By going lesbian, MacMaster and Graber capitalize twice: first on the oppressed class of women and then on the minority status of lesbians. As the more-ambitious fabulist, MacMaster expands his con to include ethnicity and faith by making Amina a half-Syrian Muslim. I'm sure that had he continued his ruse, MacMaster would have eventually put Amina in a wheelchair, sent her to a 12-step program, and hospitalized her for anorexia.
The premise of the two blogs is this: If you possess a rare political or social identity, the world will find your social-political observations keener and more worthy. The downside of the premise is that when it comes to issues that don't buffet your identity—like war and taxes and zoning—the world doesn't want to hear from you at all. MacMaster and Graber knew that if they commented from the ghetto they'd be credible, which should give us all pause.
That MacMaster and Graber communicated with one another, each thinking the other was a lesbian, adds the inevitable Shakespearean dimension to the story. According to the Washington Post:
In the guise of Paula Brooks, Graber corresponded online with Tom MacMaster, thinking he was writing to Amina Arraf. Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.
If only we could arrange for Viola and Rosalind to fall in love with Amina and Paula and then step out from the wings to embrace MacMaster and Graber and marry them in a final scene, this farce could be transformed into romantic comedy.
The lesson of the bogus lesbian bloggers—if there is one—is of the limitations technology puts on political and social identity. If the Web allows us to be whoever we pretend to be, if we can all be lesbians or Syrians or Muslims by pressing the right keystrokes, then identity begins to lose its uniqueness. If there's a Turing Test for being a lesbian, the events of the last week prove that we're all lesbians now.
Thanks to the miracle of Google Cache, you can read the preposterous apology from Lez Get Real for publishing the counterfeit works of Amina "Tom MacMaster" Arraf. Maybe somebody could stage this as a musical. Send score and book via email to email@example.com. Or give my Twitter feed a whistle. (Email may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)
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Welcome to 13th Grade!
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The Actual World
“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.