So, the blog "A Gay Girl in Damascus" has turned out to be a hoax. Supposedly by a Syrian woman named Amina Abdalla, it was actually written by some American dude named Tom MacMaster.
He fooled lots of people (including me; I linked to one of "her" posts once). A lot of people cared about "Amina." About a week ago, a "cousin" on the blog reported that "Amina" had been kidnapped by security forces. The story got picked up by CNN and other media. The State Department made inquiries. A Facebook page, Free Amina Abdalla, grew to over 14,000 likes.
But it was all fake. None of it really happened. No such person. No such life. Well no, I take that back. Because some of it really happened. Real people worried about "Amina." Real people thought about her, prayed for her, tried to help her.
MacMaster says, "I do not believe that I have harmed anyone." He's wrong in two ways. PZ covered one of them: "You have undermined authentic voices. Lies never help."
And MacMaster did another kind of harm: he took things he didn't deserve. He didn't earn his readers by being honest with them, by indicating that his writing is fictional and letting readers decide how much to invest in it. He didn't earn the time, the feelings, the thoughts, the prayers, the efforts people believed they were giving to "Amina." He took them under false pretenses. He stole them. Tom MacMaster is a thief, a thief of human emotions. And that may be the most despicable kind of thief there is.
Update: Looks like MacMaster is starting to get just what it is he did.
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