I’ll come right out and say it: I’ve long been skeptical of the Baghdad blogger, Salam Pax, and his story for some pretty obvious reasons. I’ve been through the ringer before with the Kaycee Nicole hoax, and through that entire escapade I learned of many more hoaxes that happened in the BBS, MOO, MUD, and diary communities. Simply put, on the internet no one knows you are a dog and it’s not that hard to pull the wool over the eyes of the unsuspecting.
Since I’d been burned before, I couldn’t help but notice that every measure he took to protect his anonymity (and his safety from Saddam’s regime) also happened to allow him to be totally false if that were the case. Look at the warning signs near the end of this comment from two years ago and notice all the things in common with modern day Pax’s story. It was always left to the reader to determine if his story was on the up and up, and since I wasn’t 100% sure, I wasn’t going to fall for it again.
But now I know he’s the real deal, and I’m absolutely positively sure of it. My friend Peter Maass just published an article at Slate entitled “How do I know Baghdad’s famous blogger exists? He worked for me.” A couple years back I had the opportunity to work with Peter and I ended up designing and building him a website to house his past decade of articles, his book, and his weblog.
Peter has a long history of reporting “in the shit” and I had a feeling he’d be working hard through this recent conflict. When he sent me email the other day from Baghdad, he was finally planning his return home and I remarked how happy I was that he made it through unscathed, and added that during his last couple days there, he might want to track down Salam Pax so we could know once and for all if the guy was for real. Peter said he didn’t really have the time for it, but in his new article he tells the story of how he figured it all out when he got back home (I’m assuming I’m one of the blogging friends he mentions in the first sentence, the other is Nick Denton).
Now that I know, I’m glad I was wrong on Salam Pax being a hoax. I wanted to believe but after being burned in the past, I let my cynical side take over. It’s always reassuring to find out an optimist’s attitude can win out and that people in the world are generally truthful and good. I’m going to go back and re-read all of Salam’s previous dispatches with a fresh attitude and an open mind.