I was absolutely livid when I first read the story about the blogger who admitted his hoax about Amina Arraf.
For those of you who have been living in a locked cupboard in a deep cave on a distant planet, this is about a Syrian lesbian blogger who was in fact a 40 year old heterosexual white male from Scotland. He has since “apologised” and said that he never realised it would receive such attention, and initially felt nobody was hurt. The blog – “A Gay Girl in Damascus” on Blogger has since been taken down – or at least is available only if invited.
At this point, we have a case of someone pretending to be someone else, a man pretending to be a lesbian and writing intimate details of her life, bringing people in to this fiction. By this point, we have all kinds of wrong:
- Creating an emotional relationship with readers conning them into believing Amina actually exists
- Invading the space of lesbian bloggers through stealth
- Being a “lesbian blogger” in Syria – where homosexuality is illegal – draws attention to real people who could be arrested.
- Falsehoods like this tend to diminish the integrity of real people, real bloggers.
As bad as that is, it would have stopped there had he not created a fake abduction by fake authorities of his fake person.
This got picked up by many people who believed it to be true. There was no reason not to believe it – why on earth would anyone lie about this stuff, and there are on-line records going back 4 years. A Facebook page was created to garner support for Amina’s release. People spoke out and protested. People even protested in Syria where doing so carries a significant risk of being killed.
Taking it to this stage just escalated it into a whole unheard-of level. We now have people out risking their lives to save Amina, we have the US State Department involved, we have people openly declaring themselves as supporters (which can put them at risk), and on the Facebook page there were contributors who were clearly representatives of the Syrian authorities making threats against people.
Now, you might think that this is terrible. But it doesn’t stop there. He used a picture to represent Amina. Naturally, the picture was NOT of a white male. It was of a Croatian woman living in London.
So not only did he blog in a manner that put the blogger in danger, he used someone else’s picture without their knowledge. He not only hid behind his computer, but also put another person in the line of fire as well. And I haven’t even got to the issues of invasion around lifting someone’s photo and abusing it.
McMaster eventually came clean. Not because of any sense of remorse, not because he realised it had got out of hand, but because he was being pressured by mainstream media investigations. McMaster later “apologised“, but it was incredibly half-arsed and unconvincing. And his apology was on the blog he created, which can no longer be accessed.
To me, this is a great example of the extreme of white male privilege. McMaster claims he was just trying to draw attention to issues that, if he spoke of them as a white heterosexual male, nobody would have listened. In doing so, he puts his needs above everyone else’s – HE wants to tell these stories, and how he does it doesn’t matter to him. He doesn’t consider the potential consequences of what he is doing, and whether there is a better way of raising attention.
And the shit apology was only to the people he thinks were specifically hurt. He still seems to have no idea of how many people have been devastated by this.
This one man, who placed his own bizarre desire to “do good” above the actual good of the people he thought he was helping, risked many lives, blew apart people’s trust, and doubtlessly triggered many people who had previously been seriously betrayed.
I’m sorry – I am not really going anywhere with this. This is, I guess, just my catharsis over this issue.