Disability advocates are horrified by a baseless conspiracy theory spreading online that denies Helen Keller’s accomplishments. (Photo: Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Young people on TikTok are denying the life of Helen Keller.
Keller — an author and activist born in Tuscumbia, Ala. in 1880 who lost her sight and hearing as a result of an illness at 19 months but was taught to communicate by her teacher Anne Sullivan — lived an incredible life, well-documented, for starters, through her autobiography and versions of The Miracle Worker both onstage and onscreen. But since last May, videos doubting Keller’s achievements have been making their way across the on the platform.
According to one video posted by a user named Leanne Silvey, the conversation was initiated by people who began creating content questioning Keller’s life for a laugh. To her, however, the theories being presented weren’t funny.
“I’ve seen a lot of jokes on this app about Helen Keller being fake. My friends and I have been saying this for years,” Silvey said in the video. “I’m genuinely not trying to be rude or offensive or anything, but at this point how can you believe that she wasn’t faking it?”
Silvey’s not alone in her convictions. “Helen Keller is NOT real. There is absolutely NO way she was blind and deaf and wrote TWELVE books, learned FIVE whole languages, fell out of a building and DIDNT die, went to Harvard, and had very very neat handwriting,” another user wrote in a video. “She DOESN’T exist.”
A TikTok spokesperson tells Yahoo Life, “TikTok is an inclusive community, and we do not tolerate hateful behavior. Content that dehumanizes others on the basis of a disability is a violation of our community guidelines, and we remove such content from our platform,” noting that content that mocks Keller is not allowed.