The Gay Girl in Damascus blog has been exposed as a fraud and the work of a Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old American activist studying in Scotland and currently visiting Istanbul, according to news sources and the blog itself.
I took a first fleeting look at MacMaster's pseudonymous website around a week ago after Nicholas D. Kristof posted a note about it on Twitter. While I wasn't aware then the website was a fraud, there was something about it that immediately struck me as peculiar: the amount of attention devoted to a diatribe against Israel.
I realize there are ample Syrians of mixed feeling who are opposed to both the Assad regime and the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights- yet there was something about the way the article read that struck as not quite right. For a girl actively involved in the current protests, would this really be the issue foremost on her mind now?
Anyway, Tom MacMaster has achieved his moment of infamy. As to his belief that his blog would help the world know more about Syria, I can't agree. I don't know how to compare his misdeeds to those of someone like Stephen Glass, but I can say with certainty that history is not well served by such deceipt.
If there is any worthwhile result, it is only this: a word of caution against accepting information off the internet with insufficient verification. NPR and The Washington Post (and others) did a worthy job of tracking MacMaster down and exposing him, forcing him to unveil himself. Given how long he had been using the pseudonym, it is likely his fabrications would have continued if journalists had not picked up on his electronic trail.