American Tom McMaster is a very naughty boy.
He has been going around the place posing as a Gay Girl from Damascus called Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari.
And he is also 40 years of age and a PhD student at Edinburgh University.
The unfortunate thing for him posing as a gay woman is that he was outed, this has lead to his university last night suspending his computer privileges over a hoax blog
McMaster said last night:
“I feel like I am in some ways the worst person in the world. I am sorry.”
Since February, Tommy has been tapping on the keyboards as a Gay Girl in Damascus, documenting his ‘other’ life as activist Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari in the Syrian capital.
At present there is unrest in Syria and the his blog quickly gained a worldwide readership.
Gay and political activists when they found out have reacted angrily after Mr MacMaster was unmasked as the hoaxer but he insists he had not intended to “dupe the world”.
(Cough, cough, cough) bullshit!
Dr Eamonn O’Neill, director of investigative journalism at Strathclyde University, said:
“If somebody puts out a blog like this claiming to be from the bowels of Damascus then the people who monitor these blogs will have been out on the street looking for them and knocking on doors. This could have real implications on the ground out there for people who are struggling with the issue. There will be members of the security services in these insecure countries who will be checking out other blogs like that with a fine-toothed comb.”
The American security agencies have been known to fund dissenters and disinformation on the blogosphere.
So, how is paying for Tom McMaster’s PhD?
In sticking up a phoney blog, he soon had a number of followers such as campaigners and gay activists in Syria and the Middle East.
They launched an online campaign to secure “her” release after one blog entry spoke of her arrest by armed men believed to have been linked to President Bashar al-Assad’s Baath party.
The hoax only came to light after a woman recognised her pictures had been used without permission online in relation to the campaign.
Mr MacMaster wrote on his blog last night:
“I want to apologise to anyone I may have hurt or harmed in any way. I never meant to hurt anyone.
“Words alone do not suffice to express how badly I feel about all this. I betrayed the trust of a great many people, the friendship that was honestly and openly offered to me, and played with the emotions of others unfairly.
“I have distracted the world’s attention from important issues of real people in real places. I have potentially compromised the safety of real people. I have helped lend credence to the lies of the regimes. I am sorry.”
He also admitted:
“I invented her. I enjoyed ‘puppeting’ this woman who never was. I knew what she looked like in my head and I grabbed photos of a woman whom I have never met who looked exactly like what Amina should look like. That was stupid and possibly evil of me and I’m really, really sorry about that.
“It just kept on growing.”
An Edinburgh University spokesman said:
“The university will investigate whether the student has breached university computing regulations.”
He said the principal had directed that the student’s computing privileges be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
The time has come in American Tom McMaster’s life when he has to stop pretending to be a gay Syria woman.
His summery dresses will have to stay in the wardrobe.
As to a suitable punishment for the boy, well it would be overly harsh to kick him out of Edinburgh University but a good healthy stint of unpaid work in the Estates Department will help him focus.
Brush, shovel and wee handcart sweeping up litter, wearing a dress optional!
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University