MacMaster’s blog, ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’, in which he posed as a 25-year-old Syrian lesbian, fooled a large section of the world’s media, not to say countless fans, activists and so on.
A lot of people are pretty angry with him. The piece I did for the Times, which only ran in the paper and not online, is attached at the bottom.
My impression of MacMaster was of a rabbit seemingly unaware that he is caught in the unforgiving headlights of the world media.
Whilst he was obviously embarrassed and apologetic about what he’d done, his candour with the media (see my article below) and his frank pride in his deception suggested he didn’t really realize how bad this has made him look. The online dating, the interviews with major news networks, the 6-month email relationship with a woman in Canada. None of it looks too good does it?
Also, whilst some people were swooning over the Amina blog when they thought she was real, a far greater number have now rushed to deride the quality of his writing.
One small observation: MacMaster has repeatedly said he posed as a lesbian because it was a literary challenge. This is obviously not true. It would be more of a literary challenge to pose as a straight woman. He just didn’t want to be chatting up men online, in my humble opinion.
In fact, it appears that men posing online as lesbians is a peculiar and hitherto overlooked online social phenomenon.
This is where I must reveal that the author of this blog is not in fact Alexander Christie-Miller, a freelance journalist based in Istanbul who I invented as a literary exercise, but me, Anna Kamenev, one of Colonel Gaddafi’s famous women bodyguards.
I’m sorry to have deceived my readers. From now on I will document the laughter and tears, hopes and fears of an out lesbian protecting the life of one the world’s most brutal dictators…
A 40-year-old American man who duped thousands of fans and a swath of the world’s media by posing as a Syrian lesbian blogger hiding in Damascus has said he hopes to find a literary agent for his work.
Thomas MacMaster, a student at Edinburgh University, admitted on Sunday that he was the true author of ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’, which purported to document the life of 25-year-old lesbian activist Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omani.
The blog had been widely touted as one of the authentic voices to emerge from the uprising against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Campaigners had even formed fan sites calling for Amina’s release after one post said she had been abducted by armed men believed to be linked to the government.
Mr MacMaster has been accused of endangering Syrian gays and lesbians, devaluing the work of real Syrian bloggers, and handing a propaganda coup to the Assad regime, which has claimed foreign provocateurs are exagerrating unrest in the country.
Speaking to The Times in Istanbul, where he is on holiday, he described his hoax as ‘an exercise that got out of hand’.
Posing as ‘Amina’, he accepted interviews with major news organizations, struck up relationships with other Syrian and gay rights activists and had a six month email relationship with a woman in Canada.
“I didn’t set out with the intention of planting fake news stories in major world papers,” he said. “Essentially I was working and doing research on the novel and suddenly things got out of control.”
He said he had been hoping to end the blog by revealing that Amina’s abductors had released and she had fled the country.
Although he felt conflicted about his actions, the media attention had given him an egotistical kick, he said. “I was walking around with my head inflated because I’d successfully punked the Guardian.”
He claimed to have invented the Amina character six or seven years ago and developed it with view to writing a novel. He used ‘Amina’ to sign up to online dating sites in what he said was research for developing believable dialogue.
“In retrospect I wouldn’t have done any of it,” he said. “But at the same time, it was a wonderful character and story and I’m probably going to package it as a novel and hopefully find a literary agent when I get back to Edinburgh… We’ll see.”
His wife Britta Froelicher said that although she had read the Amina blog she had taken little interest in it and had no idea it was her husband until he told her shortly before coming clean.
“I had read the Amina blog,” she said, “but it just didn’t excite me.”