Weekly Wide Web

The Internet Is Full of Liars

A week ago, a note was posted on a popular blog, A Gay Girl in Damascus, announcing that the site's author, an anti-Syrian-government activist (and American citizen) named Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, had been kidnapped by armed men who sped away in a car.

Posts of support and concern immediately flew around online, as bloggers across the world responded to her kidnapping by calling for the U.S. government to intervene.

The only problem: Although she wrote eloquently about the struggle for democracy and human rights in Syria, Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari didn't actually exist. There was no kidnapping.

It turns out the woman who was an icon of the bubbling revolution in Syria, and who was championed by the Guardian as an "unlikely hero of revolt in a conservative country," was actually Tom MacMaster, a heterosexual, married American man studying at the University of Edinburgh. The photos supposedly of Amina were lifted from a London woman's Facebook page, and while MacMaster had visited Syria before, he definitely wasn't living there.

This wasn't the first time that someone created a blog using a fake character, and it won't be the last time ... but why? MacMaster said he enjoyed the attention and was glad that people were talking about Syria, but in an age when first-person reporting from that area has often been revelatory in a way that traditional reporting can't be, will this change whether we trust any of it? By pretending to be a voice for the struggle, MacMaster might have sadly extinguished or invalidated news provided by real Middle Easterners in the process.

The Week on The Range

We shared the first pics of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords that have been released since she was shot on Jan. 8; brought you snapshots and updates from the wildfires burning across Arizona; continued to follow the legal challenges to various mayoral candidates; weighed the likelihood of a Sarah Palin presidential campaign; and expressed our disgust with Republican lawmakers who refused to extend unemployment benefits for out-of-work Arizonans.

We let you know that the classic crock-pot at the Buffet Bar had been retired in favor of a new doodad; told you to visit some new farmers' markets; and urged you to vote for Tucson as the Best Outside Town in America.

We followed the Tucson Padres' latest home stand; urged you to check out Essential Cinema and Hobo With a Shotgun at the Loft; shared pics of dogs battling sprinklers; kept up on the latest cycling news; brought you an extraordinary shot of the Endeavour space shuttle docked at the International Space Station; told you to see the Globes at Club Congress; wished Prince a happy birthday; and showed the video of Cardboard Shell's unsuccessful attempt at the Boca challenge.

Comment of the Week

"And when did a degree have ANYTHING to do with intelligence? Pack up your Prius and move your hippie ass to California, where they are sooo 'educated.'"

TucsonWeekly.com commenter "magnacarta" isn't at all concerned that 27 percent of Arizona legislators don't have a four-year degree ("Arizona's Lawmakers a Little Less-Educated Than Average," The Range, June 13).

Best of WWW

Although we're getting into the summer season, when everything seems to slow down in Tucson (possibly because our clothes are so sweat-laden that we are carrying around extra weight), there's still a lot of news, information and activity worth covering. Photographer Josh Morgan went north to photograph the Wallow fire, including the effort to keep one of the largest wildfires in Arizona history from destroying everything in its path.

On a positive, creation-instead-of-destruction note, TW intern Celia Ampel talked to local weaver/artist Crane Day, who gave her a tour of his studio, providing a look at his tapestries and unique pieces of apparel, which mix Native American and European liturgical influences into something incredibly unique.

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