TikTok is a strange social media platform for the uninitiated, but it has some funny stunt videos, educational posts, and inspirational posts. The potentially borderline conspiracy videos are worth the time to take in.
A new TikTok phenomenon has emerged, where some learners are convinced that deaf blind activists like Helen Keller do not really exist. This supposedly works on some sort of conspirator, like Adolf Hitler.
A Helen Keller hoax has the severity of a traditional conspiracy theory even though it doesn’t quite fit the definition. It’s the kind of ahistorical nonsense you’d expect from a QAnon message board, not teens on TikTok. But in many ways the demographic fits perfect and it resembles a conspiracy theory. Particularly troubling is that even though it like a conspiracy theory, its particulars don’t quite fit the bill.
A conspiracy theory is defined as “a disturbingly consequential lie posed as the truth.” The birth of the Helen Keller hoax can be seen as a perfect example of one of these occurrences. It’s only basis is marketing spread solely through marketing spins on social media for trade magazines, but feels more believable than most.
Political memes, though too simplistic to accurately portray complex truths, are entangled in the fabric of societal discourse. Likewise, the Helen Keller myth holds a persistent position within internet culture even though it doesn’t quite align with what is considered “conspiracy-like.”
People may believe this themselves, or they’re in on the joke.
The Helen Keller hoax, although it’s not traditional conspiracy theory, has the same toxicity. Not only is it inaccurate, but it’s also ableist to disabled people. Deafblind people and disability advocates push back by using Sanders own words for those that doubted her.
There is a toxic mentality to the Helen Keller hoax, even though it doesn’t fit the original definition. The first time someone called me fake news, I laughed. Then another insisted a Deafblind person couldn’t go to Harvard. Nearly every disabled person has experienced the old, “You’re faking it” line. Even #HelenKeller spoke of doubters and remarked: “Everyone has pitied me so long and so sincerely that pity has
— Haben Girma
With a swapped power dynamic, Helen Keller hoax truthers will not waiver and argues the conspiracy is evidence backed and accurate. People often first fall for a fraudulent claim after believing lies—even lies about race or religion—but the dynamics of the Helen Keller hoax has stuck with me.
A mental illness is a slippery topic for some, and a hoax feels like a new venue to spread some uncontrollable sense of hate.
Video platforms such as TikTok creates the danger of Gen Z believing in a hoax like The Helen Keller Video. The hoax has many of the same toxicity as traditional conspiracy theories but doesn’t fit the definition. There’s no definitive link, but generally, younger people believe more conspiracy theories than older people. It is likely that teenagers are adding it to express how they dunk on Baby Boomers who grew up with her story
Based on those factors, it’s important to understand that the Helen Keller hoax possesses all the toxicity of traditional conspiracy theories. Even if people don’t think they believe in the hoax, there is enough material across social media and fake news to still think of it as a pernicious extension of other ideas. Fake news should be treated with caution.