Helen Keller Denial


On May 13th, 2020, Isabella Lahoue published a story to Medium titled, “The Generation that Doesn’t Believe Helen Keller Existed” in which she describes finding out about the conspiracy theory while scrolling through TikTok, noting that it was mostly teenagers taking part in it. She theorizes that Keller isn’t taught as thoroughly in school as she should be, leading to teenagers not understanding how someone in her position can learn to speak and write. The article has since been removed.

On the same day, TikToker angel_cortez posted a now-deleted video denying Helen Keller’s disabilities, garnering over 709,000 views in just under eight months. On September 10th, TikToker vanillaapricot uploaded a skit where Keller accidentally waves back at her gardener, gaining over 10 million views in just under four months (shown below).

On December 10th, TikToker @krunk19 uploaded a video denying Keller’s existence, citing her handwriting, number of books written and the fact that she flew a plane as evidence, which garnered over 2.2 million views in two months (shown below).

On January 5th, 2021, Twitter user Daniel Kunka made a series of tweets talking about how his nieces and nephews were asked in a text chain if they knew about Helen Keller, to which they responded that she was a non-existent fraud (shown below). He details trying to convince his nieces otherwise but failing, with them insisting that others around her “pumped” Keller up and made her career. Kunka theorizes that this conspiracy about Keller could be due to “four years of fake news.” The tweet thread received over 24,100 likes, 5,300 retweets and 3,700 quote tweets in three days.

Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 Replying to @unikunka At first I thought they were trolling grandma, which is admittedly fun. But after awhile it was clear they weren't joking. 000 "How could someone be deaf and blind and learn how to write books?" My nephew admits she probably existed but was probably only one or the other. 65 27 223 4.3К Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 I sill thought I was getting trolled so I asked if I was getting trolled and they 000 were adamant -- Helen Keller was a fraud. So then I did some Googling to find out some relevant information to prove her existence and found this: Text Line Font Sunglasses Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 000 This is like a real thing. "Well how do you know she's real if you weren't there to see her?" "Cause I've seen THE MIRACLE WORKER. Do you think Abraham Lincoln is real even though we didn't see him?" Then they sent me an eye-rolling emojii. 62 27 176 4.4K Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 000 They all believe Abe was real and did the things he did. They don't believe Helen could have been blind and deaf and did everything that she did. "Cause the things he did were actually realistic." 17 196 3.8K Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 They are sticking to their guns. They believe people around her "pumped her up" and wrote the book for her. The do not believe in Helen Keller. And apparently 15 million others on TikTok feel the same way. Text Line Font Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 00 And we wonder what the cost of four years of "fake news" and "conspiracy theories" is... We're all just one TikTok away from being erased from an entire generation. 80 27 1.1K 11.9K Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 000 Also -- my nieces and nephews are all bright and well-intentioned. This isn't from lack of education or empathy. This is more about how group think can travel through social media like a virus until it suddenly just becomes the truth I think. 144 27 517 O 7.6K Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 Thank you for all the responses about abelism to this post. This is 100% a teachable moment and I plan to do my part with 4 certain teenagers... But also -- if you know a teenager -- l'd ask them about this sooner than later. Text Line Font Circle Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 5 00 By far the most enlightening thing to happen in the last 2 hours are all the responses about abelism and how this is a microcosm of the challenges disabled people face every day. I'm retweeting as many as I can into my timeline but keep them coming please. 191 27 268 5.6K Daniel Kunka @unikunka · Jan 6 Update - if a joke on TikTok (as apparently this "fraud" started) can poison young minds the thread about it going viral can change minds back... Have had a discussion about abelism with my N&Ns and ordered @HabenGirma's book for them. Never too late to go down the right path. Text Line Jaw Font

On January 6th, 2021, Newsweek published an article detailing the conspiracy. On January 7th, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett published an article about Helen Keller denial on TikTok to The Guardian, where she claims that the conspiracy theory is ableist.

On January 19th, YouTuber Atozy uploaded a video discussing TikTok’s Helen Keller denial videos, garnering over 125,000 views in five weeks (shown below).

On February 9th, 2021, TikToker @baylieswackhamer posted a video with the on-screen caption, “a conspiracy theory i believe” followed by her evidence towards the statement, including her handwriting and the fact she wrote 12 books, garnering over 1.7 million views in two weeks (shown below).

On an unknown date prior to February 21st, TikToker and teacher Samuel Sleeves uploaded a video filming himself while asking his students about various historical figures and events, to which none of them know the answers. At one point in the video, he asks them who Helen Keller is, to which they give a variety of wrong answers, including that she’s a “male Nazi” and that she outright doesn’t exist.

The original video has since been removed but was reuploaded by Twitter user @jamie2181 on February 21st under the caption, “So this is terrifying. History teacher discussing major events with Gen Z students” garnering over 33,900 likes and 16,200 retweets in two days (shown below).

The term “Helen Keller” started Trending on Twitter that day as the video spread. On the same day, Twitter user @clay_png tweeted, “Helen Keller being racist is one of the funniest things ever,” garnering over 100,000 likes and 6,100 retweets in two days.

On February 22nd, Twitter user @RTide69 posted a tweet implying the internet is making everyone dumber, which is why people fall for conspiracies like this, garnering over 7,100 likes and 950 retweets in a day (shown below, left). On the same day, Twitter user @shinnick_g made a post reminding people that popular conspiracy theories are fake, garnering over 8,700 likes and 1,300 retweets in a comparable span of time (shown below, right).

RollTide69 ... @RTide69 Helen Keller wasn't real. The Earth is flat. The moon landing wasn't real. Covid-19 isn't real. The election was stolen. Or Americans are getting dumber via the internet. Conspiracy verywell Font Line Chair Parallel Slope Kevin G Shinnick @shinnick_g Just to correct Qwazies - HELEN KELLER existed The Holocaust happened The Earth is Round Biden LEGALLY won the election We hope this helps you deal with reality. Font

The conspiracy theory gained significant media attention over the course of the day, including stories from Daily Mail, Yahoo! Life and Distractify.

Many expressed frustration over the fact that people would deny Keller’s existence. For example, on February 22nd, Twitter user @kalasaurus tweeted, “Do yourself a favor and don’t try to figure out why Helen Keller is trending,” garnering over 4,000 likes in a day (shown below, left). Later that day, Twitter @1Schoolhouse tweeted expressing her sadness as a person with disabilities at seeing why the term was trending, garnering over 3,100 likes and 400 retweets in a comparable span of time (shown below, right).

Kala A @kalasaurus Do yourself a favor and don't try to figure out why Helen Keller is trending. Politics · Trending Helen Keller 4,536 Tweets Product Rectangle Font Technology Online 1 Room Schoolhouse @1Schoolhouse That moment when you're disabled and you see that disabled icon Helen Keller is trending+get excited because lots of people don't talk about disabled issues- but then the tweets are mocking her disability+discrediting her accomplishments and you feel like society's punchline again 16 · Politics · Trending Helen Keller 7,817 Tweets Font Screenshot

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