They say children are the future, but sometimes children just don’t get it. Take, for example, a wild and honestly offensive conspiracy theory making the rounds on TikTok: Helen Keller lied about being deaf and blind.
Yes, TikTok users — mostly Gen Z — saw videos claiming Keller did not exist, or if she did, then she was not deaf nor blind. The idea is that there was no way Keller could’ve achieved everything she did if she had both disabilities. See where it’s offensive?
The greater public learned about the theory after screenwriter Daniel Kunka tweeted a conversation he and his mother had with his teenage nieces and nephews. He said his nieces and nephews told their grandmother that Keller wasn’t real. At first thinking they were trolling their grandmother, Kunka soon realized the kids had heard of the theory on TikTok.
It turned out, several TikTok users had posted videos doubting Keller’s existence and her disability. According to Newsweek, this may have started when TikTok user @alleyesonharshita posted a video questioning Keller’s achievement back in May 2020. The video got more than 600,000 views. This was followed by another user, @curtiswais, mocking Keller. Both videos, which have since been deleted, inspired hashtags like #helenkellerisfake and #helenkellerhateclub.
Many of the TikTok users thought Keller couldn’t achieve so much being disabled, and though some posts about her were satire, they believed the theory.
Okay, come get your kids
It’s easy to dismiss the conspiracy theory on TikTok; after all, it’s just a bunch of bored teens clearly unconcerned over facts. But, as Kunka and several others have pointed out, the teenagers who took the jokes to heart became susceptible to the spread of misinformation, not to mention fell into the trap of ableism.
While most people think the only ones to fall for fake news on Facebook are boomers, the whole TikTok Helen Keller conspiracy theory falls into the same category. The Guardian explained much of the disbelief from the inability to understand that people with disabilities can achieve great things. Keller managed to write books, teach, attend college, and even advocate for racial justice, all while being deaf and blind.
We see people with disabilities achieve great things and live regular lives, but people, even woke teenagers, can still believe they’re unable to be great.
It also points to the ability of anyone to disregard facts. Some writers felt the need to defend this offensive behavior as Gen Z’s reaction to question the world around them. While admirable, it’s also cruel and disregards the achievements of people with disabilities.
And if there are kids out there who still believe Helen Keller isn’t real or that she lied because there is no way she was able to be more than her disability, wait until they hear about the Special Olympics.
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