I have shared the news on my Facebook yesterday already: Alleged gay Syrian blogger Amina is in fact a male American student whose imagination ran riot. While I wouldn't normally waste precious blog space on hoaxes like this one, I feel obliged to comment on this case as only a week ago I urged you, my readers, to sign a petition... for nothing! For that I would like to apologize.
Rest assured that before writing posts, I double-check my facts with international news organizations like CNN. And albeit I'm "just a blogger", like any professional journalist, I aim at finding two independent sources to confirm a story before I suggest anyone undertake action of whatever kind. This time around, due to the uncertain situation of the media in Syria, established journalists and bloggers alike were forced to take at face value what "Amina's cousin" wrote on "Amina's abduction". Unfortunately, people the world over fell for a notorious liar who claims to be sorry but probably really enjoys his five minutes of fame - or shall I say his five minutes of shame?
While I have some sympathy for the false estimation of his that he would bring forward the issue of homosexuals living in Syria, I have great doubt that this is the case. What I do know, though, is that the author jeopardized the reputation of people like myself: bloggers and social media activists whose right to exist pretty much consists in the credibility of their causes. If we are no longer seen as dependable by our audience, we might as well pack up our profiles and weblogs and go.
While to a fictional character like Amina Arraf that poses no problem, things look different for social media professionals who are dependent on the reliability of information shared online. And while some of us, like translator Katy Derbyshire, see certain scientific benefit that might spring from Amina's case, others like Helga warn of the increasingly dangerous situation real bloggers see themselves in in countries like Syria. Thanks to a confused member of our (democratically privileged) Western society they might no longer be taken as seriously as they need be.
As to my own involvement in this, I can only say that I'd rather sign one petition too many than one too few. I hope you agree.