(Read Part I, “A Thousand Sighs: Memoir of a Hoax,” here.)
Last week, I posted about my brief interaction with Tom MacMaster, the man who posed as “A Gay Girl in Damascus.” Today, my publicist at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt forwarded me the following email from someone purporting to be Mr. MacMaster. (I have deleted my publicist’s name from the correspondence.)
—– Original Message —–
From: Tom MacMaster (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To: (name deleted)
Sent: Tue Jun 21 01:50:34 2011
Subject: Minal Hajratwala
Dear (name deleted),
I am contacting you regarding a client of yours, Minal Hajratwala. On her website, she has posted information regarding me as well as copyrighted materials. Please advise her to remove all of these forthwith as, otherwise, I will be seeking legal action against her.
Dear Mr. MacMaster,
Since you have my email address, as is clear from your earlier email to me as “Amina,” you are welcome to correspond with me directly and say anything that you wish to say to me. My email address is also available through my website, which is where I am guessing you found my publicist’s email address in the first place, so the purpose of sending her this email is rather obscure to me.
I am sharing your email via my blog and with a few of journalists who have been covering your story. I will also be encouraging others to mirror my original blog post, including the PDF, in case for some reason my site needs to be taken down. In case a legal defense is needed, I feel quite confident that the blogosphere will volunteer its assistance.
I received an immediate response via email:
from Tom MacMaster email@example.com
to Minal Hajratwala
cc (name deleted)
date Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 8:37 PM
subject Re: Fw: Minal Hajratwala
Dear Minal Hajratwala,
Please note that the Amina Arraf gmail account has been destroyed as well as all correspondence sent there. I am currently in conversations with an attorney here as to potential libel cases as well as potential copyright violations.
I do not wish to start a flame war with you. I am not seeking further publicity, positive or negative, and wish you no ill. Hence, my request to delete those materials so as to avoid potential legal troubles for both of us.
For the moment I think I’ll refrain from further commentary; if this is indeed Mr. MacMaster, I have a feeling others will say everything that needs to be said about this. 🙂
I’m also open to the possibility that this is not from him, but from someone who is so irritated with him that they want to keep the story alive and make him look even worse than he does.
Want to help?
Here again is the PDF of the memoir draft that “Amina” had sent me, if anyone would like to upload it to their own site: A-Thousand-Sighs-Part-I.
All are welcome to mirror/repost my original blog post, in which I talk about how this suddenly newsworthy document first came to me, and share my impressions of it.
Legal advice, media query, something else? Please do feel free to comment below or contact me.
Post amended to add:
As I was writing this post, I realized that the original damascusgaygirl.blogspot.com blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus” has been taken down, which makes it difficult for anyone to see the level of deceit we’re talking about here. I was just sent a zip archive of that blog, which seems to include everything except the last two entries (in which Tom MacMaster came out as, and then apologized for, Amina). I believe strongly that the blog as it appeared remains an important part of the public dialogue. For that reason, with the permission of the person who sent it to me, I am posting the zip archive. Click here to download it..
I’ve been told it’s a good idea to have multiple mirror sites in case this one gets taken down. That’s why I’m asking people to feel free to upload any of these files to public sites or your own blogs. (Thanks to those who have already done so; see links in the comments below.) I’m not on a vendetta here, and in fact I’ve been far less involved in this issue than many other people. At this point I simply think it’s important to keep the public record public, and to live with your own mistakes — rather than trying to cover them up or to blame other people for pointing them out.
“He and his plump fuggo wife who participated in the deception need to hang their heads in shame, not go around threatening superior writers.”
We know what Tom MacMaster did. Unless I’ve missed some news, we do not know whether his wife was involved or not. There’s no need for this mean-spirited fatphobic bullshit even if she was, but it’s especially uncalled for given that she may have been an innocent bystander.
If you think about what this means: “Please note that the Amina Arraf gmail account has been destroyed as well as all correspondence sent there.”
Destroying evidence? There must be loads of embarassing documentation of the extent of MacMaster’s Amina persona. The content might still be retrievable via supeana to google. Deleted accounts can be retrieved from archives.
Tom MacMasters has brought A Gay Girl In Damascus back in order to lecture the Internets that it’s not HIS fault, the last time he pretended to be a woman online he didn’t get NEARLY this kind of publicity.
I wish I were joking. I’m really not.
“Wow” = Tom MacMaster.
I see that the gay girl blog has reappeared, with the heading http://damascusgaygirl.blogspot.com/ ” ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ an illusion”. Trouble is, it has been altered: only one of the two apologies is there, and there may be other alterations. There is also a story about how there was a blog in which “Amina” was said to be straight, and blogged about her husband being arrested- no-one was interested. Tom says he wrote that blog in Autumn 2010. I do not believe that blog ever existed, because in the blog “Amina’s attempts at Art” with Tom’s writings in 2006ish she was already lesbian. Why suddenly make her straight?
I edit Wikipedia, and there is a link there to Tom’s “Gay girl” blog. On WIkipedia, Tom has been threatening legal action, and perhaps making anonymous edits to make the story of his hoax appear less disgusting than it really is. I fear that people going from the WIkipedia link to Tom’s “gay girl” blog will not see the full extent of his lies, emotional manipulation, and liberal orientalism. I would like to link to a genuine, honest record of what he actually wrote. Would you mind if I put a link to your record on Wikipedia?
This hairy-faced wanker who lived in total security and pretended to be a brave woman in peril has a lot of nerve. Who is he to reproach others after telling lie upon lie? He and his plump fuggo wife who participated in the deception need to hang their heads in shame, not go around threatening superior writers.
I came to your blog via NYT. MacMaster also threatened to sue journalist Max Blumenthal–a very reckless act, if one is familiar with Blumethal’s lineage and body of work. He also implied that Blumenthal was, as a critic of Israeli policy, also a self-hating Jew; this kind of attack seems unsurprising given the casuistry of his previous “apology.”
I must thank MacMaster for introducing me to both your work and that of Mr. Blumenthal. I’m sure that was the furthest from his intentions.
You’re my hero. That’s all 🙂
Having just checked up the copyright laws, you are indeed in breach of copyright, both by publishing the blog and by publishing the emails sent to you. Otherwise I’d be publishing a rather surprising email I received from MacMaster myself. I can confirm that it’s his email address, though, and I think he’s serious with the lawsuit threats. Some websites with articles about him have already had all the comments deleted, for instance. Let’s see if the promised lawsuits against him, presumably for fraud/identity theft, actually materialise.
I’m no lawyer but the Amina blog did not contain a copyright notice, and neither does the pdf linked here. Doesn’t this place said items into the public domain?
P.S. The commenter Wow was obviously a sockpuppet. This Tom is really embarassing himself.
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Hi Minal, I just want to add my voice in support of how you are conducting yourself through this fascinating, only-on-the-internet event. You always impress me with your clear sense of what’s right and the grace with which you wield your pen–er, keyboard.
Watching with mouth agape,
I am so glad there are a number of people dedicated to not allowing this guy to simply make it go away. To many people it falls into the category of being “news of the weird” with a shrug and a disdainful glance at those who were duped but he caused a whole lot of heartache and stole someone’s identity to do so. He didn’t acknowledge or apologize until after he was busted and his apology was shallow at best, without serious reflection or visible remorse. The story needs to remain a part of our consciousness whenever we read personal writing as if it is news, and the risks are rising with the incredible access that the Internet gives to writers and readers.
Thanks, guys, for those links. I am glad there are other sources for this information. The original Gay Girl in Damascus blog seems to have been taken down but I am told there is at least one private copy out there.
Since posting this, I’ve had confirmation from others, far more involved in this story than I am, that this does appear to be the email address that Mr. MacMaster used in his correspondence with them. Again, I know these things can be mimicked, so I don’t want to make any assumptions about authorship. My intent in posting that detail, as well as in being open to anyone who wants to query me further, is the hope that full disclosure will quickly expose whether these emails did or did not come from him. Because this story has been so full of prevarication, we are all naturally suspicious of sources of information that can easily be manipulated.
I’ve archived it all at Winterdream: http://www.winterdream.org/archives/minal/
WTF? How can a pack of lies that was available to thousands, under a pseudonym for months be copyrighted to HIM? There is so much irony here that you could swing a cat at it and not miss!
Wow, Minal, you are so glomming on to McMasters 15 minutes of fame and making yourself look like a completely unprofessional and bigotted nut job.
Here’s hoping McMasters sues the crap out of you and wins
I guess his book is supposed to be used as a memo for US soldiers in their future wars in the Middle East? A masterpiece of Orientalism. The guy should be stuffed and put in a museum, after his trial.
Thanks for writing this, Minal. I was one of the other writers on that e-mail thread, and you know how irritated I am. Is he actually suggesting that you aren’t free to write that? What an advocate for free speech! If he can take the time to write this, he can take the time to apologize to everyone he wronged. Directly. (Unless it’s not him, as you suggest.)
Here’s a download link for the PDF on Scribd: