Monday, June 13, 2011

Ex-HRW LGBT Director &
'Gay Girl in Damascus'

(Scott Long and Zayed Salloum? Credit: HRW courtesy photo.)
A straight American man, Tom MacMaster, for years has been operating as a sockpuppet "person" named Amina Araf on numerous listservs and also created a blog for her, A Gay Girl in Damascus, a site that captured the attention and concerns of many readers around the world.

When a message was posted to that blog alleging that Amina had been taken in custody by Syrian security agents, several bloggers and mainstream reporters began investigating the situation with many asking if anyone had ever met Amina or spoken directly with her on the telephone.

Long story short: MacMaster has confessed, after much evidence was presented to him and on lots of web sites, showing his fingerprints on Amina's emails and other parts of her fake online life. Click here for some of the background on MacMaster and how he was caught in the deception.

As the truth tumbled out and we all learned that MacMaster was a super-smart brainiac with excellent writing skills and incredibly detailed info on Syria, in addition to possessing overbearing arrogance, echoes of past problems with a similar character came to mind - Scott Long the former director of Human Rights Watch's LGBT division.

For several years, it was suspected that Long created the Zayed Salloum sockpuppet to attack his gay adversaries on various listservs and web sites. Those suspicions were not part of the reason why Long resigned, some say he was forced out, from HRW in August 2010. Some background on his departure can be found here.

The quite convincing evidence that Long was behind the Zayed Salloum hoax was gathered by a person using the pseudonym Lucy Lips at the Harry's Place site and published in September 2009. Let's look at the background and evidence:

The story starts with Human Right’s Watch’s Director of LGBT affairs, Scott Long. Long has two obsessions – two “nemeses” – OutRage! campaigner Peter Tatchell and Russian gay activist Nicolai Alekseyev. ...  Long has spent an inordinate amount of time and effort feuding with these two activists in the gay press and on various listservs and discussion groups. ... His modus operandi, in a nutshell, consists of cheap and groundless accusations of racism, colonialism and Islamophobia.

These are the familiar slurs of the far Left activist. They work best when the person deploying them is not, as Long is, a white, male Westerner.

So, when Long criticised Tatchell’s campaigning around the execution of gays in Iran, it was really convenient when an Middle Eastern activist by the name of Zayed Salloum entered the debate and supported Long’s attacks on Tatchell.

[Salloum was a fierce defender of Long's views] ... Trouble was, no one had ever heard of “Zayed Salloum” and, soon after the debate had moved on, he disappeared into obscurity, never to be heard of again. Google him and you’ll see what I mean.

But it gets even curiouser. Salloum, always posted as if he had no real contact with Long or direct knowledge of Human Rights Watch. One day he slipped up. He posted to a Yahoo Discussion Group from an IP address inside the Human Rights Watch building in New York! ...

Was Zayed Salloum a real person? Was he Scott Long’s sock puppet, or simply another person working at Human Rights Watch who happened to have the same perspectives on politics and same antipathy to Peter Tatchell as Scott Long? It has to be one or the other. ...

As far as I know, HRW has never publicly addressed these matters and even with Long no longer employed there, the suspicions still haunt the LGBT division of this human rights organization.

On June 7, Long, who is now associated with the human rights program at Harvard University, shared this message on the Euro-Queer listserv:

In light of [Amina kidnap] story, I've a question that I'd like to pose publicly. Is it true that the editor of the generally pro-Israel site "Gay Middle East" has been urging people not to act in protest against Amina Abdallah's arrest, because he disapproves of her politics? Is he prepared to disavow his emails to that effect? Or is he prepared to acknowledge that basic human rights are for everyone--and carry no exceptions for one's political perspectives on Palestine, as they carry no exceptions for sexual orientation?

Like many friends of Amina in and beyond the region, I'll await a reply.

Long clearly had no skepticism about Amina being a sockpuppet and was more concerned with the alleged pro-Israel biases of the editor, and believed himself a friend of the non-existent person. Here is part of the reply from Dan Littauer of the Gay Middle East site:

I, as editor of GME, never wrote the things that Scott Long alleges. As these accusations first appeared on the Twitter feed of the Meem group of Lebanon, I am presuming that this is where what he wrote originated from.

In private message exchanges with Sara, an Arab lesbian, I was asked why GME had not yet published an article about the kidnap of Amina. I responded that GME has not yet published an article as we are trying to independently verify the story with our Syrian Editor and with the help of Amina’s girlfriend. This is standard journalistic procedure and I note that some media reporting yesterday about Amina made clear that reports are unverified. ...

The matter of verification was of no concern to Long. We should all be grateful to the folks at Gay Middle East for possessing strong skepticism about Amina Araf and attempting to source the claims of her kidnapping.

I am not suggesting that Long had anything to do with MacMaster and his sockpuppet, but instead I wish to bring attention to the many similarities between Long and MacMaster, and Zayed Salloum and Amina Araf.

At least McMaster has owned up to his deceit. The same cannot be said of Long.

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