We all love stories of human endeavour, especially when an underdog beats the odds and triumphs over adversity. We admire the person, heavily invest in their success and learn from their wisdom. In a world filled with bad news, these good news stories offer a rare beacon of hope.
This seemed apparent when Belle Gibson’s story emerged. Belle depicted herself as a brave young Australian mother who had survived brain cancer and decided to fight by reinventing a life based on health and wellbeing. She amassed a worldwide social media following with her ‘The Whole Pantry’ philosophy, released a best-selling app and she even had a book deal with Penguin. Belle’s journey and apparent transformation touched people’s lives profoundly. She was an inspiration for cancer sufferers and ordinary people all over the world.
Sadly, recently the media broke an even bigger story: alleging that the entire Belle Gibson tale – from the cancer to the recovery – was a fabrication. Proof has been requested of the various cancers, with none emerging. Promised charity donations from Gibson’s app sales have also not been forthcoming. Penguin and Apple pulled their support. Gibson’s followers all over the world are angry and hurt.
The fallout has been ferocious and brutal. Dishonesty is a deep violation: a transgression of our trust, empathy and compassion. We feel ripped off in the worst possible way not monetarily but emotionally.
Stories like Gibson’s are powerful because they appeal to our higher selves. But just like the sun has a shadow, inauthentic storytelling is the dark side of storytelling.
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