of him. Til then I personally will think of him as a crappy self-serving, weasel.

  47. Anonymous says:

    New apology is up:
    http://damascusgaygirl.blogspot.com/2011/06/apology-to-readers_13.html

    This one feel real – he’s “just” a writer who did something slightly stupid, got carried away, and ended up with far more severe consequences for his actions than could ever have been imagined.

  48. eaglescout1984 says:

    Oh look a Che Guevara T-shirt. Why am I not surprised he has no feeling for people living under militaristic and oppressive regimes?

  49. John says:

    Gulliver I was more critiquing popular culture I guess, albeit not very well or clearly. It just seems so dead predictable even when it tries hard not to be.

    I have a sudden craving for some Guy Debord. http://youtu.be/CV6k_SKkHKQ

    For Tom MacMaster I wonder what induced the honesty. Did he figure people worried about him could lead to someone getting hurt? A sudden rush of morality? Was it something in his personal life or was it someone, at least a few, were on to him.

  50. Matt Cornell says:

    Amina is the JT LeRoy of the Arab Spring. And yes, Laura Albert was an asshole too.

  51. Matt Cornell says:

    Amina is the JT LeRoy of the Arab Spring. And yes, Laura Albert was an asshole too.

  52. Anonymous says:

    ‘But everyone knows that most women on the internet are overweight 40 year old men.’

    Oh, thanks for mansplaining that to the billions of actual women on the internet. /s

  53. Anonymous says:

    In Australia, this has been reported by the Sydney Morning Herald paper:

    “Some Syrian activists maintain Arraf exists, that she has been detained and had been using a fake identity to protect herself.”

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/lesbian-bloggers-photo-doesnt-match-and-nor-do-many-details-20110609-1fv15.html#ixzz1PCqNILMu

  54. Anonymous says:

    I admit I haven’t been following this story closely, and I haven’t had time to read the article, but thank god she’s all right. That’s the main thing. I don’t care if she has a beard, she’s standing up for human rights, and she deserves respect.

  55. Jack says:

    Jack I dont know – it could also be characterized as the ultimate sacrifice to a cause when you think about it – in a few ways.

    You know what the Mid East needs? Just a few more pudgy white guys telling other people how to live.

    The marketing was well played.

    SEX! Now that I have your attention, this MacMaster guy is an asshole.

  56. Crispian says:

    I blame internet people and ‘journalists.’ They care too much about glomming onto causes and supporting ‘communities.’ They’ll believe anything the internet spoon feeds to them. But everyone knows that most women on the internet are overweight 40 year old men. This guy was maintaining this persona for several years. Whether it was a game (“performance art” as some of you call it) or for attention, it obviously predated the current chaos in Syria.

    I have sympathy for anyone he personally corresponded with and mislead. It is hurtful if one feels they have a personal relationship and is betrayed. I also have sympathy for the woman whose picture he misappropriated. But I have no sympathy for most of you who have probably not communicated with him or many of you who have not even visited his site. What he did was immature or a game that got out of hand. As a general matter it was only exploitative of people’s gullibility and self-righteous desire to be armchair activists. What so many are upset about is the shattering of an illusion which fit so neatly into their worldview.

    Breaking News: 40 year old man pretends to be lesbian online. Ends badly due to his focus on sociopolitical events.

    Here is some real news: facebook doesn’t create or sustain revolutions.

  57. noah django says:

    A white guy from Stone Mountain? Hell, that might be more rare than a Syrian Lesbian.

    I know, I know, shitstorm imminent, doesn’t have any bearing on what he did; but for real it’s pretty rare. http://www.city-data.com/races/races-Stone-Mountain-Georgia.html

  58. lokulin says:

    You made a typo Xeni. I think you meant, “Christ. What an asshole”.

    Not sure what your views on JC have to do with the rest of the article though.

    Seriously though, I’m not sure how you can equate someone that has developed a gripping, realistic fictional narrative that has raised the awareness of a particular cause, albeit under a pseudonym, with an asshole.

    Sorry Xeni, but by flinging mud like that you just lowered yourself to a level that you really shouldn’t go to. You could have made a more intelligent comment, perhaps bringing in to question his judgement without the name calling.

    • Gulliver says:

      Seriously though, I’m not sure how you can equate someone that has developed a gripping, realistic fictional narrative that has raised the awareness of a particular cause, albeit under a pseudonym, with an asshole.

      You can’t be serious. Can you?

      • millie fink says:

        Man, white peeps sure do get discomfy when their whiteness gets noticed and mentioned. Much better, they seem to think–or rather feel I guess–that it remain the (invisible) hegemonic norm.

        • Gulliver says:

          Man, white peeps sure do get discomfy when their whiteness gets noticed and mentioned. Much better, they seem to think–or rather feel I guess–that it remain the (invisible) hegemonic norm.

          I am not discomforted. I am saddened that people still think it’s morally justified to judge people on the color of their skin or any other biological trait – not only victimizers but those they victimize.

          If you honestly believe that a person’s value and the morality of their actions is determined in any way by the color of their skin, then I wish you the best of luck with that outlook. Meanwhile, I will continue hoping to live to see a world where all human beings are recognized and held accountable for their humanity and the way they treat others, not the melanin content of their edpidermis.

          What MacMaster did is wrong because, as Pakkal said more eloquently than I could:

          People are getting killed and tortured in Syria and this sick fuck thought it would be ok to lie and invent to benefit from the attention paid to REAL FUCKING TRAGEDIES.

          I don’t care why he did it or how sorry he is or how white/fat/male/westerner he is. It is not wrong because he is white. When you reinforce racism one way, you reinforce it all ways. If you attribute his guilt in part or in full to the color of his skin, you take it away some from the evil of his actions. Evil is wrong no matter who does it. Personhood and its responsibilities are not black or white or brown or male or female or young or old; they are human.

          If it’s wrong to attribute moral responsibility to the color of one person’s skin, then it’s wrong to do it for everyone.

          I asked this question:

          Lastly, I think what this guy did was reprehensible and would still be every bit as reprehensible if it was done by a poor black woman in Nigeria. Do you? If so, why do so many of the condemnations on this thread mention his skin color but not the fact that he’s, for example, a brunette? If not, why not?

          Antinous pointed out that Xeni included the description to show the difference between MacMaster and his avatar. That is a perfectly reasonable reason to do so, IMO.

          If that was other commenter’s purpose in doing so, then it’s a perfectly reasonable reason for them to do so also, IMO.

          So no, I don’t care when someone points out whiteness or blackness or any other “ness”. I care if they attribute guilt to skin color.

          • gravytop says:

            The problem with Antinous’ justification is this: the fictional girl, as far as I can tell, never indicated her “race” was other than white. In fact, “she” claimed to have been born in VA of a Virginian mother (father was Syrian.) She claims (I think) to be a levantine Arab, many of whom (I believe) consider themselves caucasian.

            Further, I don’t know if we know that much about the racial background of McMasters. He sure looks “white” — but we certainly don’t know the ethnicity of either of his parents. At least I don’t think we do.

            In short, the idea that the point of saying — hey, the asshole was a White from the South! — was nothing more than an effort to point out how very different he was from the fake blogger is a pretty lame excuse, given that it’s not clear that the fake blogger wasn’t also a caucasian from a Southern state.

            “White dude” is a term of mild derision here at boingboing.net, as well as other sites with a lefty slant. And maybe deservedly so. So why do people who use that term in a mildly derisive way struggle so hard to pretend that it really does nothing more than describe a fact in a value-neutral way? Anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty knows that ain’t the case…

          • Ugly Canuck says:

            Ummm…yeah, I don’t really know about all that; but imho,

            “Gentleman from Georgia is “Gay Girl from Damascus” ”

            … would scan better, at least.

      • lokulin says:

        Oops, was that inflammatory?

    • ThinkCritically says:

      From Xeni:

      Christ, what an asshole.

      From lokulin:

      You made a typo Xeni. I think you meant, “Christ. What an asshole”. Not sure what your views on JC have to do with the rest of the article though.

      I didn’t notice it until now, but, if you enter +”Xeni Jardin” +”Christ what an asshole” site:boingboing.net in the google search, there sure are a lot of hits! Xeni even used it as a tag! Seems like a running gag. I don’t think she is deliberately blaspheming a religion, but …

      From Antinous / Moderator:

      I’m sticking with Priapus! What an asshole!, for obvious reasons.

      … can’t she be an equal opportunity blasphemer and spend some time invoking good ol’ Priapus for a change?

  59. DiaphanyJones says:

    Monumentally played, sir, monumentally played, you clever white devil! This pulling of the global leg is a masterstroke of artful and revealing trollcraft. Hats off to you, Mr. McMasters!

  60. Anonymous says:

    …who, i would wager a tiny amount, was inspired by a sub-story from the film “V for Vendetta”

  61. emmdeeaych says:

    I’m more offended by the t-shirt. That’s some messed up shit right there.

  62. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Chris Gaines haz a jealous.

  63. sirkowski says:

    How butch.

  64. Anonymous says:

    How is this any different than performance art? A person with access to a medium uses an issue in the world to create a character. You can’t really get mad at someone because you believe everything you read and they were writing fiction.

  65. GrymRpr says:

    Too damn funny.

    +1

    • cinemajay says:

      Except that it ain’t. This is the crap that the Syrian government will hold up as examples of “fraud” on the part of protesters. I hope the woman who’s photos he appropriated sues the shit out of him.

      • GrymRpr says:

        “Except that it ain’t.”
        Of course, I’m entitled to my opinion of whats funny.
        The only sad/unfunny thing about it is… all the people who just jumped on that “Gay Girl from Damascus” without checking anything first.

        Fools one & all for believing anything they just read on the net.
        Regardless of what Tom MacMaster say’s … I see this as one of the best trolls ever and a lot are just pissed because they fell for it.

        Here’s hoping a lesson was learned.

  66. ZippySpincycle says:

    Nice propaganda coup to hand to the Assad government, moron. “I meant well” is not much of a defense, considering that there are real people who ARE being disappeared by the Syrian government, but who don’t have the cachet of being entertainingly invented by a Westerner.

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