On air: Can a hoax ever be justified?

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WHYS Team | Monday, 6 June 2011 | 17:25 - 19:30 GMT

bangpound: There is no positive side effect of the #Amina hoax. It did not bring attention to Syria. It brought attention to a white fantasy.

@BSyria: I don't believe #GayGirlHoax will cause any considerable damage. It was just annoying and it hurt some people.

If you've been listening over the past week you've probably heard us talk about Amina Arraf, the so-called 'A Gay Girl in Damascus'.

I say 'so-called' because it turns out the gay girl in Damascus is actually a 40-year-old white American man from Georgia, currently living in Scotland, called Tom MacMaster.

Amina was understood, by many, to be a prolific Syrian blogger who, according to her blog, was detained by Syrian security forces last week. '

Amina' posted on our Facebook page a number of times in the past months and we had spoken to her online friend Sandra last week after Amina's reported detention but soon after questions about her were raised and then her identity began to unravel.

It took a week and now that we know the real identity of Amina is Tom McMaster a student in Edinburgh, we also know that Amina is an elaborate internet hoax.

A lot of the reaction online has been critical of Tom McMaster for taking his readers for a ride - but, while apologising, the writer defends his actions:

I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.
Can a hoax like this be justified if it brings attention to important issues? Do you think Amina/Tom achieved anything with this website and fictional persona? And do you think hoaxes are ever justified?

Some people say it's shown up failings in the 'mainstream media' - like this blogger:

MacMaster isn't the only one to be blamed in this debacle. Mainstream media plays a significant role in which stories make the headlines, and stay there. So when there are hundreds upon hundreds of Syrians being detained and killed, the harsh truth of the matter is that they knew that Amina's story made for a much better soundbite.

Your comments

  1. Comment sent via unknown: 23057

    @BBC_WHYS #whys #Amina http://t.co/gzJw4mr . What mcmaster did has hurt so many, his hoax is unforgivable

  2. Comment sent via unknown: 23057

    @BBC_WHYS Will the show discuss journalits setting up hoaxes like carrying a fake bomb in airports.hoaxes shd b considered as april's fool

  3. Comment sent via SMS

    This type of hoaxing is a crime and should not go unpunished , it inhumane to capitalise on people’s plight for selfish ends. Thomas DANIYA , Middlesbrough uk

  4. Comment sent via unknown: 23057

    @BBC_WHYS what would you describe has a hoax

  5. Comment sent via unknown: 23057

    @avinunu @BBC_WHYS How could Tom even try to justify his acts.He's trying to gain the attention he lacked when he was 5.It's humilating.

  6. Comment sent via unknown: 23057

    Yes, I am on @BBC_WHYS and criticizing it at the same time! #whys #Amina

  7. Comment sent via unknown: 23057

    Just told @BBC_WHYS how outrageous it is that media turning to deceiver for analysis of his own deception. Focusing on harm he did. #Amina

  8. Comment sent via unknown: 23057

    @BBC_WHYS that's is the like playing with the emotions of people and cheating the system and moreover themselves who does it(hoax)

  9. Comment sent via SMS

    I as an outspoken young Middle Eastern woman am appalled by this! His absurd acts can never be justified. Lubna N, Baghdad

  10. Comment sent via unknown: 23057

    Will be on @BBC_WHYS starting in a few minutes. Listen on BBC World Service. #Amina

  11. Comment sent via host

    Ben J here - we''re about to go on air to talk about hoaxes - can they ever be justified?