Ed Driscoll

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're not a 'Gay Girl in Damascus'

“Gay girl in Damascus confessed to being a 40-year-old American man from Georgia,” the Washington Post reports:

In recent days, the world has followed closely the saga of Amina Araff, the blogger who presented herself online as “A Gay Girl in Damascus” and who drew attention with her passionate writings about the Syrian government’s crackdown on Arab Spring protesters. Those writings stopped last Tuesday, and a posting to the blog, ostensibly written by a cousin, said she 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: Has anyone ever actually met Amina? Two days after her disappearance, images presented on her blog as being of Amina were revealed to have been taken from the Facebook page of a London woman.

And on Sunday, the truth spilled out: The gay girl in Damascus confessed to being a 40-year-old American man from Georgia.

The persona he built and cultivated for years — a lesbian who was half Syrian and half American — was a tantalizing Internet-era fiction, one that Tom MacMaster used to bring attention to the human rights record of a country with severe media restrictions that make traditional reporting almost impossible.

On Sunday, MacMaster wrote an apology on his 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. 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.”

So it’s fake but accurate, in other words. Or to put it another way, the Georgia man’s truth is that he is a gay girl in Damascus.

Naturally, the Post claims, “The hoax raised new questions about the reliance on blogs, Tweets, Facebook postings and other Internet communications as they increasingly become a standard way to report on global events.”

No word yet how Janet Cooke, Walter Duranty, and Jayson Blair raise new questions about the reliance of newspapers and other dead tree publications as they increasingly become a standard way to report on global events, though.

England’s Guardian also has fun with the story: “Syrian lesbian blogger is revealed conclusively to be a married man.”

As the Professor writes, “There’s a Weiner joke in here somewhere.” And Stacy McCain has related thoughts on this story as well.

Of course, it goes without say that as always, life imitates the fake but exceedingly accurate Internet Commenter Weekly magazine.