Is every gay Middle Easterner on the Internet a fraud? Some days it feels like it.
Hot on the heels of the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax (perpetrated by Thomas MacMaster, a middle-aged American man), comes "Marc" the gay activist of indeterminate nationality who, in his telling, was spurned by the Gaza aid flotilla.
He claims to have sent an e-mail to a group involved with the flotilla (he doesn't say which one) offering to bring an LGBT contingent. He says he was turned away and told that gay involvement would be detrimental to the interests of those involved.
Then he goes online and discovers that Hamas is opposed to gay marriage (which is true). The video then has a montage of pictures of suicide bombers and the like, and he says "these are the people the flotilla organizers are hugging." (Which is not true, the outside activists involved in the flotilla say they're opposed to violence of all kinds).
"If you hook up with the wrong group," he intones, as he bats his eyes at a camera closeup, "you might wake up with Hamas." (Flotilla organizers insist they aren't working with Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, and their interest in opening up Gaza to sea traffic are purely humanitarian).
Thanks to some online sleuthing by Benjamin Doherty, it's clear that Marc is a fraud. The slickly produced video – with footage of a pensive Marc walking outside and at least three different camera angles while he sits at his computer in his impeccably lit room – is enough to raise red flags for anyone used to filtering out propaganda. But Mr. Doherty's digging found that Marc is in fact Omer Gershon, an Israeli actor and PR person.
Any educated Israeli understands the issues surrounding the Gaza strip, the blockade and the arguments for and against, which makes his professed naivete at the start of the video nothing but a pose.
Doherty's colleague Ali Abunimah found that one of the first people to distribute the video, via Twitter, was Guy Seemann, an employee in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office. Israel's government press office also pushed the video, citing Mr. Seemann. At the time that he tweeted the video, it was the only link in Seemann's timeline (since deleted).
Who paid for the video? Unclear. But a propaganda effort unveiled by the fact it was so slick? Yup. The Internet and social media are powerful tools for distributing lies, rumors, and half-truths as much as they are for accurate information. If a lie could run round the world six times before the truth "got its boots on" in Mark Twain's time, it can do so now before truth is even out of bed.
Following Thomas MacMaster's cruel hoax (he'd faked the kidnapping of "Amina," causing distress to the blog's fans and lied to a Canadian woman, who believed she was in an online relationship with a Syrian lesbian, for months), I learned about the term "pinkwashing."
Amid MacMaster's pseudo-intellectual ramblings about Orientalism and narrative voice was the claim that Amina, a lesbian critic of Israel, was created as a counterbalance to pinkwashing. Intrigued by the term I went online and find there's a lively debate in activist circles on the matter.
In pro-Palestinian activist circles, the term refers to Israel and its supporters use of the lack of freedom for gays and lesbians in Arab countries as a way to paint the Palestinian cause as unworthy. Such activists say that while it's manifestly true that Israeli gays have more rights than those in neighboring countries, it's used to obscure the brutal facts of the economic blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.
As it happens, some gay activists are onboard a number of the boats hoping to get to Gaza. Whether they will make it there is another matter.