The Gay Girl in Damascus Hoax explores the vulnerability of educated and politically engaged Westerners to Progressive Orientalism, a form of Orientalism embedded within otherwise egalitarian and anti-imperialist Western thought. Early in the Arab Spring, the Gay Girl in Damascus blog appeared. Its author claimed to be Amina Arraf, a Syrian American lesbian Muslim woman living in Damascus. After the blog’s went viral in April 2011, Western journalists electronically interviewed Amina, magnifying the blog’s claim that the Syrian uprising was an ethnically and religiously pluralist movement anchored in an expansive sense of social solidarity. However, after a post announced that the secret police had kidnapped Amina, journalists and activists belatedly realized that Amina did not exist and Thomas “Tom” MacMaster, a forty-year-old straight white American man and peace activist living and studying medieval history in Scotland was the blog’s true author. MacMaster’s hoax succeeded by melding his and his audience’s shared political and cultural beliefs into a falsified version of the Syrian Revolution that validated their views of themselves as anti-racist and anti-imperialist progressives by erasing real Syrians.
Watch our book talk with the author Andrew Orr here: https://youtu.be/MnaaxlO6Vuw