Who is Amina?
June 8, 2011 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Amina Arraf, A Gay Girl In Damascus was reported missing yesterday. (Previously on the Blue). Pleas for information as to her whereabouts have been widely circulating through Twitter and Facebook. And then, the plot thickened.

Super-tweeter Andy Carvin posted this last night, which stated that he had a tip that Amina may not actually exist (and was having trouble rebutting this claim). This morning, the Wall Street Journal published an article that revealed that the existing pictures of Amina are actually of a London woman. From a link in Carvin's post, allegedly posted by Amina Arraf a few years ago:
This blog is ...
... where I will be posting samples of fiction and literature I am working on.
This blog will contain chapters and drafts.
This blog will have what may sometimes seem likely deeply personal accounts. And sometimes they will be. But there will also be fiction. *And I will not tell you which is which.* (emphasis mine)
This blog will sample what I'm writing.
This blog is not a diary.
This blog is not about politics.
This blog invites your comments.
This is not a settled question, but it's certainly ringing some bells for me.
posted by norm (287 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is why we can't have nice blogs.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:06 AM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


And let me make this clear: unlike Kaycee Nicole, there are actually some very good reasons for a real blogger in Syria to obscure her real identity. So I'm not going to say "OMG FOR SURE SHE'S FAKE" because there may well be an explanation for the oddities in her story that are appearing.
posted by norm at 9:09 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Remember when this came up before and a lot of people thought it was bogus?
posted by nzero at 9:11 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


How does one get the role or title of "super tweeter"?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:12 AM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


What are the odds that canadian 'friend' is the hoaxer?
posted by empath at 9:12 AM on June 8, 2011


How does one get the role or title of "super tweeter"?

You may memail me for an application.
posted by norm at 9:15 AM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


If she's a fake, we can always start worrying about the other 10,000 people missing in Syria.
posted by Trurl at 9:17 AM on June 8, 2011 [93 favorites]


Remember when this came up before and a lot of people thought it was bogus?

The (previously) did include some speculation about her fake-ness, as in here and here.
posted by norm at 9:20 AM on June 8, 2011


Er, there was also a post about this two days ago. Don't know if that makes this a double; but at least it's a "previously."
posted by koeselitz at 9:20 AM on June 8, 2011


How does one get the role or title of "super tweeter"?

Check the box in the corner of the "sub woofer" application.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:24 AM on June 8, 2011 [20 favorites]


How does one get the role or title of "super tweeter"?

I assume it involves externally-worn underwear and/or spandex.

The real problem here, if this is a hoax, is that it will cause people to dismiss, or provide ammunition to apologists who want to downplay future violence against outspoken gay people. So on one hand, I hope that it's a hoax because that would mean that perhaps nobody has been hurt, but on the other hand I'd be pretty depressed if it is a hoax, because it'll just make it that much harder for someone in that situation for real to be taken seriously.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't believe that any of you actually exist.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's Raining Florence Henderson: "I don't believe that any of you actually exist."

I don't. Neither does MeFi. I think you need your meds adjusted. And stop thinking of that one person during your "private time." That is sick and wrong.
posted by Samizdata at 9:28 AM on June 8, 2011


Ooh! Ooh! Do I get a prize?
posted by gurple at 9:28 AM on June 8, 2011


My vote is to change the title of "super tweeter" to "tweety". As in, "Tweety Andy"
posted by CarlRossi at 9:29 AM on June 8, 2011


Personally, I don't actually exist.

For some reason, she didn't ting my fake-o-meter, I guess because she seemed to provide a lot of fairly-easily-checked details. But if people are checking those details and not finding her, that's a red flag.
posted by craichead at 9:30 AM on June 8, 2011


And let me make this clear: unlike Kaycee Nicole, there are actually some very good reasons for a real blogger in Syria to obscure her real identity. So I'm not going to say "OMG FOR SURE SHE'S FAKE" because there may well be an explanation for the oddities in her story that are appearing.

I'm not saying she's fake. I mean, obviously someone writes the blog. The questions are a) whether that someone is who people have been led to believe, and b) whether that person is, in fact, missing in the way reported.

But how many of the people here who believe that Amina exists as the person represented on the blog and elsewhere profess in other areas of their lives to be skeptics who will not believe in the existence of something or someone unless there is falsifiable evidence of that existence? I'm not saying that the existence or non-existence of a particular blogger persona is equivalent of every other thing that is alleged to exist. But I am asking that people pause for just a moment before proclaiming that it is reasonable in this particular instance to believe everything that you read on the Internet.
posted by The World Famous at 9:32 AM on June 8, 2011


I think Amina is just like god. Yeah.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2011


It's depressing if the blogger under that name specifically does not exist because the character is just that - a fictional character bearing little resemblance to the person actually blogging. If the name does not exist because it is a pseudonym she is using to protect her identity, but otherwise she is conveying her reality, then I am not going to judge. Right now I am torn as to which way to lean.
posted by 8dot3 at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2011


FWIW, Andy Carvin himself says, "I still have many more questions than answers, but I currently believe Amina is a real person, but one who is much more expressive about herself online than offline."

(I have no opinion one way or the other)
posted by dirigibleman at 9:35 AM on June 8, 2011


This blog will have what may sometimes seem likely deeply personal accounts. And sometimes they will be. But there will also be fiction. *And I will not tell you which is which.* (emphasis mine)

And it's when your eyes get to "And I will not tell you which is which." should be when your brain says, maybe this is a blog I shouldn't be reading because they don't care about the reader at all.

If she's real, I hope she's safe.

If it's fake, she/he's an asshole.
posted by tittergrrl at 9:36 AM on June 8, 2011


Kadin you're aware that Syria is currently murdering unarmed protestors by the hundreds?
Whether or not this blogger is a hoax doesn't change that.
posted by mulligan at 9:37 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


more: The New York Times adds that a Canadian woman named Sandra Bagaria, who's identified herself as a friend of Amina's in interviews with the Times, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and the Global Winnipeg, has never actually met Araf face to face, instead communicating with her primarily through e-mail. A Canadian journalist tells Carvin that Bagaria couldn't use video Skype to communicate with Arav because it isn't available in Syria, but some of Carvin's Twitter followers claim video Skype is available in Syria. No news outlets have been able to contact Araf's family. A CNN interview with Araf in late May was conducted by e-mail, according to Carvin.
posted by Bwithh at 9:37 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I currently believe Amina is a real person, but one who is much more expressive about herself online than offline.

What does this mean? Aren't most, or at least many, of us more expressive online? I say all kinds of stuff online that would be TMI offline. That doesn't mean I made anything up.
posted by desjardins at 9:38 AM on June 8, 2011


I think Amina is just like god. Yeah.

In that the only evidence of her existence is a collection of writings by an unreliable narrator?
posted by The World Famous at 9:38 AM on June 8, 2011 [18 favorites]


How does one get the role or title of "super tweeter"?

Was your home planet destroyed by an explosion of 140 or fewer characters?
posted by emmtee at 9:40 AM on June 8, 2011 [27 favorites]


oops, I doubled up on what was already linked in the post albeit from the a different source (sorry, I saw "tweet" and my eyes rashly glazed over...)
posted by Bwithh at 9:40 AM on June 8, 2011


If the post about her father turns out to be fiction, my propensity for cynicism will increase just a little bit more.
posted by Specklet at 9:55 AM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I can see why she'd only do interviews by email, and why she wouldn't identify herself in photos, and why she'd use a fake name. But, why send foreign newspapers photos of someone else and claim it was you? And if you're her cousin, and you're posting about the kidnap because desperate for information on who took her or where she's being kept, why wouldn't you either give her real name or mention that you didn't want it revealed?

There's also this comment on Amina's blog, by someone claiming to be (although I have no reason to think they're not) a US Consular officer asking her cousin to contact the US Embassy in Damascus as Amina's an American citizen, and mentioning that '[w]e have been trying to locate records for Amina but have had no luck so far'.

So either she's real and in danger, and the only way to re-rail efforts to help her are to shatter her pseudonymity, or else she's a fake and could be doing serious damage to the cause of people who are in danger and would benefit from international campaigns to release them. Ugh, either way.
posted by Catseye at 10:00 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The super-tweeter (?) reports a dozen or so suspicious items of information suggesting that "Amina" is not real and then says, "I currently believe Amina is a real person." WHY for God's sake?
posted by Eyebeams at 10:02 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because nobody wants to believe they've been fooled? Because it would be shitty to announce that someone in dire peril was a fake, and then to find out that they were real and you'd derailed the campaign to save them?
posted by craichead at 10:03 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


ETA: but yeah, I'm thinking fake. Because her father, as she described him, does not sound like the kind of person who would forget to inform the American consulate if she really were kidnapped/ detained.
posted by craichead at 10:04 AM on June 8, 2011


I suppose I should have been a bit more clear about this in the post; Andy Carvin is a senior journalist with NPR, and is a prodigious user of Twitter. I'm certainly not the first to call him a "super-tweeter", and yes, I think it's a silly term too.
posted by norm at 10:17 AM on June 8, 2011


The super-tweeter (?) reports a dozen or so suspicious items of information suggesting that "Amina" is not real and then says, "I currently believe Amina is a real person." WHY for God's sake?

Eh. I got tangled up in an internet hoax thing a few years ago, in a much lower-stakes way, just by writing a blog post about how this one person's alleged online stalker seemed fake. A lot of people in the community picked up on that, there was heated discussion all over, and the person in question ended up emailing me with this long and unconvincing explanation about mental illness and lawyers and how the stalker was blackmailing them in real life and how I was making their whole existence miserable, etc etc. It got much bigger and much weirder than I ever thought it would, and I started making super-cautious comments just like that. And that was LiveJournal fandom, ffs. With something that matters this much, I can absolutely see why he wouldn't want to be the figurehead of a movement to call Amina a fraud without a hell of a lot of 'well, she's probably genuine, but...' caveats.
posted by Catseye at 10:23 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


craichead: "Because her father, as she described him, does not sound like the kind of person who would forget to inform the American consulate if she really were kidnapped/ detained."

Out of curiosity, do we know the US Embassy in Damascus has not been alerted to a missing citizen? (They are definitely still there, and on Twitter as well.)

I'm reserving judgement until some more facts are established. I have mixed feelings about all of the possible outcomes. If she's real and has been lifted off a Damascus street, I'm terrified for her. If the blog is fiction, 10,000 other people have been lifted from streets, homes and schools and this story made those people real to me, so I appreciate the effect of this effort. I'm having trouble tripping my moral outrage switch from the safety of my liberal democracy complete with free speech, gay people, and a fairly minimal amount of government sanctioned violence, you know?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:31 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the blog is fiction, 10,000 other people have been lifted from streets, homes and schools and this story made those people real to me, so I appreciate the effect of this effort. I'm having trouble tripping my moral outrage switch from the safety of my liberal democracy complete with free speech, gay people, and a fairly minimal amount of government sanctioned violence, you know?

This attitude seems pretty common, and it disturbs me. To me, it matters a lot whether this is a real person describing her own situation.

What if s/he's a fake, and s/he gets something wrong? Maybe disastrously wrong? What if someone ends up in a situation similar to that actual father-confrontation, and the father tries to behave similarly, and people get killed because the outcome of that blog post was totally divorced from reality?

More subtly, what if thousands of people are depending on this blog for their only understanding of the LGBT community in Syria, and it's just wrong in any number of ways? What if it misrepresents how many out Syrians there are, or what the scene is like, or any number of other details? Thousands of people's impressions of something they apparently find interesting and important are just wrong.

Finally, though, what if s/he magically gets all the details exactly right and writes something that could actually have been real, and then s/he is exposed as a fake? There's harm done, then, as people feel betrayed and embittered about the whole situation and likely shut their minds to that part of the world just a bit in reaction.
posted by gurple at 10:41 AM on June 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


Out of curiosity, do we know the US Embassy in Damascus has not been alerted to a missing citizen?
Nope. There's just that unverifiable comment that Catseye alluded to.
I'm having trouble tripping my moral outrage switch from the safety of my liberal democracy complete with free speech, gay people, and a fairly minimal amount of government sanctioned violence, you know?
I'm honestly not sure how I would feel about it if it's fake. I think it would depend to some extent on the motivations of the person who was actually writing it, and that's sort of tought to get at. Also, it would depend on what that person actually had on the line. I mean, if it's someone in Damascus who has invented a persona because he or she didn't feel safe revealing his or her real situation, I don't think that would bother me. At any rate, if the blogger is not who she/he says she/he is, I'm not sure whether the net effect will be to bring attention to the situation in Syria or to increase skepticism about people who claim to be fighting for personal or political liberation.
posted by craichead at 10:42 AM on June 8, 2011


The real problem here, if this is a hoax, is that it will cause people to dismiss, or provide ammunition to apologists who want to downplay future violence against outspoken gay people.

That really doesn't track logically, at all. I mean, did l'affaire KayceeNicole provide ammunition to apologists who wanted to downplay the existence of . . . what? Young girls with cancer?

If Amina turns out to be KayceeNicole 3.0, then you'll have the usual garment-rending that varies from "I'll never trust anyone online again!" to "Well, I don't regret my emotional involvement because at least I can feel!"

No more, no less.
posted by gsh at 10:50 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Love in a time of torture: A young man's account of sadistic torture in a Syrian secret prison, and how a girl's note helped him through his pain.
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


here is a comment by the us embassy: http://www.tweetdeck.com/twitter/acarvin/~CDc5T
posted by mulligan at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the post about her father turns out to be fiction, my propensity for cynicism will increase just a little bit more

I've never read any of Amina's blog, and I know hindsight 20/20 and all that, but boy does this ever read as fiction to me. How neatly he renders them speechless! How convenient that he knows both their histories! How nice of them to let him launch into a spontaneous monologue!

I'm not saying it's fake, and really I'm not under-estimating the power of the suggestion that it's fake to my interpretation. It could well be that. But it really feels fake to me.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:26 AM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


From Al-Jazeera:
Bagaria, who said she planned to meet Arraf in Europe later this month, told me their last contact was an e-mail on Monday morning, hours before Arraf's arrest.

"She said just yesterday that she felt the situation in Damascus was secure," Bagaria said. "But she also said she had received e-mails from me that I never wrote, telling her that I was in Damascus, and asking her to meet up... someone obviously hacked my e-mail account or somehow pretended to be me. They were trying to approach her, I think."
(Bagaria did not have copies of the e-mails.)

The friend:
Sandra Bagaria manages the online presence for the Montréal club. In her day job, she’s the Assistant to the Director and Chief Curator of The Canadian Centre for Architecture. A new technologies enthusiast and tech geekette, she worked for two years as the coordinator of special projects at Bluesponge, an internationally-recognized interactive web company in Montréal. She has also worked at Vivendi Universal and at Canal Plus. She shares, with the team, her knowledge of the web and her passion for sport, which she has previously brought to various projects, including the FINA World Championships.
I'd vote on faked by the "friend", but who cares when the real situation is so much more dire than any blog drama.
posted by benzenedream at 11:27 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, according to the link in the post, the LGBT organizations in Syria seem to care, and they're a much better judge of the situation than I am.
posted by desjardins at 11:31 AM on June 8, 2011


If the blog is fiction, 10,000 other people have been lifted from streets, homes and schools...

See, that's exactly the problem... In chasing down a fictitious lead — and now trying to verify it — attention/time/funds aren't being devoted away from the 10,000 real stories. Many of those stories are just as real as this one has seemed to be.

Maybe they'd be more so: after all, Arraf's posts are impassioned discussions of the issues facing Syria from someone who's familiar with the history and unfolding events, but they're not particularly insightful in an on-the-ground, first-person-perspective sense. (And it's fishy that the personal accounts are the ones raising immediate suspicion.)

From Andy Carvin's twitter: I truly hope #Amina is real, because the many hours I've spent on this would've otherwise been spent covering Syria, Yemen & Libya.

God bless the efforts to locate the presumably real person, which hopefully for that presumably-real-person continue despite the questions. But I don't think the ole "at least it got people talking about the situation" argument is at all valid if the kidnapping was simply an attempt to dramatically escape the mounting interest in the blogger's perspective.
posted by pokermonk at 11:40 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does it matter if she existed or not, as long as enough people on enough consensus-based websites say she existed? All this "proof" and "evidence" stuff is getting far too close to the ideas of "experts" and "authority" for this consensus based wiki age.
posted by happyroach at 12:09 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Decent summary of the whole story, updated today at 3pm est, on the WashingtonPost.
posted by 8dot3 at 12:21 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your Honor, every one of these tweets is addressed to #Amina. The Internet has delivered them. Therefore the Internet recognizes this person #Amina to be the one and only #Amina.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:25 PM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


If it is fake, and I have yet to see solid evidence either way, then who ever is doing this is taking advantage of real human tragedy to play their own little drama games. That's fucked up.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:26 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting. From the WaPo article:
Brooks suggests another possibility. An email that Arraf sent her in February reads, “On another subject, do you have any opinions regarding graduate schools for history/classics/archaeology in the UK? I'm applying for masters’ programs (at Edinburgh, St Andrews, Oxford, Cambridge, and Kings) with the intention of doing a PhD afterwards (as I can 'commute' from here for the majority of the time) and wonder if it is a good idea (I've been accepted to three and waiting to hear from Oxbridge).”

Since Arraf’s IP address is in Edinburgh in Scotland, she could have been blogging from the University of Edinburgh all along.
Most Masters programmes here in the UK are taught courses; there are research degrees, but at Masters level they're generally not the kind of thing you can do via distance learning, and usually require taught portions too. She's suggesting she can 'commute' from Syria once a week for a year? Um.
posted by Catseye at 12:37 PM on June 8, 2011


catseye, I just finished my Masters in the UK while commuting from Canada (for four/five days at a time - twice in 2010, once this year), so yes, there are definately some UK Masters that can be done while living outside the UK (incidentally, I was told it was called "reading a Masters" in the UK because it is so much more independent and less class-based than in North America)
posted by saucysault at 1:36 PM on June 8, 2011


Ah, OK - I'd never heard of that happening, but clearly it is possible.
posted by Catseye at 1:52 PM on June 8, 2011


It's probably a damning indication of my cynicism, but when I first heard this story I was particularly concerned with one aspect of the story: that her "friend" announced on Amina's blog that she had gone missing.

Personally, I would never share my log on information with anyone and these sorts of "announcements by friends" ("Carol died yesterday. Thank you for your support."; "Robert is too sick to come to the computer today") tend to be common in cases of fraudulent online identities (witness Catfish for example).

Perhaps I'm being unfairly sceptical, after all I don't live in a country like Syria.
posted by smithsmith at 2:30 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


My BS detector went off when they posted the 'update'.

From other family members who have been imprisoned there, we believe that she is likely to be released fairly soon. If they wanted to kill her, they would have done so.

But yet at the beginning of the post they say they don't know where she is or who has her... So how do they know where she is imprisoned?
posted by empatterson at 2:42 PM on June 8, 2011


Personally, I would never share my log on information with anyone...

Unless you were in constant fear of being arrested and wanted to make sure word got out if you did. Kinda like giving your neighbours a spare key to your house.
posted by alona at 2:54 PM on June 8, 2011


Unless you were in constant fear of being arrested and wanted to make sure word got out if you did.

If I were in constant fear of being arrested and wanted to make sure word got out if I did, I would also want to make damn sure the people to whom that word would be sent have at least some legitimate reason to believe I actually exist as something other than a blogger's fiction project and some information that might allow them to assist me. What good is it to get word out of my arrest if the people to whom the word gets out don't know who I am?
posted by The World Famous at 3:01 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well I hope it's fake because that means at least one person hasn't been hauled off to be raped, tortured and killed.

Is that ok with everyone?
posted by Sebmojo at 3:51 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless you were in constant fear of being arrested and wanted to make sure word got out if you did. Kinda like giving your neighbours a spare key to your house.

It's a good point, and the reason I qualified that statement by saying it's probably not a fair judgment given I don't live in a dictatorship. That said, if this person genuinely felt she was in danger (enough to share her account information with friends), it raises the question why she would post under her real name, instead of an alias, and, indeed, why she would continue to post on the blog at all.
posted by smithsmith at 4:11 PM on June 8, 2011


I kind of agree with Sebmojo that fake is better than real-getting-tortured-and-killed, but it's still a pretty asshole thing to fake that a person/character that you think is real is getting raped-tortured-killed. Especially when people start contacting embassies for someone who isn't real. That probably is not going over so well in real life.

Unfortunately, this Scotland thing is making me think this is a fake.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:30 PM on June 8, 2011


Unfortunately, this Scotland thing is making me think this is a fake.[

That's a relief. I've never quite believed in this "Syria" country in the first place.
posted by happyroach at 5:12 PM on June 8, 2011


This article from the Guardian mentions that a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page and a dating profile have been found that seem to match some of the biographical details on Amina's blog; the dating profile dates back to 2007.

Assuming the Guardian has correctly identified these profiles as belonging to the same person who writes Gay Girl in Damascus, then if Amina is a totally faked fictional persona, the person faking it has been faking it for several years. I wouldn't say it isn't possible for someone to maintain a totally fake internet persona for years across several different platforms, but I would say I don't think it's common for someone to get away with it for that long.

Also, I know a lot of bloggers and nearly everyone I know who is a serious blogger has given someone else a way to post to their blog in case of emergency or death. People who are in imminent danger are especially likely to do this. So I wouldn't hold the cousin's post as evidence against Amina being a real person. The biggest red flags, IMO, are the Scottish IP address on the emails and the fact that the public hasn't yet heard from Amina's father.
posted by BlueJae at 5:16 PM on June 8, 2011


The other big red flag is her use of images of another to represent herself.
posted by mulligan at 5:34 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


For me this entire incident has strong echoes of the whole Norma Khouri affair. If anyone is interested in watching someone lie through their teeth for 90+ minutes straight, I highly recommend the documentary on the hoax called Forbidden Lie$.
posted by smithsmith at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


How does one get the role or title of "super tweeter"?

Bitten by a radioactive fail whale.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:28 AM on June 9, 2011


It's easy to maintain a fake identity across multiple platforms if most people don't care who you are. That didn't change until very recently.

Also, commuting from Ediburgh to Oxford or Cambridge once a week for tutorials will set you back thousands of pounds per year in costs. That is one mean expensive train ticket. Maybe she's also rich.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:53 AM on June 9, 2011


WashPost did an additional update today.
posted by k5.user at 8:04 AM on June 9, 2011


Fantastic analysis of the intersection of social networking and activism amongst political upheaval here.
posted by 8dot3 at 12:27 PM on June 9, 2011


Andy Carvin's Twitter stream makes for some interesting reading. Among other things:

- the pictures from her Facebook account, dating back to 2010 (pre-blog), were all of Jelena Lecic, the London woman who's never heard of her;
- she'd also tagged some of Jelena Lecic's photos identifying Lecic's family/friends as hers ('my father', etc);
- the phone number she gave the close friend/girlfriend in Canada is the number for a pharmacy that's never heard of her;
- the 2007 dating site profile that looks like her has photos of several different women, one of them possibly a professor in Jordan;
- nobody's been able to track down any records of her and her family, in Syria or in the US;
- nobody's ever met her in person, or spoken to her on the phone.

But if she was a fake, why go to all that effort to set up an online persona several years in advance? It's bizarre.
posted by Catseye at 1:01 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the Syrian revolution was incidental to the fact that she was a woman who was looking for a lesbian relationship in a social world where this is unacceptable. I think it's very likely at this point that Amina is actually her married "cousin" who posted about the kidnapping, and used Amina as a persona so that she could develop illicit online relationships. Using a photo that isn't hers is the activity of a woman uncomfortable with her appearance, not one who only wants to hide her identity from a fascist government. I think it's also likely that this "kidnapping" has been precipitated by the impending meeting with her "lover" in Rome. It is simply convenient that the revolution in Syria has made her disappearance understandable.

It is probably very *inconvenient* that the revolution in Syria has made her fate the interest of so many very talented and motivated internet sleuths.

I'm sorry that Amina is probably not real. I am impressed with the talent of her writer, though I too thought some of her stories to be rather *too* impressive to be true tales of actual events.

Let's put the energy and concern we gave to Amina to those thousands who are suffering the fate we thought she was. Also, I thank her writer for bringing the concerns of Syria's citizens to the masses. I think I would not understand what was going on nearly so well if it weren't for what was written on her blog.
posted by RedEmma at 3:39 PM on June 9, 2011


By the way, when I say that Amina is "not real"--what I mean is that she is not who she says she is, and is not imprisoned. I do think she is a closeted Syrian woman (probably not actually in Syria at the present time), but who is intimately familiar with all the concerns and beliefs of a Syrian citizen, expressing them as Amina Arraf. The opportunity that came her way, to document and give voice to the revolution, is one she took because she could, and because she had a voice to speak it in. I am glad she did. It is unfortunate that her more personal efforts to have online relationships with women led her to create a fiction that will be exploited by the Syrian government and will obscure the aims of Syrian activists. I am sure that was never her intention.

If she had been herself from the beginning, this would not have happened. She is a cool person without the persona. It's just that she wasn't prescient enough to know that her fiction would get out of hand, and the eyes of so many would be on her. The unraveling of her persona due to her pretty-much-fictional relationship with the Canadian woman is separate from her insights as a Syrian woman, closeted and married. I think Amina is who she wishes she was. And I think she thought that the kidnapping fiction would be somehow justified morally because so many bloggers and activists are undergoing exactly that--it draws attention to real events.

It explains why we haven't heard from the "cousin"--she's undoubtedly terrified about the monster she inadvertently created.
posted by RedEmma at 4:15 PM on June 9, 2011


BBC Article

To me, this is the most damning evidence:
Ms Bagaria* said that Amina posted about 200 pictures on her Facebook page. It turns out, all are of Jelena Lecic.**
In case you don't want to read the article:
* Amina's friend from Canada, who has never met her
** A woman from London who has never been to Syria and didn't know of Amina before this
posted by desjardins at 6:20 AM on June 10, 2011


Ms. Bagaria also said that she has exchanged 500 emails with Amina, but as far as I know hasn't produced any of them. The Al Jazeera (English) article mentioned one key email which Bagaria said she "didn't have".
posted by Eyebeams at 7:05 AM on June 10, 2011


Looks like it took less than the 6 months that I thought it would.
posted by antifuse at 8:21 PM on June 11, 2011


Electronic Intifada appear to have cracked it. It's a married couple, with most of it being done by a bloke from Georgia who moved to Edinburgh. Not a girl, not gay, not Syrian, but they did once go to Damascus, apparently.
posted by Flitcraft at 4:59 AM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Electronic Intafada were correct. The blog was fiction. Tom MacMaster has "apologised".
posted by honest knave at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many other puppets he created, especially if he's also the "cousin" as well.

That being said, I'm really annoyed that Andy Carvin is retweeting these "huh huh well we all know most online chicks are really dudes" comments. Not really cool.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 3:05 PM on June 12, 2011


Washington Post chimes in with a bit more depth. And a picture!
posted by speedo at 3:58 PM on June 12, 2011


Put this in the wrong Syria thread initially, but NPR has more information about it.
posted by SNWidget at 4:44 PM on June 12, 2011


I was sure it was fake right when the posts about Quaxelrod started.
posted by pokermonk at 4:48 PM on June 12, 2011


"We are on vacation in Turkey and just really want to have a nice time and not deal with all this craziness at the moment."
posted by homunculus at 4:51 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 5:01 PM on June 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure "asshole" is a strong enough word.

Admittedly, I don't have a better one. But, still.
posted by MissySedai at 5:20 PM on June 12, 2011


I understand the impluse to write a blog like this. I think it's misguided but I get it and I can see how they would have thought they were doing something good and not doing any harm. I could cut them a lot of slack here, though I wouldn't invite them to dinner or anything.

But where I get off the indulgence train is when they write a blog entry about Amina being lifted off a street. Real people felt real anguish for her. So many, many women have been brave enough to speak about how being incercerated in Syria means being raped. I didn't need a guy name Tom to bring that reality into my brain for me. I was terrified for Amina. I know this is happening to women moment by moment in conflict areas all over the world, but I don't need to know the name of and personally identify with one of them as I think it's happening. For a lot of women, this is triggering and traumatic and frankly, was just cruel.

He's done real harm to real people here. I hope he understands that.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:34 PM on June 12, 2011 [17 favorites]


@DarlingBri He also seems to have led a woman in Canada to believe that she was in a close, romantic online relationship with the fictional Amina (e.g. http://www.globaltvedmonton.com/Video+Watch+Global+interview+with+Montreal+girlfriend+blogger+Amina+Arraf/4920248/story.html ). This would have taken considerable effort to do. So there seems to be some additional emotional abuse going on there with that specific aspect, I think.
posted by Bwithh at 5:41 PM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Did they do anything against a law? If not, would the university be within their rights to kick him out, could Scotland deport them?

I hate being taken for a ride.
posted by merelyglib at 5:45 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just beaten to the punch by Bwithh

Imagine what it was like for that woman, first of all thinking the secret police had taken her partner, and then realising her 'partner' didn't exist and was actually a straight bloke getting his jollies at her expense.

And this is what two actual gay Syrians think of it.

To Mr. MacMaster, I say shame on you!!! There are bloggers in Syria who are trying as hard as they can to report news and stories from the country. We have to deal with too many difficulties than you can imagine. What you have done has harmed many, put us all in danger, and made us worry about our LGBT activism. Add to that, that it might have caused doubts about the authenticity of our blogs, stories, and us. Your apology is not accepted, since I have myself started to investigate Amina’s arrest. I could have put myself in a grave danger inquiring about a fictitious figure. Really… Shame on you!!!

and

Because of you, Mr. MacMaster, a lot of the real activists in the LGBT community became under the spotlight of the authorities in Syria. These activists, among them myself, had to change so much in their attitude and their lives to protect themselves from the positional harm your little stunt created. You have, sir, put a lot of lives, mine and some friends included, in harm's way so you can play your little game of fictional writing.

This attention you brought forced me back to the closet on all the social media websites I use; cause my family to go into a frenzy trying to force me back into the closet and my friends to ask me for phone numbers of loved ones and family members so they can call them in case I disappeared myself. Many people who are connected to me spent nights worrying about me and many fights I had with my family were because you wanted to play your silly game of the media.

posted by Flitcraft at 5:47 PM on June 12, 2011 [25 favorites]


The University could discipline him for misuse of their computer facilities, as he used them to perpetrate the hoax. But probably someone directly involved would have to bring a complaint.
posted by Flitcraft at 5:49 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow.

I haven't actually wanted to punch someone in their stupid face over the internet (or in person) in a very long time. In fact that would be a suitable Solomon-like sentence for Tom MacMaster. Henceforth whenever he even touches a computer it should punch him right in his fat, stupid mouth.

Tom MacMaster? In the unlikely event you happen to be reading this I have some words for you:

You fucked up. You fucked up in a really bad, huge, gigantically fucking fucked up way. It's difficult to put into words exactly how badly you fucked up. Not only did you fuck up, it wasn't a simple mistake or accident. It was a contrived and prolonged deception of hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of readers. Maybe it was actually millions?

You absolutely did not accomplish more good than harm. Your sins are not absolved, and your apology isn't accepted. No, it's not just about the lies and deception. No, it's not just about the already iffy reputation of blogging-as-citizen-journalism. No, it's not just about the emotional deception. All of these would be bad enough, but it gets worse.

As pointed out by a couple of actual Syrians your actions and lies may have directly harmed real people who were concerned about a fictitious person and put themselves in very real danger trying to find her. This isn't just "bad feelings", this is direct physical harm caused by your pack of ongoing lies.

For all you know your lies caused Syrian police to actively search for someone called "Amina" to try and silence her voice. How many people would you care to speculate that may have actually been disappeared by a "security force"? How many would be acceptable for you as collateral damage? 1 person? 2? 20?

You actually hurt real people with your fiction. Emotionally at the least. It's entirely possible your fictions got people hurt or killed in Syria considering the way things have been going. You may have gotten someone detained, abused and even raped or murdered because of your lies.

No, it's not actually about the fictionalization. That's not the problem. The problem was is that you brought this fiction into the real world where it formed relationships with people who cared about Amina as though she were a real person. A real person in real peril.

The depth and ongoing nature of this deception is sociopathic and utterly lacking in empathy. No really - it's sociopathic. I don't care how good your intentions were, or how much you wanted to help human rights and equality.

You failed. You fucked up in such a massive, mindblowing way there's little you can do to "apologize" for it. Your best bet is to lay low and get the fuck off the internet for a few years. No, no fucking book deal for you, you miserable trash-eating shitfucker. Get bent, piss up a rope, light yourself on fire. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Get well and truly lost. Do not return to the internet. Do not appear on talk shows.

Disappearing entirely and not seeking further fame or fortune would be the very start of a truly contrite apology. Do you really feel sorry for your actions? Because this is what it actually means to apologize - to try to make your mistakes better. An apology isn't just a word - it's an action.

Enjoy your vacation in Turkey, asshole. Have you ever been in a Turkish prison? I hope someone plants a fat baggie of opium in your luggage when you try to return to the UK so you can experience first hand how truly dangerous your fictions are.
posted by loquacious at 7:03 PM on June 12, 2011 [32 favorites]


Good fucking lord. He actually has the gall:

This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

A married American man pretending to be a Syrian lesbian so he can speak out for the Syrian people at a time of crisis sure does count as a new form. Bravo, fuckhead. And your wife, too, if she was involved.
posted by mediareport at 7:13 PM on June 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


OMFG
posted by zarq at 7:14 PM on June 12, 2011


Reporting from a dupe thread that's probably about to vanish:

"This experience has, sadly, only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism. However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers."

I expect there are a few folks who want to deeply touch him alongside the head with some sucker rod or rebar.
posted by jquinby at 7:21 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Froelicher [MacMaster's wife] said she and her husband 'would be giving the first interview to a journalist of [their] choice in 12-24 hours.'"
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:27 PM on June 12, 2011


Despite the title of Sunday's post, MacMaster 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."

I wish I could not harm MacMaster right in the fucking face. Also...deleted thread.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:29 PM on June 12, 2011


Mr. MacMaster has in fact produced a sterling late example of a nearly classically Orientalist genre. That his "Oriental" ventriloquist's dummy is a hip lesbian blogger instead of an opium-addled petty tyrant only brings the trope up to date. He's still Lawrence of Arabia in drag.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:31 PM on June 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ok...done with saying violent stuff. That was pretty uncool, dude.

I'm going to write a fictional blog now about a white family in Scotland being abducted by the government because of strong belief of universal human rights. Hope that doesn't harm anybody.

What a jerk.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:32 PM on June 12, 2011


to repeat myself from the deleted thread:
I guess "arrested and kidnapped/disappeared in a secrecy-wrapped totalitarian nation" is easier to pull off than "died in a hospital from a dramatic illness" as far as the need for supporting evidence for 'attention-whoring-with-munchausen by internet'
posted by rmd1023 at 7:33 PM on June 12, 2011


I am Spartacus Amina!
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:36 PM on June 12, 2011


He's done real harm to real people here. I hope he understands that.


I don't think he does:

Despite the explanations offered in the blog post, the question many were asking last night was why. In response to an email from the Guardian, Froelicher said she and her husband "would be giving the first interview to a journalist of [their] choice in 12-24 hours". In a message to another journalist, she said: "We are on vacation in Turkey and just really want to have a nice time and not deal with all this craziness at the moment."
posted by hal_c_on at 7:36 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worth linking to Liz Henry's posts on this mess, for folks who may not have seen them: Chasing Amina from earlier today and her post from June 7, Painful doubts about Amina.
posted by mediareport at 7:39 PM on June 12, 2011


People suck sometimes, but this is a particularly weird way to be an ass clown.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:51 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ. Real people in Syria put themselves in danger because of this douchebag's unrestrained narcissism?

I speak for all prefparas when I say fuck this guy.
posted by prefpara at 7:53 PM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


What are the odds that Tom has a Metafilter account?
posted by drezdn at 7:55 PM on June 12, 2011


At this moment, I wouldn't be surprised if he was Tom from MySpace. I'm not putting anything past him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:57 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I said it in the deleted thread, and I'll say it again:

Snitches get stitches. Trolls get holes.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:01 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really think this should be a thread of its own, now. This story has incrementally, and substantially, changed from "popular lesbian Syrian blogger may be missing" to "popular lesbian Syrian blogger may not be missing at all" to "blogger is neither lesbian, nor Syrian, nor popular at all any more".
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:09 PM on June 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I really think this should be a thread of its own, now. This story has incrementally, and substantially, changed from "popular lesbian Syrian blogger may be missing" to "popular lesbian Syrian blogger may not be missing at all" to "blogger is neither lesbian, nor Syrian, nor popular at all any more".

It was. Then it was deleted as a double.

For the record, I wholeheartedly agree with you.
posted by Malice at 8:22 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why? It's all the same story.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:23 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we keep this thread about the story, and take the complaints about deletion to Meta?
posted by mediareport at 8:35 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


he did all this, faked her disappearance, and now wants to be left alone on vacation? what a tool.
posted by sweetkid at 8:54 PM on June 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


His wife: Britta Froelicher, Middle East Peace Education Programme Associate of the American Friends Service Committee
posted by benzenedream at 10:34 PM on June 12, 2011


he did all this, faked her disappearance, and now wants to be left alone on vacation? what a tool.

Yeah, how about no? How about I hope that Anonymous or /b/ (not my personal army) gets wind of this and they become suitably outraged and he drowns in pizza and SWAT teams he didn't order? I hope his inbox implodes and his phone doesn't stop ringing for a year. I hope his mother calls him up and tells him he's a terrible person.

How about we trade in his nice vacation for extracting an at risk Syrian family from the middle of the crisis, or donate whatever money is left to someone or some org in Syria who needs it?
posted by loquacious at 10:46 PM on June 12, 2011


Who is Amina? Tom MacMaster's anima. Deliberate pun maybe?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 10:46 PM on June 12, 2011


LPH: synchronicity, surely.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:51 PM on June 12, 2011


Amina is her name.
Her flowers cover everything.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:52 PM on June 12, 2011


(Also: Tom McMasters may or may not be a terrible human being, but he has done a really bad thing.)
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:52 PM on June 12, 2011


How about I hope that Anonymous or /b/ (not my personal army) gets wind of this and they become suitably outraged and he drowns in pizza and SWAT teams he didn't order?

Bleh. Tom McMasters' stupidity is bad enough already without legitimizing Anonymous, too.
posted by katillathehun at 10:59 PM on June 12, 2011


Oh, I agree that he should be horsewhipped for hurting everybody's feelings, and for weakening the accepted narrative about how evil the Syrian regime is.

But I still believe that River was a real person, even though I now find that my faith in the Iranian Revolution tweeters has been shaken.
posted by fredludd at 11:14 PM on June 12, 2011


Yeah, I don't know why I'm so aggressively angry and uncool about this. I just caught myself stalking online for contact information so I could give him a piece of my mind like many others are probably trying to do, not to mention all the reporters. So I stopped and took a breath.

I wasn't particularly emotionally involved in the story. I've read some posts and they were convincing and good reads, and I'm bummed he used his writing skill for this kind of deception. And the last few posts that got so much attention were terrifying and morbid. But taken as real I just filed them away into the "parts of the world that really suck" for self-preservation.

There were a few things about the writing tone that made me question if the writer was actually a woman and twigged my bullshit detectors - but I'll admit my bullshit detectors are a bit on the naive side, and I've met too many people from a spectrum of gender orientations to question it too much.

I think what I'm so upset about is this sort of... ivory tower, academically and emotionally detached... grossly patriarchal stance about this that I'm not even sure he's aware if he's actually doing. Like he's saying "I did this because I know better then, well, everyone, that these issues are so important that I need to make up a dramatization to focus attention on them..." and then held that (again) extended sociopathic lie to both the public and individuals and the press for so long, and he just waves it off like it was just an undergrad creative writing exercise that doesn't have any real connection to the world.

Hey, thanks (but no thanks) for looking out for the queers and all that Mr. married and straight white guy, but what the fuck, man? Liberal Orientalism? Really? I'm sorry, is the world disturbing your pleasant tour of the Levant, old bean?

It's possibly one of the more psychologically fucked up deceptions I've ever seen on the internet.

Anyway, chilling out.
posted by loquacious at 11:18 PM on June 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


I know what you mean. If he said "look, I'm sorry, it seemed like a good idea but then it got out of control and I didn't know how to stop", it would be easier to swallow than this defiant claim that he's actually helping and we're all to uncool to understand how.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:20 PM on June 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


Pretty sure this yahoo thinks there are no real consequences to his actions. After all, it's just ones and zeroes, right? Reality and fiction are the same on the Internet, as he showed us, so he can't have put real people in danger.
posted by pguertin at 11:22 PM on June 12, 2011


Jesus Fucking Christ. What loquacious said. It's hard to articulate how disgusted I am, so I thank him for doing it for me.
posted by brundlefly at 11:59 PM on June 12, 2011


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.

I'd be interested to know how creating a Facebook account for 'Amina' the year before the blog, setting up a dating profile for her in the US back in 2007, and starting an online relationship with someone in Canada who truly thought she was corresponding with 'Amina' all along, fits into that.
posted by Catseye at 12:31 AM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


“Look, if I was the genius who had pulled this off, I would say, ‘Yeah,’ and write a book”

YUCK!
(WaPo's reporting seems to be the best so far on this. Though I dunno why they stuck the story in the Lifestyle/Style section of the paper...)
posted by Bwithh at 12:40 AM on June 13, 2011


Guardian article
posted by lalochezia at 12:57 AM on June 13, 2011


That WaPo article is interesting. Apparently the guy had been using Amina as a sockpuppet in online discussion groups, too. He'd been playing this part for YEARS in various ways. I wonder if he ever had her comment on how he's a certified genius.
posted by hippybear at 4:20 AM on June 13, 2011


Apparently the guy had been using Amina as a sockpuppet in online discussion groups, too. He'd been playing this part for YEARS in various ways. I wonder if he ever had her comment on how he's a certified genius.

Serious creepsterville. Just reading the articles (the Times has a good summary piece) made my skin crawl.

Because of you, Mr. MacMaster, a lot of the real activists in the LGBT community became under the spotlight of the authorities in Syria. These activists, among them myself, had to change so much in their attitude and their lives to protect themselves from the positional harm your little stunt created. You have, sir, put a lot of lives, mine and some friends included, in harm's way so you can play your little game of fictional writing.

I'm less offended at the credulous Westerners having their feelings hurt and their trust broken (though I really feel for that poor woman in Canada), but that real people, doing important and risky activism, were put at risk seems to me to be something for which this asshole should face consequences. At the very least, I would hope he ends up unemployable as an academic. He's a nasty piece of work, and astoundingly clueless about why what he was doing was not ok.
posted by Forktine at 5:40 AM on June 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Pretending to be a Syrian lesbian and deceiving thousands of people online, then being a douche about it when you're found out?

That's a dick-punchin'.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:00 AM on June 13, 2011


Hmmm - sure the university can get rid of him, probably by a charge of bringing the uni into disrepute.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:02 AM on June 13, 2011


WaPo's reporting seems to be the best so far on this.

Except that the article underplays, if not ignores, the potentially very serious consequences in the lives of the real people in Syria and elsewhere who were taken in. It would have been a better piece if that wasn't saved for a brief mention at the end. Let's hope there's a follow-up.
posted by mediareport at 6:11 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It usually takes a while for university authorities to take notice of these things but I'd be surprised if he finishes his course.

Off to find some feathers to go with this tar.
posted by fullerine at 6:22 AM on June 13, 2011


The emperor is not happy with this person.
posted by clavdivs at 6:25 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Professionally, I don't think that Britta Froelicher deserves to be an associate fellow of the Centre for Syrian Studies at St. Andrews. Speaking personally as someone who's also in a Middle East Studies program, she can just fuck right off. That goes for her idiot husband, too.
posted by HopperFan at 6:32 AM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


From the Washington Post Blog an interview with MacMaster

No, I don’t think I need to seek professional help. I always knew that it was a role playing game for me. I just never expected it to get so out of hand. It will be hard to give up blogging. But I’ll be working on my dissertation now.

Words really fail. I hope Edinburgh kick him out.
posted by Flitcraft at 6:53 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The lede has the backstory. It seems to have been a combination of digging by The Electronic Intifada, Andy Calvin and Liz Henry
posted by adamvasco at 6:57 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Goes to show that conservatives do not own a monopoly on gullibility. I love how some of you are grasping at a shred of dignity with your own hyperbolic indignation. You go, Amina, you did much more good that bad.
posted by Ardiril at 7:00 AM on June 13, 2011


Ardiril: Goes to show that conservatives do not own a monopoly on gullibility.

I'm sorry, I'm utterly confused by this statement. Are you somehow saying that only liberals were interested in this blog? This is a flavour of political math with which I am not familiar, and which adds up to something that literally doesn't compute.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:06 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


From the Washington Post blog, McMaster claims his wife knew about it all along, but she claims she just found out about the blog this weekend.
If he threw her under the bus along with everything else he did, well. I have not the words.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2011


Goes to show that conservatives do not own a monopoly on gullibility. I love how some of you are grasping at a shred of dignity with your own hyperbolic indignation. You go, Amina, you did much more good that bad.

Are you lost?
posted by lydhre at 7:09 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, check his reasoning:

On why he first set up the blog:

The biggest reason was that I found that when I argued, debated and made points that I knew to be factually sound on issues relating to Middle East by myself, I got pushback. I was prevented from [saying] what I was trying to say.


He couldn't get his ideas heard as himself, so decided to pretend to be a marginalized Other so he could use the freedom the Other identity provided to get his ideas more attention. And then he actually keeps digging on the Orientalism thing:

I do think there is a certain orientalism, where we in the West tend to pay more attention to people that are like us, people we can relate to, someone marginalized is more interesting.

The cluelessness and self-delusion on display here achieves a sort of lunacy. It almost makes you feel sorry for him, until the rising disgust washes the pity away.
posted by mediareport at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


No crime has been committed that I can see, so I don't see what basis there is for the calls for Edinburgh University to discipline MacMaster. What he did was egregious, but it wasn't academic work, and calling it "fiction" is a legitimate defense from the point of view of academic freedom.

So I too am finding some of the indignation here a little hyperbolic with respect to some of the proposed remedies at least. This was a first class dick move, no question.

I mean christ it's not like he tweeted a picture of his junk to a consenting partner or something truly egregious like that.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:12 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do think there is a certain orientalism, where we in the West tend to pay more attention to people that are like us, people we can relate to, someone marginalized is more interesting.


On the other hand, I don't see how he can be earning a PhD in anything vaguely related to Middle Eastern Studies if he doesn't know what "orientalism" even means, as this clearly shows.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:16 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


No crime has been committed that I can see, so I don't see what basis there is for the calls for Edinburgh University to discipline MacMaster. What he did was egregious, but it wasn't academic work, and calling it "fiction" is a legitimate defense from the point of view of academic freedom.

He didn't present it as fiction on his blog.
posted by empath at 7:19 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


He didn't present it as fiction on his blog.


I'm not defending the ethical lapse there, but it really doesn't matter to my point that there is nothing here that should compel his university to terminate his doctoral studies, for example. It was a personal blog, not an academic work.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:23 AM on June 13, 2011


If you truly care about something, say the plight of gay folks in repressive Islamic societies, you give them a voice by enabling them to safely speak for themselves not by crafting a fake persona and saying what you think they might say.
posted by tommasz at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


Does he have to "present it" as fiction on his blog?

I don't know that there is anything per se wrong with publishing a blog as a fictional character. Why isn't that a valid medium?

The direct contact he had with people—email, Facebook, etc.—is inexcusable, and has nothing to do with fiction. That's just wrong. And okay, if he goes into detail on his blog insisting in-character, "I am real. This is not a work of fiction," well, then that's a problem. But if he had just published a blog as a fictional character without explicitly labeling it as such, I'm not sure I see a problem. And that seems to be what some people are suggesting here.
posted by red clover at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not defending the ethical lapse there, but it really doesn't matter to my point that there is nothing here that should compel his university to terminate his doctoral studies, for example. It was a personal blog, not an academic work.

As long as his university doesn't have some sort of ethical code of standards to which they hold their students. He impersonated a lesbian and started an online relationship with someone, WELL before the blog started up. That is just straight up online creepsterism. The fact that his wife seems to be ok with that is totally bizarre to me. What kind of sociopath fucks with somebody's emotions like that?
posted by antifuse at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]




What about the interview with CBS news a month ago?

posted by empath at 7:33 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


You go, Amina, you did much more good that bad.

It's good to know whose priorities include something like "I am so happy to see liberals shamed that it's potentially worth the lives of gays and lesbians in Syria."
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 AM on June 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Isn't being a white man writing in the guise of a Syrian woman (from his supposedly educated, enlightened stance) the very definition of Orientalism?
posted by RedEmma at 7:41 AM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


From that CBS interview, the blithe statements he makes about the joys of coming out under a dictatorship are...well, supply your own adjectives:

WT: What is next for you, and what message do you have for those in the close and afraid to share their sexuality in Syria?

AA: Don't be: The worst thing we face is our own fear. If we want to be free, we must first overcome our own worst enemy, which is the one within us. It is that fear that has allowed the dictators to rule; it is that fear that keeps us as Arabs, as Muslims, as women and as lesbians trapped. If we stop being afraid within ourselves, we can achieve freedom. The prison of our own minds is the darkest place. For me, it has sometimes seemed like it was harder to be out as an Arab Muslim woman in America than as a lesbian in Syria. Maybe I am lucky. But, if we can be bold in who we are, we can achieve true freedom.


I don't think it's hyperbolic at all to believe this man to be both stupid and despicable.
posted by mediareport at 7:44 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


zunguzungu has some thoughts and a link to a BBC interview with more unapologetic garbage.
posted by mediareport at 7:47 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apropos of nothing, I would just like to point out how deeply fucking ironic it is that McMasters was asking not to be bothered with this whilst enjoying his holiday in fucking Turkey. If he's so painfully concerned about human rights, freedom of speech and the rights of women, he should watch where he's spending his own money. (Turkey is pretty high on the no fly list of objectionable vacation destinations around here, and only partially because of Northern Cyprus.)
posted by DarlingBri at 7:53 AM on June 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


As long as his university doesn't have some sort of ethical code of standards to which they hold their students.

I don't think there is one major university in the world where this would be part of the "ethical code of standards." Think about the slippery slope if everyone who concealed his/her true identity in the course of conducting personal business online were guilty of violation of an "ethical code."

Yes such codes exist, and they govern academic dishonesty, workplace abuse and harassment, actual illegal conduct, and other actionable, provable violations of pre-existing standards. Can anyone point me to a law anywhere that says I have to blog only under my own identity, and cannot present fiction as fact without a disclaimer to that effect (whoops, there goes a huge range of literature)?

Again, MacMaster is a douchebag blogger. But unless someone can prove a causal relationship between his deception and someone else being harmed by something more than a dent to their pride at being had, I am on the side of academic freedom in support of people who actually do need and deserve that protection. This is how the far right goes after academics, and I decry it. I need to be consistent even when I personally find the person under attack repellent.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:54 AM on June 13, 2011


(Although "impersonating a lesbian" has a heck of a ring to it as a potential new ThoughtCrime.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:56 AM on June 13, 2011


I don't think there is one major university in the world where this would be part of the "ethical code of standards."

Most UK universities prohibit 'bringing the university into disrepute', as sgt.serenity mentioned upthread. It's a wooly and vaguely defined term, but it absolutely covers issues like this one, where a student did something shitty and is now being reported internationally as 'University of Edinburgh student Tom McMaster...'. If they discipline him, it'll probably be for that.
posted by Catseye at 8:01 AM on June 13, 2011


This is how the far right goes after academics, and I decry it

This guy isn't an academic. He's a clown.
posted by empath at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2011


He may not face disciplinary action from his university, but having this story blow up all over the media ensures that his actions and subsequent reactions to being found out will live on in (Google-cached) infamy.
posted by evoque at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


To add, I can think of circumstances that would change this to actionable conduct:

1) Impersonating an actual person without their consent, a form of identity theft
2) Falsifying your credentials as a fictional persona for gain
3) Using your fictional identity as a true sock puppet in order to inflate your own reputation or attack your critics deceptively
4) Setting in motion a chain of events you could have foreseen would lead to some form of actual harm that actually happens (eg, incitement to riot, for example).

For me the jury is still out on all of this, even #1, since someone else's image was used. If these were true, I'd see grounds for academic disciplinary action.

As it is, believe me this cat ain't got a future in academic Middle Eastern Studies, or academia. And judging from his clueless understanding of "orientalism" as a theoretical concept, I somehow doubt there's a PhD dissertation coming any time soon, or if there is, whether it will be worth a shit. That's a much more effective form of academic disciplinary action than something blunt like an expulsion from the university, which would set a bad precedent. There are plenty of instances where academics' ability to remain anonymous is important to academic freedom and rigor, and rarer instances where pseudonymity is acceptable (under conditions of political oppression, for example). Plenty of memoirists and novelists hold academic positions and could have their work challenged as misrepresentation.

Now watch MacMasters writes the whole thing up as a postmodern literary experiment in Orientalist reception theory. Stranger things have happened.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh god, the interview snippet that mediareport posted is reprehensible. "[I]t is that fear that keeps us as Arabs, as Muslims, as women and as lesbians trapped"? That's pretty easy to say if you're not an Arab or a Muslim or a woman or a lesbian and your safety isn't on the line. The "we" just kills me. What an asshole.
posted by bewilderbeast at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


But unless someone can prove a causal relationship between his deception and someone else being harmed by something more than a dent to their pride at being had

Well, the closest we have at this point is the reactions of the two Syrian LGBT activists Flitcraft linked above. It's tough to know what's really happening - has MacMaster's fable created a more concerted effort on the part of the Syrian government to identify and track LGBT citizens? Has anyone been outed, or taken further steps out of the closet, believing there's more actual support in Syria than was true? Have those persons been abandoned/harrassed/beaten/arrested? Will they be?

We really can't tell. But we can tell that a married American man in Scotland giving fake interviews to the press about the joys of being out under the Syrian dictatorship is pretty stupid and irresponsible. Will lying to the press about his work count as enough academic dishonesty for the university's lawyers to recommend disciplinary action? I understand your concern, but I'd bet it will.
posted by mediareport at 8:12 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


2) Falsifying your credentials as a fictional persona for gain

I'm having trouble finding the link but this morning I found a blog post of someone who is a literary agent who was sent some of Amina's stuff in May for a novel/memoir, which she passed on because she felt the writing was rambling and cliche. And how she feels like she dodged a bullet by passing.
posted by tittergrrl at 8:15 AM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


A 20-minute Skype interview with the Guardian, for anyone who wants to watch him. I'm a third of the way in and it's pretty painful viewing.
posted by mediareport at 8:21 AM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm having trouble finding the link

Here it is. The person was asked to forward it to an agent but didn't and the book was passed off to them as an autobiography.
posted by Flitcraft at 8:27 AM on June 13, 2011


The "liberal orientalism" bit comes up at 17:00; you can tell MacMaster thinks he has something interesting and important to say on the subject, but it's so, so confused. Esther Addley does a great job of exposing the "bitter irony" of his "perverse exoticism that seeks to speak on behalf of young gay women in the Middle East when you don't know their experience."

MacMaster can only respond, "Yeah. Exactly. Yeah, I totally...Yeah. You're saying it better than I could."

He does admit that any consequences he gets are ones he's earned, so there's at least that.
posted by mediareport at 8:35 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Someone's figured out that contrition might be a better response.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:40 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, certainly for a graduate student the protections of an argument from academic freedom are far less durable than for a faculty member, especially a tenured faculty member.

I don't know the British system for academic discipline, to be sure, although I suspect it's as vulnerable to politicization as the tenure system is, and as has been the case in the US in recent years as well. But if "bringing disrepute to the university" is a dismissal-level offense, I could see gutting the faculties of many a department at many a university, with who/what/where determined by which party had control of the mechanism (such as the way state legislatures have taken much greater interest in and control over state university tenure systems very effectively in the last decade in the US).
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:41 AM on June 13, 2011


This guy isn't an academic. He's a clown.

no empath, i can be a clown, this guy fucked with people and I am sure this will boad well with the Syrians by giving them some ha-ha room to work with.
posted by clavdivs at 8:43 AM on June 13, 2011


Ever since I was a child [...] Eventually, I would set up a number of profiles on dating sites with identities that were not my own as ways of interacting with real people in conversation but with a different personality than my own.

The pattern of his own fiction being more important than other people's real lives seems to have quite the history. Yuck.
posted by robself at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Ever since I was a child, I wanted to write fiction
is what I mean to say there)

posted by robself at 8:45 AM on June 13, 2011


According to this tweet, Edinburgh University has: "suspended Tom MacMaster's computer access pending full inquiry into his use of its network for #amina hoax"
posted by tittergrrl at 8:52 AM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is not the USA, fourcheesemac. These regulations are mostly for antisocial behaviour where students behave like overprivileged arses but the long arm of the law can't quite reach them. A Scottish student who used university computing services to hoax mountain rescue or pretend to someone's family or partner that they'd been kidnapped would get had up under these regulations. Strip away all the sexy keywords and that's what you have - an odious overprivileged little scrote abusing university facilities to callously hoax people.

On preview - hurrah for Edinburgh!
posted by Flitcraft at 8:54 AM on June 13, 2011


Good to see them taking action.
posted by Flitcraft at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoa. White Boy in a Crisis.

Many yeas ago, in the very early 1990s, I took a graduate seminar in postmodern critical theory with a very well known philosopher. This might have been 1990 or 91, and Max Headroom was the big new thing.

On our first day of class we all filed in and instead of the professor appearing, Max Headroom appeared on two big old CRT TV sets on the wall of the classroom, delivering a lecture in the professor's voice. He never appeared in class that day. He must have spent all summer setting up that gag.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2011


Its too bad he hasn't figured out that the best response would be keeping his mouth shut. He shouldn't be turning this whole thing into a platform to flog himself or impart his own views. I seriously doubt he doesn't enjoy, to some degree, all this attention.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2011


an odious overprivileged little scrote abusing university facilities to callously hoax people.

I describe some of my colleagues exactly thus.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:59 AM on June 13, 2011


the best response would be keeping his mouth shut.

No, the best response would have been to post the more honest apology at the start. He did nothing but fuel the flames with that first ridiculous bit. Now at least he can go away with one tiny bit of chastened dignity left - that he finally, fully owned up to what he'd done.
posted by mediareport at 9:05 AM on June 13, 2011


A Gay (Straight) Girl (Man) in Damascus (Edinburgh); The Politics Behind the Roleplay.
posted by adamvasco at 9:10 AM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


His defenses collapse due to the fact that he was conducting a fictitious online romance with the woman in Canada. Nothing about his blogging project required it, and nothing reduces the squick factor of yet another middle aged guy pretending to be a lesbian online. That kind of stuff was old when America Online was the big thing.

He might like to think of himself as a crusader for Middle East freedom, but he's just another cliche.
posted by Gelatin at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Maher Arar: My Rendition & Torture in Syrian Prison Highlights U.S. Reliance on Syria As An Ally
posted by homunculus at 9:54 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


From his "better" apology:

Eventually, I would set up a number of profiles on dating sites with identities that were not my own as ways of interacting with real people in conversation but with a different personality than my own.

Every middle aged dude who gets caught impersonating a lesbian online for cybersex is now going to use this excuse. So thanks for offering the world THAT little gem, too.
posted by antifuse at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2011


Maher Arar: My Rendition & Torture in Syrian Prison Highlights U.S. Reliance on Syria As An Ally

Although we may rely on Syria as an ally, the list of things you can't export to Syria without a license from the Dept. of Commerce is a mile long. It's lumped in with Cuba, Sudan, Iran and North Korea as a "terrorist-supporting" country. It's at best a complicated relationship.
posted by tommasz at 10:16 AM on June 13, 2011


I'm curious how Tom McMaster got all those Facebook photos of Jelena Lecic (another innocent victim here). He's said that he was just "browsing through something" and came across the now-famous "downcast" picture of hers (according to BBC interview, Jelena says it was taken on a birthday trip to Paris) and thought that was perfect for Amina. Besides this one, I think I also read somewhere else that the Canadian woman who thought she was Amina's girlfriend said that there were about 200(?) photos of Jelena on a social networking (Facebook?) account used by Tom that were claimed to be of Amina.

Tom McMaster does not seem to be very computer-savvy (judging by his cluelessness about IP addresses) so he doubt that he hacked Facebook or anything
posted by Bwithh at 10:24 AM on June 13, 2011


Her account probably wasn't friends-locked is all.
posted by Windigo at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2011


here's a BBC article confirming the "~200 photos" of Lecic used by McMaster on a fake Amina Facebook page when developing his phony relationship with the Canadian woman Sandra Bagaria

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/world-middle-east-13719131

that seems pretty obsessive by McMaster.

I hope Lecic reports him to the British police or sues him.
posted by Bwithh at 10:34 AM on June 13, 2011


So wait... Electronic Infitada couldn't verify the identity of the Executive Editor at Lez Get Real, who "assisted Amina in establishing her 'Gay Girl in Damascus' blog," either?
A note of caution about the source of the information on the IP addresses: Paula Brooks, Executive Editor of LGR claims to work at the Smithsonian Institution and to hold a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College and three Masters degrees from Gallaudet University, University of North Carolina, and University of Dayton.

However, Paula Brooks is the sole source of information on Paula Brooks; extensive Internet, dissertation abstract, media, and Lexis-Nexis searches reveal no evidence of the real life existence of such a person beyond the persona on LGR, Facebook and LinkedIn.

“Paula Brooks” may be an avatar for a real person who fits the same description but uses a different name in real life, or it could be a fabricated persona. The IP address information appears circumstantially to match MacMaster’s movements and interests, but, given the uncertainties about its provenance, needs to be treated with extra caution unless Paula Brooks’ identity can be confirmed.
Reading LGR's take on it (by Linda S. Carbonell, not Brooks) it sounds like they were a key step in "Amina" starting the Gay Girl in Damascus blog in the first place. And this controversy has brought up some other complications for them, including some drama (that I can't make heads or tails of) with a former contributor. However, it turns out Paula Brooks is also deaf and at a disadvantage when dealing with the press.

I just think this story is still unraveling, is all.
posted by juliplease at 11:32 AM on June 13, 2011


The biggest reason was that I found that when I argued, debated and made points that I knew to be factually sound on issues relating to Middle East by myself, I got pushback. I was prevented from [saying] what I was trying to say.

Ah, the Scott Adams Excuse®
"Some time ago, I learned the hard way that posting messages with my own identity turns any discussion into an orgy of name-calling. When I'm personally involved, people speculate that I'm being defensive, or back pedaling, or being a douche nozzle, or trying to weasel my way out of something.

... The messenger with a strong self-interest is automatically non-credible, and should be. There are some types of information that can only be communicated by an unbiased messenger. And the most unbiased messenger in the world is one that is imaginary, such as my invisible friend, PlannedChaos. "
posted by ericb at 11:58 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice to know that Amina's erotic poetry was written by a man, too:

The sun on my shoulders
My shadow across your breasts
Rising, falling with your breath
Calling my name, they beckon

My sex and your sex
We slip and we turn
Embracing and kissing
Tongues to our folds


And by nice I mean "repulsive".
posted by jokeefe at 12:06 PM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Geography off the map -- "As the lesbian blogger in Damascus story shows, geography has ceased to matter."
posted by ericb at 12:09 PM on June 13, 2011


macmaster needs to become a verb
and possibly a global 'turned out to be macmaster' internet meme
posted by memebake at 12:53 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


From a Turkish journalist who interviewed Tom McMaster in Istanbul in today: "Several years ago he wrote about 100 pages of a book in which Amina was the lead character. He wants to write a book on Amina Arraf "if he gets a book deal"." I very much hope that he does not.
posted by jokeefe at 12:53 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Goddamnit. One day I'm going to hit the point where I'm too cynical for anybody to love me AND IT'S GOING TO BE YOUR FAULT METAFILTER.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:25 PM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


U. of Edinburgh to Investigate Student Involved in ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ Blog Hoax

I made the original post about this on Metafilter and I was also one of the ones a little pissed off when doubt was expressed about this - so sorry on both counts.

I've travelled around Syria quite a bit in the Hafez Assad era, hitch-hiking some of it, bussing mostly. In and out from Turkey to get a fresh visa. I've been on numerous buses boarded by plainclothes police types, had my soap confiscated, seen more open weapons and even tanks etc, than anywhere else I've been and had several quite frightening experiences there. Yet I was also taken into peoples' homes routinely, fed, looked after, passed from hand to hand across the country like a valued and delicate parcel. I was there when Libya was bombed by Reagan, and it made no difference how people treated me as an individual. I've had some ofthe most amazing and formative experiences of my life in my brief times there; and they are all about the people.

It pisses me off no end that this guy would hurt those people in any way. He was badly misguided.

Clearly this guy knew enough to fool a lot of people for quite a while. Such a shame he used his knowledge and passion for such a futile and regrettable purpose. He could have done a lot of good for the same amount of effort.

But I reserve most of my hatred for the police state regime and I wish I didn't feel so helpless when seeing the stirrings of uprising there.
posted by Rumple at 1:36 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am profoundly entertained to find that the arguments made in the comments on that EI post to defend Paula Brooks as real hew closely to the arguments made to defend Amina as real.

My god, people never learn.

"We defend our right to be deluded, dammit!"
posted by gsh at 2:07 PM on June 13, 2011


Liz Henry adds: There are some other faked identities that have a good chance of also being MacMaster. I have strong suspicions of AmandaLynn McClure and Brittney Williams/Andrea Krazsnai, as well as Jasmine in Pakistan. MacMaster is telling another story in his confession and apology, but is leaving out the bits that don't fit -- the other identities that may not fit the "literary experiment" story.
posted by ambient2 at 2:27 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I may also be Tom McMaster. He hasn't told me yet.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


What the fuck. Please insert appropriate incredulous emoticon here.
Just one day after the author behind a popular Syrian lesbian blog admitted to being a married, American man named Tom MacMaster, the editor of the lesbian news site Lez Get Real, with the tag­line “A Gay Girl’s View on the World,” acknowledged that he is also a man.

“Paula Brooks,” editor of Lez Get Real since its founding in 2008, is actually Bill Graber, 58, a retired Ohio military man and construction worker who said he had adopted his wife’s identity online. Graber said she was unaware he had been using her name on his site.

Brooks’s identity came under suspicion after news broke that a woman called Amina Arraf on the blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus” might not really be a Syrian lesbian.
posted by jokeefe at 2:51 PM on June 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


"In the guise of Paula Brooks, Graber corresponded online with Tom MacMaster, thinking he was writing to Amina Arraf. Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
posted by jokeefe at 2:52 PM on June 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


I was going to say "you can't make this shit up", but somehow that sounds wrong in this context.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:53 PM on June 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


lols
posted by memebake at 3:00 PM on June 13, 2011


The rest of it is pretty repulsive, but I'm laughing at the idea of two creepy guys flirting with each other by mistake. It's probably the only part of the whole thing that they will regret.
posted by Forktine at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


WaPo interview with Britta Froelicher, MacMaster's wife.

Also interesting 'reaction' to the MacMasters story from 'Paula Brooks' from this WaPo piece (given before Paula's unmasking):

Paula Brooks, the District-based editor of the blog Lez Get Real and the person who first encouraged her to set up “A Damascus Gay Girl,” says that the news is “breaking my heart.”

Brooks, who is deaf, said, “I don’t have a voice in real life. Lez Get Real is my face. It says what I wish I could say if I had a real voice, and Amina seems to be taking that from me.”

An apology for hosting Amina’s posts on the Lez Get Real site read: “Were we used by this person? Yes. Did we believe her? Yes. Did we care what happened to her? Damn yes. And that’s what hurts so much.”

posted by marsha56 at 3:13 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brooks claimed to be deaf so all i'views had to be done thru her "father". Was after one such i'view that i felt she was #amina. i was wrong
posted by dabitch at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2011


I feel sorry for his wife. She's going to be crushed when she finds out she's been married to a man all these years!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:22 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel that now is an appropriate time to reveal the truth: I am not, in fact, living the inherently glamorous life of a 52 year old bisexual book nerd working in university admin. I apologize to you all. I am in fact named Ernie, and I am a twelve year old flatfish living in the big display tank by the main entrance of the Vancouver Aquarium. It's been a bitch to type with fins all this time, not to mention the difficulty with using the iPod underwater, and frankly it's a relief to finally come clean.
posted by jokeefe at 3:27 PM on June 13, 2011 [18 favorites]


My God - it's mansplaining-by-proxy!
posted by Flitcraft at 3:33 PM on June 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


I wonder how many of us posting as middle-aged white guys are actually lesbians? My guess is zero.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:34 PM on June 13, 2011


You could be lesbians trapped in a man's body - which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans.
posted by Flitcraft at 3:37 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So Tom MacMaster and Bill Graber, disguised as "Paula" and "Amina," actually carried out an online flirtation? Is this some kind of unconscious Twelfth Night reenactment?
posted by RogerB at 3:42 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fucking people.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:54 PM on June 13, 2011


This seems apropos.
posted by topynate at 4:29 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a little afraid to go to bed in case I wake up and discover that I was a middle-aged straight white guy all along.
posted by emmtee at 4:39 PM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Today we are all middle-aged, straight white guys.
posted by The World Famous at 4:45 PM on June 13, 2011


RogerB: "So Tom MacMaster and Bill Graber, disguised as "Paula" and "Amina," actually carried out an online flirtation? Is this some kind of unconscious Twelfth Night reenactment?" [ link ]

OK really, I now refuse to believe anyone is who they say they are unless they are vouched for by people I've actually met. I'm seeing a new social network in my future called "PeopleVerifiedByPeopleOtherPeopleHaveActuallyFuckingMet.com" I think we're going to have to require photos of people together in the same place to verify connections.

I'd invite all of you but I've only met 12 of you in person so I'm afraid we're going to have to start there.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:49 PM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


DarlingBri: "OK really, I now refuse to believe anyone is who they say they are unless they are vouched for by people I've actually met."

Nah, just use the /b/ method. Every mefite, once a month on a random day, must update their profile with a picture of themselves holding a piece of paper on which they have written whatever word or phrase has been nominated by the mods.

A community built on trust, or at least on variations on the phrase, "sup mefi, HAMBURGER, 14/06/2011," is a community that will last.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:02 PM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I learned a good term today: Identity tourism.
posted by jokeefe at 5:08 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the living fuck?!
posted by brundlefly at 6:08 PM on June 13, 2011


A community built on trust, or at least on variations on the phrase, "sup mefi, HAMBURGER, 14/06/2011," is a community that will last.

I got my sign all made up and ready. Now I'm all worried that my favorite mefites aren't who they seem!

/notreally
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2011


A community built on trust, or at least on variations on the phrase, "sup mefi, HAMBURGER, 14/06/2011," is a community that will last.

You asked for it, ArmyofKittens!

The things I do for Metafilter...
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just one day after the author behind a popular Syrian lesbian blog admitted to being a married, American man named Tom MacMaster, the editor of the lesbian news site Lez Get Real, with the tag­line “A Gay Girl’s View on the World,” acknowledged that he is also a man.

*headdesk*

For fuck's sake. If we let all the straight white married men keep pretending to be lesbians on Craigslist, can we have the rest of the Internet back?

Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.

Ok, that part is funny.

Does anyone find it weird that both wives claim to have no knowledge whatsoever of their husbands' extensive (to say the least) online activities? MacMasters' activist wife never, ever, EVER checked out the blog about Syria he worked on regularly? Paula Brooks never once asked her husband what he was working on? Really?
posted by mediareport at 6:36 PM on June 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


You asked for it, ArmyofKittens!

The things I do for Metafilter...


Yeah, what actually ARE you doing for MetaFilter? I got a "this site is suspected of phishing" notification from my ISP when I tried to view that link.
posted by hippybear at 6:48 PM on June 13, 2011


So, ah, the Paula Brooks thing is really just amazing. Jeeeez.
posted by odinsdream at 7:01 PM on June 13, 2011


Yeah, what actually ARE you doing for MetaFilter? I got a "this site is suspected of phishing" notification from my ISP when I tried to view that link.

Sorry hippybear-- I forget that not everyone can access Ripway. Here's a mirror of the same image on Flickr.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 7:04 PM on June 13, 2011


Proof that I am not a middle-aged middle eastern lesbian.

I am the least photogenic person
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:09 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


We got ourselves another one. "Paula Brooks", editor of LezGetReal, turns out to be a man named Bill Graber.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:34 PM on June 13, 2011


I needed an excuse to change my profile pic anyways.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:52 PM on June 13, 2011


Oh, sorry. Looks like that was already known here. Please carry on...
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:55 PM on June 13, 2011


Guys, I just found out that Albert Brooks is actually a middle aged male Jewish comedian.
posted by cortex at 9:59 PM on June 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


A much fuller apology has now been posted on the Gay Girl in Damascus blog by McMaster.
posted by Rumple at 9:59 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guys, I just found out that Albert Brooks is actually a middle aged male Jewish comedian.

Seriously? A comedian? Albert Brooks is a comedian? Man - the surprises just keep coming!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:18 PM on June 13, 2011


I didn't want to be a killjoy on the original Amina post by being all it's faaaake, and because it causes less drama if you don't post things that are unverified. Ahem.

But, it actually says good things about MeFi that so many people liked the original post, because it says this is a nice, largely drama-free (*cough* Scott Adams *cough*) forum, unlike many, many other drama-pits online.

Still, to help out a bit, this is both funny, and hugely edumacational in regards to "Non-consensual Internet Roleplaying":
A Beginner's Guide To Faking Your Death On The Internet [Youtube]
posted by Elysum at 11:07 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


suburbanbeatnik: "You asked for it, ArmyofKittens!"

Holy crap, I have those exact same glasses. or I did until I sat on them.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:12 AM on June 14, 2011


I'm not familiar with the thing at all, but it seems like an unintentional hoax that blew up too large. People are mostly just mad because they were fooled.

With the creation of the “Amina dummy,” MacMaster has managed to turn anti-revolutionary regime propaganda into truth by providing evidence that certain narratives of the revolution are fabrications of the West.

Hm. Seems like a stretch to me. I'm not sure if there are many real-world implications of this hoax.

It “was a major sock-puppet hoax crash into a major sock-puppet hoax.”

I can understand the betrayal involved when deceived, but it really all depends on context. Not to be all white-male reactionary, but we applaud the Yes Men, no? Bill Graber's may have deceived, but his heart was in the right place:

Graber said he started the site to write about gay issues after seeing the mistreatment of close friends who were a lesbian couple. He said the site was “done with the best of intentions.” As a former Air Force pilot, he also said he used the site to argue in favor of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal.

"I didn’t start this with my name because... I thought people wouldn’t take it seriously, me being a straight man," he said.


It's also possible that Bill Graber could be a straight man during the week and transgender lesbian on the weekends...

Again, I don't know the context of the original Gay Girl blog, but is it a far stretch from The Confessions of Nat Turner?

I expect to see much, much more of this sort of thing.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:39 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Back in the day, I used to get told I was a meanie when I said "The next guy who tells me he's a lesbian trapped in a man's body gets a punch in the face."

Can I haz punch now?
posted by RedEmma at 8:47 AM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


And Mr. Grimm, yes it is a stretch from The Confessions of Nat Turner. Styron never claimed to *be* Nat Turner, and the book was published as a novel, not as a direct transcription and Nat Turner's thoughts. When white writers write from a black point of view, there is valid criticism of the turns their words take when they foment stereotypes (like the criticism of Styron's book for bringing in the trope about black-men-rape-white-women).

I have been an anti-racist activist for a good long while. But I would never *dream* of writing an autobiography or blog in which I pretend to be a black woman (or man) describing my experiences and opinions. It would be a flagrant violation of the fact that my job should be to speak as myself (a white woman), and to encourage the very real voices and realities of actual people of color who have something to say. If I've got money, I should put it there. A huge criticism of white folks is the inclination to think that their opinions and experiences, or even just the world from their eyes is the gaze that matters. You know that shit about the "male gaze" in media? Well, when white straight guys presume to speak as lesbians, they are presuming that they know what lesbians go through, and that *their view* on the matter is what counts.

Now add in the flagrant personal violations of conducting relationships and flirtations under that guise, and yes, I want to punch people in the face.
posted by RedEmma at 9:00 AM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


What an absolute gall. And this:
... at least a shred of poetic justice in this whole thing: MacMaster and Brooks had corresponded online with each other under the guise of their lesbian personalities, unaware of each other’s true identities.
Yeah, sure, justice. But did they come? Is that masterful piece of fiction anywhere online? That really would be one for the lesbian blogs, no?
posted by de at 9:48 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


de: Is that masterful piece of fiction anywhere online? That really would be one for the lesbian blogs, no

Never mind the lesbian blogs; it could be turned into a seminal novel on identity tourism!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2011


So far as I can tell, neither of these guys had valid identitiy tourist visas. I think they were just after anchor puppets.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:10 AM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


... at least a shred of poetic justice in this whole thing: MacMaster and Brooks had corresponded online with each other under the guise of their lesbian personalities, unaware of each other’s true identities.

The fact that this is considered justice of any sort (as if it were a punishment to flirt online with another man?) is striking to me.

She also wonders about "straight men and lesbian fantasies? Personally, the idea that Tom [MacMaster, the real 'Gay Girl In Damascus'] and Bill were flirting with each other in their personas as lesbians is too funny."

It's funnier to me to think that Ms. Carbonell can't imagine that McMaster and Brooks might have no problem that they are both male IRL.

This story exposes some interesting gender biases.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:43 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Back in the day, I used to get told I was a meanie when I said "The next guy who tells me he's a lesbian trapped in a man's body gets a punch in the face."

I'm pretty sure I am a lesbian trapped in a man's body.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:44 AM on June 14, 2011


Back in the day, I used to get told I was a meanie when I said "The next guy who tells me he's a lesbian trapped in a man's body gets a punch in the face."

I'm pretty sure I am a lesbian trapped in a man's body.


Yep, yep. Me, too.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:50 AM on June 14, 2011


And boy is he pissed.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:55 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


The fact that this is considered justice of any sort (as if it were a punishment to flirt online with another man?) is striking to me.

The poetic justice is not in the idea of homoerotic-flirtation-as-bad-thing in a vacuum. People who want to flirt online are welcome to it, gay or straight or polyfurry.

The genders don't really come into it at all except insofar as notional gender was a fulcrum of manipulation for both "Amina" and "Paula"; it'd be just as poetic if everything else was the same but it were two women pretending to be men, or a man and a women pretending to be a woman and a man.

The poetic justice is in the mutual inversion of expectations. It's poetic that two people being deceptive and manipulative were witlessly conning each other; the symmetry is pleasing, amidst all the other sad bullshit involved.

It's like the asshole version of Gift of the Magi.
posted by cortex at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2011 [15 favorites]


> The fact that this is considered justice of any sort (as if it were a punishment to flirt online with another man?) is striking to me.

You're being much too kind in your reading of the punishment. These two men did not see one another coming!
posted by de at 11:01 AM on June 14, 2011


Metafilter: the asshole version of Gift of the Magi.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:29 AM on June 14, 2011


I'm pretty sure I am a lesbian trapped in a man's body.

Really, so when are you cutting off your dick?
posted by desjardins at 11:47 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mr.Grimm: I'm pretty sure I am a lesbian trapped in a man's body

Mental Wimp: Yep, yep. Me, too.


If you think I'm unwittingly playing into your violent lesbian abuser fantasies, then you are mistaken.

I was a phone sex operator. I demand 5 dollars a minute.
posted by RedEmma at 11:49 AM on June 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


violent lesbian abuser fantasies

You should think about throwing an extra comma in there after "lesbian." You could probably get $20 a minute. (SAIT)
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:37 PM on June 14, 2011


I've been thinking more about the idea that "if I speak in Voice X they will listen to my words and not criticize me for my point of view"... It seems to me that what they're really trying to avoid is getting criticized at all. They are banking on chivalry sometimes, and at other times seeking cheap access to a sort of in-group. If you can't defend your opinions rationally, then why not count on shielding yourself with a fake persona? If you are outside the group you are discussing, then you'd better be able to back up your opinions with real data and real knowledge. If MacMaster knew so much about Syria, then why doesn't he have the balls to defend his opinions? Amina was a shortcut that shows a profound insecurity.

Using a fake identity insulates you from any sexism or homophobia as well, because after all, insults don't really *mean* the same things if you aren't actually That Person. If I unwittingly accuse a Jew of being anti-semitic, he is insulated from the accusation because, of course he can't be *that*. I am distanced if the accusation is meaningless to me. If I am a raving lunatic commenter on Amina's blog, and I tell her she's going to hell for being a sodomite, then it means little to Amina, since she's actually not that at all. Meanwhile, all kinds of people, her friends, jump to her defense and get all het up at the lunatic. Many of them feel likewise as if they themselves are being called names.

The profundity of arrogance is really playing right into a story about White Male Privilege. I mean, these guys' invisible knapsack was for real invisible.
posted by RedEmma at 12:40 PM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I stumbled on this today and burst out laughing:

The Arabic female name Amina means truthful, trustworthy and honest.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:11 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of my best friends for many years actually was a lesbian trapped in a man's body. I mean, he had this really odd stretch of time where women were throwing themselves at him, and they were ALL lesbians. He regularly had this kind of thing said to him: "You know, I haven't been out with a man [ever, in decades, since I realized I am a lesbian (pick one)] but I really like you and would love to have a relationship with you." I can think of FOUR times this happened with him in less than a decade. It was very odd.

I think he's grown out of that period of life and relationships now, but if there was anyone who truly was a lesbian trapped in a man's body (and vouched for by actual lesbians!), he would have been it.

People who want to flirt online are welcome to it, gay or straight or polyfurry.

Polyfurry?!?!? People with one fursuit and fursona are difficult enough in my life. Now there are some who contain multiple furry personalities? *shudder*
posted by hippybear at 4:03 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


While I appreciate what you're saying, no, he wasn't "actually" anything but a man who turned on lesbians. This is not unusual. It doesn't make him magical. There are plenty of men who have loads of lesbian friends. Straight men. Straight men who sometimes even end up seducing a lesbian or two.

Though, as a bisexual I would call them erstwhile lesbians.

And yeah, everyone gets to call themselves what they want, I guess, but you know, we do have a language that has loads of pretty nifty labels, and the Fear of Being Called Undecided (i.e. being bisexual) is kind of dumb, but the prejudice does exist.


I notice, however, that though he was "vouched for" as a decent man, a woman's man, a hot dude worth crossing the fence for on a blue moon... you don't mention that those women called him a "lesbian trapped in a man's body." The reason for this, I suspect, is that the douchiest, most annoying, most icky-lipsmacking guys have drunkenly reeled up to them in the not-so-distant-past, clumsily asserting his "lesbianism" as a sort of creepy way to assert membership at the bar table where they were minding their own business, being lesbians.

You see, if you *are* a lesbian, or a bisexual woman, you've experienced this more times than you can count. And you are gravely disappointed when someone you actually like tries this line on for size. Because it's dumb. You can't be a member of the club. So sorry. There are loads of clubs I can't join that you can because I have a vagina and you have a dick. I think you can leave the ones I *can* join bloody well alone.
posted by RedEmma at 5:14 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


the douchiest, most annoying, most icky-lipsmacking guys have drunkenly reeled up to them in the not-so-distant-past, clumsily asserting his "lesbianism" as a sort of creepy way to assert membership at the bar table

Oh, shit - I just about wet myself laughing at this. It was "icky-lipsmacking" that got me. Nice turn of phrase, that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:19 PM on June 14, 2011


These two men did not see one another coming!

That's what web-cams are for.
posted by Forktine at 5:41 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good commentary here.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:20 PM on June 14, 2011


you don't mention that those women called him a "lesbian trapped in a man's body."

No, honestly, two of the women came up with that phrase to explain him separate from each other.

Sorry that you find the whole thing creepy and douchy. The reality of the situation, all the people of which I've actually met and had as close friends in my life and none of whom you've ever heard of before this moment, is that they are all pretty wonderful people, and my friend's odd appeal to lesbians isn't one where he's a straight man who is seducing lesbians. That's sort of the opposite of anything this guy has ever done.

Sorry that reality doesn't always jibe with what you want it to be, but the fact of the matter is, this guy had these women coming onto him, and as I said two of them used that phrase before anyone else in the social circle ever did.

I'm not denying that it's probably creepy more often than not, but in this particular set of circumstances, you are flat out wrong.
posted by hippybear at 7:06 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good commentary here


The least, but delicious, of Tom MacMaster's just desserts is to be overanalyzed by a horde of critical theorists and identity politics/cultural studies commentators. Though from what I've read so far, too often they seem to be to understate the complexity of the situation in favor of rehashing jeremiads that assert again their own predictable tastes. Not meaning to pick on this relatively thoughtful piece of commentary in particular, but for example, this post author leaves out that Amina was meant to be an American citizen in her fake identity too. Another thing I've noticed (elsewhere, not in this link here) is a tendency, despite widespread prior acceptance of the photos of Amina (actually of the Croatian lady in London) as believable and authentic (including amongst some Syrian activists), to say that it's "obvious" that the photos had to be fake because the woman shown was too attractive/happy (so obviously male fantasy and therefore dubious)/not wearing religious and/or traditional dress (if she was real, she'd be covered up, more modest etc.), and most of all too white and too Western-looking and not brown enough - and all these things indicating political inauthenticity. But a present day Syrian national female hero (a real one, not fake) can also look like this (wikipedia background).
posted by Bwithh at 11:10 PM on June 14, 2011


I hear he's been banned from CC Blooms and Kebab Mahal
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:19 AM on June 15, 2011


All I hear is he gave good thread. I can only imagine his foreplay has improved out of sight, and any flaccidity brought on by the horde of pundits shouldn't bring his sex life to a screaming halt. Some consolation.

Writing practice, my foot.
posted by de at 1:46 AM on June 15, 2011


Am I the only one who hunted around to see if it was even possible to have a dual Syrian/American citizenship when you're 35? For some reason, that struck me as quite odd, but that's probably because my Finnish-AMerican friends had to make a choice when they were 18 and foresake the other citizenship. I didn't think it was possible to have both.
posted by dabitch at 2:29 AM on June 15, 2011


Hippybear, he's still a man unless he identified as a woman. So he's a man who attracts women who say they're lesbian. He's not a lesbian trapped in a man, and your defense is weird given 's points.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:34 AM on June 15, 2011


No, my defense isn't of anything about the point of his self-identification. My defense is against RedEmma's complete and utter character defamation of people she has never met based on a very brief sketch of some interactions which I outlined here.

None of the people involved were creepy or scummy or icky-lipsmacking or even sitting in bars minding their own lesbian business. Her characterization was completely untrue and cruel, and THAT is what I am deflating with my defense.
posted by hippybear at 3:51 AM on June 15, 2011


No. Creepy is the guy I met who claimed to be a lesbian trapped in a man's body who just couldn't understand why lesbians would just let him watch their loving and appreciate it and he'd just be over in the corner jacking off and wouldn't bother them at all.

He's not the only guy I've met who claimed that description for himself, just the most egregiously creepy.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:54 AM on June 15, 2011


So I come back from vacation & check in on the Amina situation (after 5 days of no media) and I find that not only is it a hoax but that I do, in fact, know the hoaxer (oh, how I wish for anon comments in cases like this). Freaky, freaky.
Haven't seen him in a few years but can verify he is (or was at the time) a man who identified as male and is a real person and yup, the picture of him is real.
posted by pointystick at 5:55 AM on June 15, 2011


Turkey?
posted by de at 6:29 AM on June 15, 2011


Okay, hippybear. Your friend is an awesome, passive man who never seduced a lesbian in his life.

Let's see. A couple lesbians who didn't want to deal with the implications that they were sleeping with a MAN (oh noes! bisexuality!) decided to call him a lesbian instead.

Yeah, still dumb.

Also, by your standup defense of him, I am sure he never ever since that blessed time of his sexual re-baptism as a member of the Lesbian Nation (especially as he approaches/d middle age) used these incidents to attempt to gain instant sisterhood status when encountering members of said Nation.

Because he would never be that, you know, average.

P.S. I never said your friend was creepy. I never said he met his ladyfriends at bars. I said that most lesbians/bisexual women have encountered creeps who do this, often in bars, and that it's disappointing when Men We Like use the same phrase. Because it's tired. Because it's dumb. Because it reminds us of all those creepy douchebags. And because men who try to join our club, even nice ones, seem pushy and weird. (Never mind that the "lesbians" labeled him that for their own fucked up reasons, and y'all took off with it.) So, like, your defense is a bit over the top.

Let's imagine that I am a white kid who happens to have a bunch of black friends. A couple of those friends tell me that they never have white friends, and I'm too cool to be white, and so therefore I must be a black kid trapped in a white body. See? On the outside, it's just weird. And I'm not really sure what it says about the black kids. But if you think about it for a minute, it's also kind of insulting. Why can't I be cool and be white? Then there's when I start going around to all my other black friends, and acquaintances, even strangers, and use that little ticket with them. "I have black friends who tell me I'm a black guy trapped in a white body! See, I'm cooler than other white people! Don't you want to be my friend too?" I'm trying to gain access to something that isn't mine, because I think I've been endorsed. Invited in as a member. But no matter what I do, I'm not a member. And when I try to insist that I am, I kind of look like a pushy idiot.

On the other side of the coin, there is honorary whiteness, the kind that white folks give to black people they like. Like wise insulting. "I don't even think of you as black anymore!" But we won't get into that.

All I've been trying to say is that when people who are of a powerful class try to gain access to a club that is of a minority, they look like assholes.
posted by RedEmma at 6:38 AM on June 15, 2011


The real world of lesbians in Damascus
posted by RedEmma at 7:01 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"sup mefi, HAMBURGER, 14/06/2011,"

On the Internet, no one everyone knows you're a pony.
posted by Favorites Pony at 11:27 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's imagine that I am a white kid who happens to have a bunch of black friends...

Gender seems much more of a social construct than race.

That analogy then seems more apropos for a man with a penis claiming he didn't have a penis, opposed to a man with a penis clamiing he is a lesbian.

A couple lesbians who didn't want to deal with the implications that they were sleeping with a MAN (oh noes! bisexuality!) decided to call him a lesbian instead.

Yeah, still dumb.


Not if she were actually a lesbian, full-time or part-time.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:54 AM on June 15, 2011


Gender seems much more of a social construct than race.

!@_$#@($#?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:38 PM on June 15, 2011


Not saying I really believe much in "race" either, but it's mostly based on physical characteristics. You cannot tell a person's gender just by looking at them.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:41 PM on June 15, 2011


You can if they are naked, in most cases.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:52 PM on June 15, 2011


You can if they are naked, in most cases.

...

Really, so when are you cutting off your dick?


This sort of attitude surprises me (a little). Is it a common belief of users here that a person with a penis cannot be female? Or that a TG female is not serious about her female gender if she doesn't plan on undergoing surgery to remove her penis?

Do I get that straight?
posted by mrgrimm at 4:16 PM on June 15, 2011


Do I get that straight?

I see what you did there.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:47 PM on June 15, 2011


mrgrimm: "Is it a common belief of users here that a person with a penis cannot be female? Or that a TG female is not serious about her female gender if she doesn't plan on undergoing surgery to remove her penis?"

Pretty much, yup. Folks are very, very attached to "penis = boy, no penis = girl." Anything outside of that is hard for many people to parse.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:57 PM on June 15, 2011


Do I get that straight?

I'm pretty sure desjardins wouldn't throw "oh yeah, when are you cutting your dick off" at someone whose apparent situation was that they were genuinely wrestling with their gender identity. It's a cutesy retort to "herpa derp i'm a lesbian trapped in man's body, amirite ladies?", not a refutation of the idea of complicated gender identity or an assertion that gender reassignment surgery is the only valid endgame for someone who feels at odds with their body.

If you are in fact living that sort of struggle and you found that comment accordingly hurtful, I think you'd be totally in the right to let her know that. In the absence of any kind of context like that, it tends to read as the same old tired "geddit, I'm sexually attracted to women" line that's been trotted out a thousand times before.
posted by cortex at 6:10 PM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


thanks, cortex. you have it right.
posted by desjardins at 7:19 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Let's imagine that I am a white kid who happens to have a bunch of black friends.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:25 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm impressed with the legs this story has. It was the lead on Morning Edition the other day, The Daily Show covered it...

This guy has had his name and photo splashed across every news outlet imaginable by this point.

I wonder if he'll ever recover from his little prank.
posted by hippybear at 3:45 AM on June 16, 2011


I'm sure he will, with time. Assuming he doesn't pull a similar stunt again in the future. Forgiveness takes time, but it happens eventually. After the immediate anger fades.

If he's smart, he'll do something meaningful and heartfelt to try to make amends, without being an ass about it.

Unfortunately there's been no evidence he even understands the depth of his betrayal of those who believed him.
posted by zarq at 5:49 AM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you are in fact living that sort of struggle and you found that comment accordingly hurtful

Which I am and do. So I guess you have it right both ways. Oh well.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:48 AM on June 16, 2011


In that case I apologize, I guess. No way I could have known that from your profile or any previous comment you'd made, since you've clearly said you're male and that you're perceived as male.
posted by desjardins at 8:39 PM on June 16, 2011


I apologize as well. Not the time or place for me to be unloading my baggage. Sorry.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:14 AM on June 17, 2011


Hugs? I sure could use one this week.
posted by desjardins at 8:44 AM on June 17, 2011


The guy who was Amina has already turned up again pretending to be a gay Arab female (see the comments), and did it in a Scott Adams stepping-to-the-defense-of-himself way.
posted by norm at 1:36 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


... wow. PATHOLOGICAL SOCK PUPPETRY!
posted by rmd1023 at 2:00 PM on June 23, 2011


Hey, now! He doesn't speak for us sockpuppets, either!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:04 PM on June 23, 2011


His sockpuppetry has been picked up by the Guardian.

MacMaster claims it was a friend staying with him, and wrote

"Some people, I suppose, are angry at the uniqueness of their experience being called into question when someone can successfully impersonate that voice. Others question the 'right' of a simple non-Arab goy to speak on these issues in any form. Still others have trouble understanding the concept of fiction."

Seriously, what an asshole.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:45 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


You gotta wonder if this guy has some verifiable mental illness.
posted by desjardins at 4:26 PM on June 26, 2011


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