A Letter to Tom MacMaster (AKA A Gay Girl in Damascus)
*Info about this story below.
Dear Mr. MacMaster,
I’m not sure what to think of all this.
I haven’t been following your blog, but I did see the news stories about Amina’s abduction, Jelena Lecic’s response to your use of her picture and just this morning heard your interview with the BBC over the hoax.
Before I go further on that note, I would like to attempt to qualify myself with you by saying that we share a number of similarities. I too am an American political blogger. I am also a master’s student studying in Europe, and I too consider myself to be a humanist. So in knowing our commonalities, I was initially very intrigued by your approach to disseminating your message about Syria. However, after reading the news stories, and especially after hearing your interview on the BBC, I’m feeling a bit unnerved. As you pointed out in your interview, you do sound American, but not just in your accent. Your attitude about your actions seems to me to be quite stereotypically American as well, because you seem to me to lack either insight into or a desire to know the implications of what you have done.
For example, the danger to people like Amina is believable because it’s true. By using Ms. Lecic’s photo, you put her in similar danger. By her not knowing who she was (and may still be) to thousands of people in the world, she was living her life with the belief that there was no reason for someone to want to harm her. But now there are people who believe she is a gay Muslim woman who is publicly (and popularly) voicing her opposition to one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East. A genuine humanist would never endanger another person in that way, and especially not a woman, who, under those specific circumstances, would be more likely to be “corrective raped”, honor killed, or even murdered by a stranger.
But beyond the implications for Ms. Lecic are the implications for bloggers mentioned to you by the BBC. Blogging is not my profession (yet), but even for the little bit I do to publicize about American and foreign policies (many involving gay rights), it’s already so difficult. As you are well aware, the public is more willing to follow stories that are sensationalized, so we must unfortunately walk the fine line of “infotainment” in order to garner the kind of attention our causes deserve. Sadly, your move has made that job even harder. On top of trying to make human and environmental atrocities entertaining to read, we now have to convince our potential public that what we’re saying is true. (The story of Amina’s kidnapping was sent to me by a friend and had been added to my docket of intended blogs. Thankfully, however, because I maintain a call-to-action blog, I put off publishing anything until I had a petition or letter-writing campaign to attach to it.)
Your intentions, as I hope you’ve been told, were admirable. Unfortunately, your execution was lacking in foresight. I will admit that this e-mail has been mainly a cathartic rant on my part, but I would very much like to know more of your thoughts on this situation. I’m sure you have much more to say than your two minutes on the BBC.
Thank you for your time.
*Some of you may have heard the news today that the author of the A Gay Girl in Damascus blog who was kidnapped a week ago never actually existed. Turns out, she was the creation of an American man named Tom MacMaster, who, in response to his revelation post, did an interview this morning on the BBC to explain his actions.
Since contacting Mr. MacMaster directly isn’t possible at this time (though I’m sure many a pissed-off activist is trying), I have posted my letter to him here.