Girl in Damascus, Boy in Edinburgh.

Exploring wider contex and deeper cultural significance of Amina/Tom story. The before and after.

So, this is how it really happend…or is it? I am sure the angry crowd of activists filled with righteous indignation is gathering as we speak and trashing of Tom MacMaster will be a favourite past time of bloggers and other opinionated persons this week.  
Instead of joining in proverbial stone throwing, I want to look at the contex and deeper cultural significance of Amina/Tom story

the suspicion was high even before Tom’s coming out
cautionary tale – privacy settings on facebook, hijacking identities, etc.
Londoner says missing Syrian blogger stole her identity

The reported disappearance of a gay Syrian-American blogger has attracted skepticism after a London woman claimed the photos published by news organizations worldwide are of her, not of the blogger, and that the blogger stole her identity a year ago.
BBC News – Newsnight – Mistaken identity of Syrian blogger

Jeremy Paxman talks to Jelena Lecic who was mistakenly identified as a Syrian dissident blogger and Mahmoud Hamad, a Syrian human rights activist. Jelena Lecic was shocked to see her picture in newspapers describing her as Amina Arraf who apparently writes a blog called ‘A gay girl in Damascus’ which criticises the Syrian authorities.
BREAKING: “A Gay Girl in Damascus” comes out as Tom MacMaster, Istanbul

Tom MacMaster, of Istanbul, Turkey, has just come out as the author behind A Gay Girl in Damascus. MacMaster was flushed out by Ali Abunimah and Benjamin Doherty. Here is his message in full: I never expected this level of attention.
Tom MacMaster confessed he is behind #Amina hoax following report by @avinunu & @bangpound. Thx also @lizhenry, @acarvin
June 12, 2011
A Gay Girl in Damascus: Apology to readers

I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce 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.
“A Gay Girl in Damascus” comes clean

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.
Hala Gorani finally puts her finger on the real issue here
Media were interested bc MacMaster’s lie put a human face on a story we cannot cover in person. That is why there was interest. #Amina
June 12, 2011
Attacking #Amina ‘hoax’ misses the point. Theres no enforceable regime of truth in the online-offline relation. That is a tool in our fight
June 12, 2011

there are so many points, indeed

the issue of verification
Shadowy Viral-Media Campaign Shaping Events in Syria? « Qifa Nabki | A Lebanese Political Blog

Got your attention, didn’ t I? Yes I did, just like the two big stories about Syria that rocketed to the top of the Internet’s "trending" charts over the past few days. No, I’m not talking about the alleged massacre of Syrian security officials in Jisr al-Shughour or the government’s planned response.
Jillian C. York » Journalistic Verification, Amina Arraf, and Haystack

How did a Syrian blogger, who told beautiful and heartwrenching stories of life as a lesbian in Damascus, manage to trick so many people? How did an American software engineer, whose passion for the Iranian cause led him to build what he dubbed the safest of circumvention tools, do the same?

and a more obvious issue of anonymity and pseudonymity: a more obvious take on the whole situation, probably shared by most – ability to conceal our identity, which is clearly possible, if only temporarily

"Syrian blogger #Amina (A Gay Girl in Damascus) is a guy." On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.
June 12, 2011
Notes on Amina, Facebook and the Reverse Tragedy of Commons: Pseudonymity under Repressive Conditions | technosociology

As the Internet first spread to the general public, there was great excitement about the potential identity experimentation. Gender, race, identity could, it seemed, all be re-invented online at the strike of a keyboard as, largely due to bandwidth limitations, text-based social environments dominated those days.
thanks @techsoc
Can’t believe that people actually use such a terrific context to play… How can we trust any blogger now ? They’re all potential #Amina
June 12, 2011
commenters engage with Tom’s apology, based on the critique of superficiality and pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism
The most infuriating aspect of Tom MacMaster’s "hoax" is claim media’s interest in #Amina reveals superficial coverage of Mideast. Please.
June 12, 2011
i can’t imagine a more "liberal orientalist" viewpoint than the one perpetuated by #amina. #apology-fail
June 12, 2011
Angry Arab reads the whiteness of the #Amina hoax. “Is there anything more racist, sexist, patronizing, and offensive?”
June 13, 2011
‘Gay Girl In Damascus’ Turns Out To Be An American Man:
June 12, 2011
My new @thisisworldtown blog post. Oriental desire and the fabrication of #Amina. Why this makes us so angry
June 13, 2011
NEW POST: Oriental Desire: The Fabrication of #Amina.
June 13, 2011
#Amina could have never picked up any significant int’l. media attention at all if she was genuinely a “Niqabi Girl in Damascus”. #FACT
June 13, 2011

outrage out there

I’d say so "@miasgram: @acarvin False kidnapping report, Embassy resources wasted…thoughts on any prosecution…State Dept? #amina"
June 12, 2011
What Tom did re #Amina was like what predators who abduct children do: exploited to our best human instinct to care & be helpful. #Sociopath
June 12, 2011
Faking a kidnapping is criminal and unconscionable. Still in shock that someone I know could do that. #Amina
June 13, 2011
#FuckYouTom is the marker of indignati, it didn’t take long 
RT @monakareem: Oh man, the Syrian regime is gonna use the hell out of this #Amina case to prove how the uprising is a "foreign agenda" #FuckYouTom
June 12, 2011
others rightly point out the boy who cried wolf ramifications
‘Damascus gay girl’ blog a hoax

A blog purportedly written by a gay woman in Syria, which described life in Damascas amid the current political unrest, has been revealed to be a hoax. A Girl Gay in Damascus gained a worldwide readership and was closely followed by news organisations.

But probably the most serious kind of ethical criticism, by LGBT community, is this: feeding the foreign media a “dish of sex, religion and politics” from a distant, comfortable and safe place

From Damascus with Love: Blogging in a Totalitarian State: On #Amina hoax and it’s ramifications. #LGBT
June 12, 2011
the impact this little stunt will have on LGBT community in Syria and entire Middle East is unclear, but prospects are grim
GME – Gay Middle East – From Damascus with Love: Blogging in a totalitarian state

By Sami Hamwi and Daniel Nassar, 12.6.11 Following the revelation that "Amina" was a hoax two LGBT Syrian Activists speak out. Sami Hamwi, Gay Middle East Syria: Blogging in Syria has been forbidden by law for more than eight years.
#LGBT participated in Egypt & Tunisia uprising as citizens, not everything is about being gay!! Check your priorities please! #Amina #LGBTme
June 13, 2011
some see the absurdity of the situation
On my new blog, "Three Gay Cups of Tea in Damascus", I will chronicle my life as a lesbian who builds schools and raises unicorns. #amina
June 12, 2011
@Muslimerican Pity that so many fine writers of fiction, such as Macmaster, don’t stick to what they’re good at. 😦 #freeamina #amina
June 12, 2011
This all would have come out earlier if @repweiner had just sent a tweet of his crotch to #Amina. #TomMacMaster
June 12, 2011
while others pose a question indicates bloggers from conflict zones might get scrutinised more in the future
Perhaps you should all ask yourselves: do I really exist, or am I a 40-year-old white dude studying in Scotland? #freeamina #amina
June 12, 2011
I wonder how many #Amina /#MacMaster we have in Egyptian Twitter community. (Speaking of agents & spies, @Zeinobia)
June 12, 2011
A Free Press can make good faith mistakes. Fears of a tarnished reputation existed before #Amina, like rape existed before miniskirts.
June 13, 2011
and the story continues to be spinned
"I enjoyed “puppeting” this woman who never was" Tom #MacMaster has updated the #Amina blog, now headlined "A Hoax"
June 13, 2011
A Hoax

Statement Regarding the Gay Girl in Damascus Blog Tom MacMaster Istanbul, June 13, 2011 I am the sole author of this blog and have always been so. Any and all posts on the blog are by me. Before I say anything else, I want to apologize to anyone I may have hurt or harmed in any way.
Spoke too soon. #Amina’s creator did a new post saying it WAS a social experiment and a creative writing project. #douchetank
June 13, 2011
there are consequences to be faced, though not exactly jail time yet
Breaking: Edinburgh university suspends Tom MacMaster’s computer access pending full inquiry into his use of its network for #amina hoax
June 13, 2011

the man himself speaks out – I wanted to develop writing conversation skills, I was not expecting anything, I didn’t set out to get into Guardian, everything blew out of control…I am sure Tom is hoping to get (and for sure will) a book deal out of this

Fictional blogging: just another term for literature. (Smart article via @EthanZ on #Amina, curation and ethics.)
June 13, 2011
Too bad Baudrillard is no longer with us. It would have been fascinating to here his reactions to Amina hoax.
June 13, 2011
Media should reward those who helped uncover fake #Amina w/exposure for their profesh projects, not give Tom satisfaction of becoming a star
June 13, 2011
this is getting too tangled up now..
#Amina flirted with Brooks,neither man realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian [real world meets internet]
June 13, 2011
We ultimately came to conclusion "Paula" was lying about Paula, but telling truth about #Amina. TWO SEPARATE HOAXES WHO HOAXED EACHOTHER!!
June 13, 2011
Bill Graber/Paula Brooks says, "It was a major sock-puppet hoax crash into a major sock-puppet hoax.” #amina #lezgetreal
June 13, 2011
I guess it’s in for men to pretend to be lesbian, seriously what is going?! #Amina #lezgetreal
June 13, 2011

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