Last week, a well-known Syrian American blogger by the name of Amina Arraf made headlines when it was reported that she was kidnapped. Amina was the author of the popular blog, A Gay Girl in Damascus, and her kidnapping in Damascus rightfully caused widespread outrage and panic not only because she was seized, but because of the reason -- her blog.
Arraf's cousin kept the world up to date on Amina, and readers waited with bated breath to find out if she was okay. Well, it turns out she is. Because Amina Arraf is completely made up. And her blog is actually run by a married man, who signed his apology saying he's now in Turkey, named Tom MacMaster. Awful or genius?
While MacMaster's "character" was made up, he vows that the facts on his blog are true and "not misleading as to the situation on the ground." And he doesn't think he hurt anybody in the process. The point of his blog was simple: He just wanted to "illuminate" the situation in the Middle East to a western audience. And what better way than with a pithy and prolific gay woman in the midst of political unrest in Syria? That's griping. That's riveting. That has winning film at Cannes written all over it (possibly starring Angelina Jolie?). It's unfortunate, but it seems that MacMaster's theory that coverage of the Middle East is often "superficial" holds true. How else do you explain the public's taking to Amina?
We like a story. We like details. We like a face -- or a voice -- to put with something. Being bombarded with faceless, nameless statistics and facts doesn't always capture audiences because, well, it's just not as interesting. So we sometimes ignore it. Having someone like Amina to root for -- and to be outraged for -- brought attention to the situation in Syria, and it probably made people who would have otherwise ignored it become aware.
It's sad that MacMaster had to use deception to garner attention for such a situation. But if he was just a guy writing about the Middle East, would he -- and Syria -- have gotten as much attention?
Do you think it was wrong for MacMaster to use deception in his blog?
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