Since Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada and Benjamin Doherty unmasked Tom MacMaster, a married 40-year-old graduate student, as the fraud who pretended to be Amina, the “Gay Girl in Damascus,” MacMaster has been denounced by gay Syrian dissidents for doing untold damage to their struggle. By deceiving journalists and human rights activists around the world, it is possible that MacMaster harmed the entire Syrian opposition, enabling the Assad regime to tar them as Western-influenced charlatans. He also carried on a false online romance with a woman in Canada, duping her into believing she was having a relationship with a Syrian lesbian. Considering MacMaster’s professions of sympathy for the Arab Spring and frustration with “liberal Orientalist” attitudes, it is hard to understand what motivated him. Why did he take his hoax so far when it seemed obvious that it could damage a cause he claimed to care about?
While MacMaster has said he was driven at least in part by vanity, I have gained additional insight into his mentality by accessing his private Facebook page. I was able to view the page because at some point in the past, MacMaster friended me. Since I don’t recall ever meeting MacMaster and therefore didn’t know who he was until two days ago, he must reached out because he liked my work.