June 13, 2011

People who believed in the "Gay Girl in Damascus" need to explain why they believed this person was real and not fictional.

I'm not interested in the 40-year-old man who pretended to be young, Syrian, and lesbian. I'm interested in how intelligent people allowed themselves to be taken in.
For nearly a week, the world followed the saga of Amina Arraf, the blogger who was celebrated for her passionate, often intimate writings about the Syrian government’s crackdown on Arab Spring protesters. Those writings stopped abruptly last Monday, and in a posting on her blog, “A Gay Girl in Damascus,” a cousin said Amina had been hauled away by government security agents.

News of her disappearance became an Internet and media sensation. The U.S. State Department started an investigation. But almost immediately skeptics began asking: Had anyone ever actually met Amina? On Wednesday, pictures of her on the blog were revealed to have been taken from a London woman’s Facebook page.
Almost immediately... How slow on the uptake can you be and still get credit for catching on quickly. There are many ways to embarrass yourself in new media. Anthony Weiner made it very clear to us what one way is. He embarrassed himself. In the "Gay Girl in Damascus" incident, it is not the blogger (Tom MacMaster) who embarrassed himself. It's everyone who believed in the fiction and spread it around as truth without checking.
News organizations around the world, including The Washington Post, reported on the blogger’s disappearance Tuesday.
Mainstream media got played. Idiots!

62 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

People do not like to admit they they were taken advantage of...because it is like admitting you are stupid.

That is why Doctors make the best marks for grifters, giant egos and they generally have money to steal.

pbAndj said...

Does this mean that the girl in the picture is straight?

rhhardin said...

It restricts itself to people who would be interested in a gay girl in Damascus, right off the bat.

Scott M said...

But the SOOOOO wanted to believe it. Isn't this a double-edged sword? If the MSM gets taken bigtime on a new media story like this, it would make them understandably gunshy for the next one, regardless of content.

On the other hand, if they actually did their jobs and investigated these stories thoroughly...

Dark Eden said...

Sorry all the investigative reporters are busy reading Sarah Palin's emails.

MadisonMan said...

Until this moment, I had never heard of "Gay Girl in Damascus".

This is the beauty of summer -- I'm outside in the garden, and not consumed by link-chasing.

You do see what you want to see, however.

Paddy O said...

"I'm interested in how intelligent people allowed themselves to be taken in."

Because they wanted it to be true.

Which isn't a terrible thing. I think that despite this being the age of irony and suspicion, despite being supposedly jaded by metanarratives and the entertainment industry, people really do want to trust, and tend to trust, especially if someone is offering a compelling storyline that fits their perception of a hero.

It's the same response that so many historical figures get. We agree with something they did, so we want them to be more in keeping with our own value system. So, we shape history, and even research, to mold them into even more compelling figures.

And, personally, I don't think getting duped like this is a sign they were stupid. I think there's something inherently good about trust and faith and hope, and worry much more about people who are entirely jaded than about people who might get duped every so often.

At the same time, this isn't something that everyone feels, and a lot of people feel stupid and probably want to do all sorts of legal responses or other things against this blogger. Unless he bilked people of money or something, using money that was meant for the poor and suffering to help himself and his friends.

Which makes me think that maybe a lot of the anger is displaced anger against the President.

Maguro said...

Damn. Next thing, you'll be telling us that those great stories in Penthouse Letters weren't really true.

traditionalguy said...

I heard this "does not compute" moment on NPR Saturday morning. They sure were wishing that it was true. The best advice I learned as a young lawyer was that a story that does not sound true never is true. Carry on Dream Believers.

Chip S. said...

I love these ironic posts.

David said...

Their inability to do simple things gives you a pretty good idea of why MSM is incapable of serious reporting on anything complicated, like, say, the fiscal crisis of the United States Government.

Scott M said...

I think that despite this being the age of irony and suspicion, despite being supposedly jaded by metanarratives and the entertainment industry, people really do want to trust, and tend to trust, especially if someone is offering a compelling storyline that fits their perception of a hero.

That sentence is almost like a Mobius strip depending on the the truster and the "hero". Take the Pat Tillman case, for instance. Those that dearly wanted the gay girl in the Arab world to be their hero this week might very well have been jaded and cynical about the Pat Tillman story.

Fred4Pres said...

What a surprise, the faker is wearing a Che shirt.

Basil said...

Ms. Althouse,

I am so tempted to take several quotes from this post and play them back in reference to how people got suckered into voting for Obama first time around, when it was immediately obvious he wasn't who he was claiming to be in his run for President.

gerry said...

A Syrian lesbian, caught up in the Mideast cultural upheaval, an upheaval that might make her a heroine, either because she would become a victim of Baathist bigots or a shining example of the new liberties the cultural upheaval is bringing to the Mideast..egad, the Pullitzer possibilities are intoxicating!

DADvocate said...

The Internet if built for this kind of hoax. For liberals someone being gay is a tremendous event. Thus, we have fertile ground for this hoax.

Scott M said...

egad, the Pullitzer possibilities are intoxicating!

It's got to be especially challenging to be a lesbian in an Arab country when you have a Scottish surname.

rcocean said...

Tell the MSM what they want to hear, something that supports their world view and their "Heroes' or their 'Narrative' & they can be suckered every-time.

Isn't that what Glass did?

PatCA said...

Too good to check, as they say.

Remember when the NYT was busted for accepting, without question, the stories from stringers in Iraq, where each story for months used the same name to quote various (fictional) people who were anti-war?

But this fellow is a human rights activist, so it's okay.

Pogo said...

The writer has his lefty bona fides down:
"MacMaster apologized on the blog. “While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground,” he wrote. “I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

Fake but accurate.
Again.

Jim Bullock said...

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Internet,_nobody_knows_you%27re_a_dog

DADvocate said...

It's like finding a "mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Scott M said...

It's like finding a "mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Accurate but fake?

Chip S. said...

Give the guy a break. He may have just been trying to express his true sexual identity: a lesbian trapped in a man's body.

edutcher said...

The same people who bought this con are the same ones who think Sarah Palin is stupid and Michelle Bachmann is crazy.

AJ Lynch said...

I guess they don't teach skepticism nor cynicism in journalism school.

Pogo said...

"I'm not interested in the 40-year-old man who pretended to be young, Syrian, and lesbian. I'm interested in how intelligent people allowed themselves to be taken in."

It's part of being a true believer in the socialist religion.

They believe all sorts of shit, like homeopathic economics, where you dilute the dollar until it's worth almost nothing, and magically that cures an overspent populace and government.

They believe in global warming, perpetually innocent victim-heroes, New Age, "it's only sex" scandals, endless raises for government workers, and free ponies.

They are credulous adolescents, and whining fools, but I repeat myself.

Moose said...

Any wonder sully got taken in so fast - nah. Fits his profile...

DADvocate said...

...his true sexual identity: a lesbian trapped in a man's body.

You laugh but a guy I know had a sex change operation so he could be a 6' 4" ex-hockey player lesbian.

Jason said...

Eh, when I was blogging from Iraq, I had people doubt whether I was real. Apparently soldiers aren't supposed to be good writers. There are Internet bulletin board conversations featuring libtards doubting my existence and saying my web site "looks fake." (WTF?)

When I was writing things liberals liked hearing, and was a voice on the ground critical of the war effort, I had a lot of prominent journos writing or calling me for perspective. When the content took a more conservative turn, they lost all interest whatsoever, even though readership increased, and I even got quoted by Rush Limbaugh (via Jack Kelly).

I am utterly confident that if I were a libtard I would have had a book deal and been on The TOday Show and Good Morning America plugging my book.

Conservatives have to be three times smarter than any liberal to make a media splash. Conversely, you can be a liberal and be totally fucking stupid and the press will fawn over you and you'll get a book deal. If you are conservative, you have to make it happen yourself. The media will not cover you.

nevadabob said...

"Sorry all the investigative reporters are busy reading Sarah Palin's emails."

This.

The mainstream media is not profitable enough an enterprise to actually check -- you know -- facts.

They waste what little resources they have on frivolous pursuits of hatred in the employ of the Democrat Party.

Look ... if the New York Times couldn't figure out that Jason Blair wasn't really a reporter for the New York Times, how the fuck are they going to identify some lesbo blogger in Damascus, Syria?

sonicfrog said...

Jason... I don't believe you exist!!! :-)

Oh... Wait! I'm not a liberal. I think you are real.

PS. Have you written a post documenting the difference in responses from liberals vs conservative. It would be interesting to read the examples.

dpoyesac said...

"The same people who bought this con are the same ones who think Sarah Palin is stupid and Michelle Bachmann is crazy."

And the ones who think that Sarah Palin is smart and Michelle Bachman is sane are the same ones who think that there are no lesbians in Syria? Or do they just think that Syria -- for all the violence and authoritarian oppression -- is a haven for teh gays?

Hate to break it to ya, but the "Gay Girl in Damascus" story is inherently plausible and that's why the MSM fell for it.

If there's anything that's 'too good to be true' it's the fact that the story came with a photogenic protagonist, convenient antagonists and built-in web links. And doesn't that describe the entire front page of Drudge, Breibart's sites, and Foxnation.com too?

There's something about stones and glass houses that's relevant here, but I can't quite remember how it goes...

Scott M said...

What's the last "too good to be true" from something like a typical conservative archtype that you can remember, dpoy?

wdnelson93 said...

"I'm interested in how intelligent people allowed themselves to be taken in."

Back to the Coulter theme - Demonic. The Devil is real and is a deceiver. Highly intelligent people get suckered in. There is a very real spiritual battle going on around us.

Also, certain words and phrases are defining when used by libs. "Narrative voice" is one of them. Right up there with "speaking truth to power". What does this even mean? Rhetorical question - I don't really want to go there - but it never fails to cause eye rolling whenever I hear it used in seriousness.

G Joubert said...

Hate to break it to ya, but the "Gay Girl in Damascus" story is inherently plausible and that's why the MSM fell for it.

You're falling for it too: the superimposition of western culture, including specifically PC notions about gayness, on Arabs. Are there gay girls in Syria? I'd certainly imagine so. But the concept of gayness carries with it a strong cultural component, and will vary from time to time and place to place. Gay girls in Syria know how to survive in their time and place, and this was not and example of the way they'd do that. Was pretty obvious to a disinterested observer.

Chip S. said...

What's the last "too good to be true" from something like a typical conservative archtype that you can remember...?

If you mean "too good to check," then the answer is "Boehner in shorts, Obama in long pants, at the golf summit."

AllenS said...

I'm interested in how intelligent people allowed themselves to be taken in.

We oftentimes wonder the same thing about you. For example:

"Barack Obama"

"Homo Titus in The Althouse World"

Phil 3:14 said...

My first thought:

Because we love our narrative and we need it to be reinforced!

Then I thought:

because white evangelical missionary in Damascus just didn't get the same traffic

And hopefully it wasn't because:

we were all waiting for the pictures!

Hoosier Daddy said...

Fake but accurate.

raf said...

I'm interested in how intelligent people allowed themselves to be taken in.


Pretty much everyone has already said it, but the way to fool anyone is to tell them somethng they really want to believe. This is how politics, among other con games, works.

wv: drons. How the drones do drone on.

Der Hahn said...

Did they believe in her or did they think she was hawt?

Freeman Hunt said...

It's Ramona Dixon all over again on a much larger scale.

Titus said...

The guy was some Amish dude before he became all dykey.

Never trust the Amish.

c71ff said...

Confirmation bias.

People need to raise their standards for how they decide what is true.

nevadabob said...

Does anyone think a blog called "Heterosexual Man in Syria" would be hyped by the New York Times?

The problem with the news media is that too many gay people work there relative to their presence in society as a whole.

If any non-gay employees had raised ANY questions about this allegedly gay blogger in Syria they would have immediately been branded a homophobe and robbed of their career.

This is what gay people do. If you question ANYTHING about the gay lifestyle, you're HOUNDED out of your job.

So, better to just let them make fools of themselves.

Again.

Same reason Jason Blair got away with so much at the New York Times. Because if you question the methods employed by black newspaper reporters, you immediately place a fucking needless bulls-eye on your career.

Better to just let them completely ruin the reputation of the New York Times than to possibly stick your neck out and become a target.

People are scratching their heads trying to figure out how this could happen PRECISELY because they all know the reason it happened.

But they can't talk about that.

It's verbotin.

Clyde said...

@ Chip S.

"Give the guy a break. He may have just been trying to express his true sexual identity: a lesbian trapped in a man's body."

Think of it as a really, really big clitoris...

Clyde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tina Trent said...

Ah, the titillating rewards of pretending to be an oppressed person, or having a special relationship with the oppressed -- James Frey teaching his (imaginary) jail buddies to read and fight the prison guards who were (not really) oppressing them (because Frey invented the entire episode). Ditto Greg Mortensen, Rigoberta Menchu, Janet Cooke.

This type of story isn't just confabulation: it's an agenda. And it's an agenda the requires falsely accusing someone or some group of people of being oppressors, so it's hardly a harmless activity.

Michael Farris said...

G Joubert, whole comment:ITA, wins the thread so far.

John said...

Jason,

re book deals, disintermediate the bastards.

I just published a book in Kindle format. It is a collection of articles and columns I wrote over the years on packaging machinery.

The book is Machinery Matters by John Henry for anyone interested.

If you can use MS word, you can publish on Kindle.

Cost? $0. Copies sold in 1 week? 12. Profit? $5/copy.

I am also publishing the same book on paper using Amazon's Create Space www.createspace.com

The formatting requirements are a bit trickier but not terribly difficult.

Cost is pretty close to zero unless you want to purchase editing or formatting assistance.

Write your book and get it out there. The Libtards don't want to publish you because of your viewpoint? Screw 'em. You don't need them anymore.

John Henry

John said...

And Jason?

Thanks for your service.

I for one appreciate it.

When you do publish, let us know here, OK? I'll buy a copy.

John Henry

nevadabob said...

Here's what happens when you cross gay people.

They'll destroy your career. You will apologize and they will send you to rehabilitation camp.

Gay people are vicious and hateful. Why would anyone say anything even mildly critical of a "Lesbian in Damascus" who isn't even real?

What could possibly be in it for them? Except being sent to the rehab camps.

ken in sc said...

Fred, I also noticed the Che shirt, but Che is wearing a Bart Simpson shirt on that shirt. So I think that makes it alright--in a meta sort of way, right?

LarsPorsena said...

"People who believed in the "Gay Girl in Damascus" need to explain why they believed this person was real and not fictional."

Because being gay and a woman puts you in two special victims categories.
The means you would be twice as virtuous, honorable , and heroic. Who else could confront the jackbooted thugs of the Assad regime with their bare hands. Straight males?

caplight said...

Layers of fact checkers. So it must be true.

Jason said...

John Henry,

Thank you very much, and I appreciate the support. Fortunately for me, if I wrote a war memoir, it would mostly read like the screenplay for the movie "Groundhog Day!"

LarsPorsena said...

'Blogger Jason said...

John Henry,

Thank you very much, and I appreciate the support. Fortunately for me, if I wrote a war memoir, it would mostly read like the screenplay for the movie "Groundhog Day!"'

If you had only served with 'The New Republic's' Fightin' Scottie Beauchamp think of the tales you could tell.

The Crack Emcee said...

Gay Girl in Damascus. Female Rapper. Black President.

I was having a talk with a journalist friend of mine about what's wrong with newspapers today - he's convinced it's the internet, but I didn't stop reading newspapers (which I like to spread open on the table) because of the internet, but because of the framing they throw around stories. Look at the three titles/stories above. None of them say if there's anything good or bad or worthwhile about them. They all focus on a quality that's meaningless, but imply it's what is most important about them.

Groundbreaking Girl in Damascus. Fabulous Rapper. Brave President.

Now the situation changes. I have to at least glance at these titles/stories to see if I'm missing anything. Why is the Girl in Damascus Groundbreaking? What makes the Rapper Fabulous? (If I discover it's just because they're gay and/or female I'll move on to the next story,...) Western culture itself is in trouble because those in power are looking at/for the wrong things.

One of the biggest frauds playing itself out right now - in the absence of critical thinking - is that anyone is truly thinking at all.

Phil 3:14 said...

Why isn't this blog just as compelling?

(background here)

I guess lesbians in the muslim/arab world is just more compelling. I mean its not like Christians are persecuted or anything.

kent said...

I'm interested in how intelligent people allowed themselves to be taken in.

"Hope! CHANGE!!!"

jamboree said...

I think it's nostalgia - a kind of liberal-righteous victim l porn if you will. Gay people really don't have a very hard time in the US at this point. The battle is over and yet ppl like this kind of narrative for past battles.

Look at calbe - if you want something with any kind of quality theme, it's going to be some WW2/Holocaust flick. One didn't quite ring true - I wasn't quite buying it. Maybe that's because it was written by an Irish citizen born in 1970.

Same kind of thing going on with the 60s/70s/80s themes. The current media class tried so hard to turn Palin into some kind of second coming of Anita Bryant or Phyllis Schlafly, and though she grew up smoking pot and listening to Van Halen, ppl bought it just like they bought the gay Syrian girl thang because they NEED their easy hit of identity heroism in the face of archaic belief systems. If they can't get it here, they'll go global.