'Gay Girl ln Damascus' Is American Man In Scotland

It's been revealed that a widely-read Syrian blog, "Gay Girl In Damascus" was in fact written by an American male grad student living in Scotland. The blogger's accounts were watched even more closely in recent months as the Syrian government cracked down on the popular uprising that's spread throughout the country.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now let's talk about the real identity of a well-known blogger. Gay Girl in Damascus, as she was called, built up an international following for five years. And then news came that she was kidnapped, prompting international concern. Now it turns out the blogger is a 40-year-old American man living in Scotland, not Syria.

NPR social media strategist Andy Carvin has been on the trail of the blogger.

Andy, good morning.

ANDY CARVIN: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How prominent was this blogger as a voice for Syrians?

CARVIN: Well, this person had been online, as you said, for about five years, mostly participating in various online discussion forums. But they launched a blog earlier this February and called it Gay Girl in Damascus, and it developed the following very quickly. You know, just given the name itself, it was very provocative, this whole notion of an openly gay woman in a Middle Eastern country that's currently going through conflict was...

INSKEEP: So what made people...

CARVIN: ...was a very compelling idea.

INSKEEP: So what made people doubt her then?

CARVIN: Well, I don't think many people did doubt her for the majority of this, except I think some Syrians did express some skepticism about the melodrama within her stories. But as soon as it was reported on her blog early last week that she had been quote-unquote, "kidnapped," I began hearing from some of my Syrian sources, including some in the local gay and lesbian community that -beginning to think that she was probably a fraud, because none of them had met her before.

And as they began calling the various news organizations that had interviewed her in recent months, it turns out none of them had met her either. They had all done the interviews via email.

INSKEEP: Now, we've just got a few seconds here, Andy. But why did he do it? Once you went through all the effort to track down this guy, found out he was an American in Scotland, why was he doing this?

CARVIN: Well, if you go back to his first attempt at blogging several years ago, he says, quite openly, that the blog was going to be an attempt at writing fiction as well as autobiography, and that he wouldn't tell people which was which. So it seems like this whole time he had an interest in mixing truth and fiction just to see what kind of writing he could do. And over the course of this, he ended up pulling a lot of fans all over the world and got the attention of many Syrians and activist, too.

INSKEEP: Is this going to cause people to question information they do get out of Syria?

CARVIN: Well, I think it's already difficult to get information out of Syria, so you should take a lot of it with a grain of salt to begin with. I think people are more concerned about bloggers in the rest of the Arab world. I heard from a blogger who's based in Lebanon - and I've met in person, so I know he does exist - and he basically said if I get kidnapped is anyone going to want to rescue me, is anyone going to believe that I actually exist.

INSKEEP: Oh, gosh. Andy, thanks very much.

CARVIN: Thanks for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: Thats NPR social media strategist Andy Carvin this morning.

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