‘Gay girl in Damascus’ blogger a middle-aged U.S. man

2011-06-15 00:00

A 40-YEAR-OLD United States student based in Scotland has unmasked himself as the author of the “Gay Girl in Damascus” blogs, which sparked a security crackdown in Syria. This is the latest in a series of attempts by Westerners to use social and online media to stake a place in the limelight for themselves in the Arab uprisings which have dominated headlines in 2011.

Tom MacMaster, an Edinburgh University Masters student, admitted on Sunday that he is Amina Abdullah, who had described herself as a Syrian political blogger.

The Abdullah character rose to blogging fame with her reports on the pro-reform movement in Syria, posing as “an out Syrian lesbian’s thoughts on life, the universe and so on”.

MacMaster’s admission followed a suspicious blog post last week, in which someone claiming to be Abdullah’s cousin said that the blogger had been snatched off the street by three armed men and bundled into a car bearing a pro-government window sticker.

Following a widespread online campaign to free Abdullah, doubts began to emerge within the online community regarding the authenticity of the blog. Subsequent investigations by bloggers uncovered evidence that pointed towards MacMaster and his wife Britta Froelicher as the authors of the blog.

MacMaster insists that his actions and that of his wife, who is studying towards a doctorate in Syrian economic development, were undertaken with the best of intentions.

In his apology, MacMaster stated: “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.

This is not the first time that an online voice, supposedly on the ground in the midst of a Middle Eastern battle for freedom, has turned out to be a well-intentioned Westerner in an entirely different part of the world. These are people who are looking for a place in the spotlight of current events, if only for their fictional personas. Even those who use their real personas tend to portray themselves as social media evangelists, bringing light to Arab masses who previously cowered in the dark.

Other examples range from Twitter users around the world simply changing their location to Tehran in the midst of the 2009 election protests, to claiming credit for helping young Arabs to empower themselves through social media.

WikiLeaks impresario Julian Assange also brazenly tried to take credit for the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions in February.

However well intentioned MacMaster’s intentions might have been, the fact remains that he misled his followers and acted unethically. How- ever well researched the content he wrote for Abdullah may have been, he got people campaigning for someone who didn’t really exist. Time and effort spent on the fake Abdullah could have been spent campaigning for an actual Syrian cause or freedom fighter. That makes him no better than a Twitter user spreading rumours, which may have little basis in fact, about a demonstration in Libya from the comfort of their couch in London or New York.

— www.memeburn.com

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.