How One Woman’s Bogus Tale of Her Battle With Nonexistent Brain Cancer Fooled the Media
This is the story of how one enterprising 23-year-old from Australia with the headline-friendly name of Belle Gibson made a bald and pathological play for health-conscious consumers’ lunch money by peddling a false cancer fable — and a handy app to go with it.
This is also the story, as BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin put it well, of how the media outlets that bought her fiction wholesale and ran with it need to check their investment in the “‘cancer hero’ mythos” that ultimately makes them complicit in selling junk science to susceptible demographics, such as the cancer-afflicted ones. It should be noted at this juncture that Jardin herself has actually been diagnosed with breast cancer and has written frankly and movingly about her fight to beat the disease.
Gibson jumped aboard the gluten-phobic train that’s still rumbling through the Western culture-scape, claiming in her blog that she had kicked terminal brain cancer through a nutritional intervention, which mostly amounted to cutting gluten and sugar from her diet. Wow, who would have thought the answer would be so simple or so very sellable?
Skeptical? You should be — and so should the media have been, as Jardin made very clear in her takedown of both Gibson and the sources who were all too willing to piggyback on her flying oinker of a tale (via BoingBoing):
Belle Gibson deserves professional help.
But here’s what the rest of us deserve: an end to the “cancer hero” mythos that allows people like Gibson and others before her to exploit ignorance about evidence-based cancer treatments. An end to the exploitation and profiteering of bogus “cures.”
From cannabis oil to vitamin C megadosing to juice fasts, there’s far more bullshit info out there about how to part with your money and line the pockets of fraudsters like Gibson (and Mercola, and Oz, and Burzynski, all sonofabitches and murderers in my opinion) than there is free and science-based info about how cancer works, how treatment works, and how to get affordable and effective care.
So yeah. Fuck Belle Gibson.
But fuck the culture of magical thinking and hero idolization that built her myth into a profitable business, ignoring decades of real science, and placing vulnerable people with cancer at real risk of death.
This perfect DIY storm of wayward blogging, pseudo-medicine and public gullibility represented more than a cry for psychiatric attention on the part of a troubled, if Web-savvy, young woman — it also played into certain maladies spawned and spread by this, our capitalistic culture. Maybe someone can cook up an app that seeks out malignant prevaricators within 50 miles of any given user.
As for Gibson? She took to the media once again to make a mea culpa, and maybe even a couple more bucks, with her public confession to The Australian Women’s Weekly. “None of it’s true,” she admitted.
Quick — someone make this woman a politician.
–Posted by Kasia Anderson
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