These days they make bloggers with balls: Amina Arraf story
Posted on August 2nd, 2011

By Surangani Seneviratne

 Until a recent nip and tuck, Puja may not have looked like the swimsuit model from Sports Illustrated. You LOL when her friend Pedro comments on her profile photo “ƒ”¹…”those boobs are fake’ and adds so are her nails, her eye lashers and her “ƒ”¹…”friends.’   Who needs high school reunions anymore to show and tell your school friends your trophy- newly acquired spouse and that job you landed with the six figure salary regardless of the lengths you went to get it. Just post it on Facebook.

In excess of fifty million Facebook users worldwide, and many do not think twice about privacy, or how real are the “ƒ”¹…”friends’ made, personalities  and causes you rushed in to “ƒ”¹…”like.’  There is no doubt that some of us have made Facebook a major part of our lives, and cannot live without regular checks of our “ƒ”¹…”wall’ via our mobile / iPod. Yet a significant “ƒ”¹…”event’ in June 2011 passed the ever so vigilant users without much notice, and barely any postings, or a “ƒ”¹…”status’ bearing most private thoughts. Amina Arraf, the “ƒ”¹…”Gay Girl from Damascus’ that some became “ƒ”¹…”friends’ with, and when her cousin, Rania O Ismail on her  page claimed that Amina has disappeared, and presumably arrested by security forces, some posted appeals  for her release. Only to find that Amina Arraf’s 200 or so photos, some tagged and some even commented on were fakes, and are images of a London woman, Jelena Lecic. And that this Syrian lesbian had balls- real ones! It turned out that Ms Arraf is in fact Tom MacMaster, variously reported as a middle aged US citizen and currently a Middle East studies post graduate student at Edinburgh University. And Rania O Ismail could not be tracked via her digital footprints by cyber sleuths or investigative journalists (- rare breed these days)!

This story did not end here. The Gay Girl from Damascus was outed for being a man by Paula Brooks, the editor of a lesbian news site LezGetReal.com. Then a few days later, Washington Post revealed that the second lesbian- “ƒ”¹…”Ms Brooks’ was also a man, Bill Graber, a middle aged retired US Air Force pilot. What would compel a middle aged man to set up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and other blogs on social website and pose as a lesbian over a few years?  And admit to the hoax only when caught. Please do not blame the misplaced Viagra pills!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prior to the breaking story in July 2011 concerning the News of the World phone hacking scandal, Amina Arraf, “ƒ”¹…”our girl in Damascus’ occupied considerable media coverage. The UK Guardian, most revered in some circles, ran an interview with Ms Arraf in May 2011. Bill Garber on MSNBC in June 2011, referring to this Arraf interview said “ƒ”¹…”I took that as confirmation. The Guardian does not tell fantastical stories.’ The UK Guardian had conducted the interview over e-mail, and as it appears this revered establishment has become slack, given up facts checking and given into cyber reporting of various means. Cooperate media did not give up on fictitious Ms Arraf easily. Sydney Morning Herald reported on 11th June 2011 that name and face are hoaxes, yet as the internet identity of Amina Arraf dates back to 2007, the story behind has to be real.

As global media networks these days are prone to reporting in tones identical to each other, and carrying the same story even when it is not from reliable sources. It raises the question, with the phone hacking scandal in the background, why these media outlet are not in the front line of investigative reporting when it comes to exposing fake news. In some instances, the media itself, and FOX news and Channel 4 in particular, it has been claimed to have produced or reported fake news stories to support political outcomes in domestic and foreign spheres. Is mainstream media increasingly unreliable and untrustworthy?

The internet gave raise to social websites and blogs that gave people power to seek and communicate news at hand, and find stories not reported in the mainstream / cooperate media. It appears this is also under attack with fake stories. The “ƒ”¹…”Amina Arraf’ identity was claimed to have been created in 2007 and the Damascus lesbian story was given strength in the Facebook pages, Twitter and other social websites. These pages gained momentum during the “ƒ”¹…”Arab Spring’ in 2011, and was actively fabricating stories on the Syrian protest. Is the Facebook a new vehicle for creating fake news with Twitter speeding and expanding this role?

There were several reports, particularly in the mainstream media that the recent mass protest, resulting in the “ƒ”¹…”revolution’ that ousted the Mubarak regime in Egypt was run by the Facebook. The next few days may prove that the masses that protested were not all Middle class Facebook users!  

The Facebook maybe owned by the Bank of America; and internet in the hands of US military. Yet the ability to seek the real news is at hand on the web. People have to be vigilant on what they come across in the web, particularly in the Facebook. Do not be hasty to “ƒ”¹…”like’ the page that wants to save cute puppies from an Amazonian tribe of lesbians, the puppies may turn out to be middle aged men who want to be Amazonian lesbians!

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