Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Gay Girl Media Conundrum

The Gay Girl in Damascus affair has been a fascinating, if slightly irritating, sideshow to the appalling events in Syria as the country's people continue to struggle to push for change and reform in the face of brutal repression.

It's been extensively reported on elsewhere, but I am particularly interested in the reactions from 'traditional media' who appear to be taking an increasingly solid stance with reference to social media and the way it impacts/relates to the role of 'traditional' journalism. Gulf News wags its finger in an editorial today, "Beware of social media's dark side", in which it calls for 'this episode' to be 'a lesson for all of us'. Quite what the lesson is, GN doesn't make clear. I get the feeling that the writer really wanted to say 'don't trust social media because it can all be a pack of lies and that's why you need us, journalists, to filter this stuff for you' but couldn't really, because of course the biggest dupes of all have been the journalists who ran the story, parroted it and unquestioningly (especially in the Middle East's media, who should surely have known better) ran it from the newswires.

The story was broken, the blog conclusively proven to be a hoax, by online activist Ali Abunimah, who posted his reservations on his 'Electronic Intifada' blog (linked here), other bloggers (such as Liz Henry) were expressing doubts - and, to be fair, NPR's Andy Carvin, as well as the New York Times were onto the story and chasing down the increasingly ethereal 'Amina' - but most mainstream media (and, it should be noted, ALL Middle East media) were still just parroting the same stuff, derived from the blog itself, unthinkingly.

The fact is a number of people, connected online, contributed to reality checking and then publicly outing the fraud. They used their online experience, online resources and tools. They did not use the tools of 'traditional' journalism and arguably did not necessarily adhere to the standards of traditional journalism.

Commenter Charles on Liz Henry's BookManiac blog rather nails it, BTW: "One thing that struck me about the whole sordid affair was the narcissit, paternalist nature of it. Here is a white heterosexual man who, instead of supporting the efforts of real GLTB Middle-Easterners, decided instead to steal the spotlight from them and claim their voice. I guess he figured his little brown brothers and sisters just couldn’t do it themselves, so he appointed himself their spokesperson. That is rather disgusting."

1 comment:

Duffy said...

I was thinking the guy probably had a blog that nobody read because he was boring. So he re-invented himself as someone interesting in an exotic location. More like an exercise in creative writing.

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