The revelation that the Gay Girl in Damascus is actually a stubbly bloke in Edinburgh has sent shockwaves through the media. ‘How could he have done this?’, journalists are demanding of Tom MacMaster, the American self-confessed nerd based in Scotland who for six months pretended to be a dissident dyke in Syria. ‘Doesn’t he know the damage he has done to gay people in the Middle East and to the reputation of political blogging?’
These are the wrong questions. Because the most striking thing about this blogging hoax is not its potential impact over there, but what it reveals about culture, politics and journalism over here. The thing that ought to cause jaws to drop and eyebrows to rise is not Mr MacMaster’s deceitfulness - he isn’t the first mundane man to masquerade as something sexier on the world wide web - but rather the ease with which he planted himself in the cultural consciousness. It is the manipulability of the modern media, their wide-eyed openness to unchecked foreign stories that seem to confirm their prejudices, which should really be in the spotlight.Should be, but won't be, because that would presuppose an ability to hold up a mirror to oneself and acknowledge the vapidness and gullibility staring back.