One of the most bizarre conspiracy theories to come out of TikTok is that Helen Keller never existed.
The outlandish conspiracy theory has been earning momentum among Gen Z for some time, with teens insisting that the author and activist — who was blind and deaf and lived from 1880 to 1968 — ‘didn’t exist’ or was at the very least a ‘fraud.’
Now the troubling knowledge that so many young people doubt Keller’s existence and accomplishments have reached the ears of adults, who are horrified by the trend.
Say what? One of the most bizarre conspiracy theories to come out of TikTok is that Helen Keller never existed
Outlandish: The conspiracy theory has been earning momentum among Gen Z, with teens insisting that the author and activist ‘didn’t exist’ or was at the very least a ‘fraud’
Activist: Keller was was blind and deaf and lived from 1880 to 1968 and is known for overcoming her disabilities and advocating for the disabled as a community
According to Newsweek, the first evidence of the conspiracy theory on TikTok was a now-deleted video by user @alleyesonharshita, who used the hashtag #helenkellerwasntreal and racked up over 600,000 views.
Posted in May 2020, the video questioned what Keller accomplished, saying: ‘It’s time for the lies to end.’
It’s not the only one. That same month, Medium published an essay titled ‘The Generation that Doesn’t Believe Helen Keller Existed,’ which cited similar content using the hashtag #HelenKellerisoverparty.
The writer said that Keller has become an ‘urban legend,’ writing: ‘Generation Z literally does not believe Helen Keller existed. And frankly, I’m having a hard time accepting that she did myself.’
Meanwhile, TikTok user @krunk19 has earned two million views for his own video casting aspersions on Keller.
‘We’ve gotta talk about this whole Helen Keller thing, ’cause I’ve had enough,’ he says. ‘I’ve heard it my whole life. She’s deaf, she’s blind, she’s amazing. No, guess what — she lied.
Naysayer: Several TikTok videos have furthered the claim that Keller was a fraud, including one by @krunk19
Misinformation: Though @krunk19 labels his page as a satire account, he hits on several points that teens are using to argue that Keller was a fraud
‘She’s a liar. Her and that monster Anne Sullivan pulled the wool over our eyes, and nobody’s thought to question it,’ he says in the video
‘She’s a liar. Her and that monster Anne Sullivan pulled the wool over our eyes, and nobody’s thought to question it.’
While @krunk19 says in his bio that his account is ‘purely satire,’ the viral success of the video has spread the conspiracy theory — and not everyone is laughing.
On January 5, screenwriter Daniel Kunka shared a viral Twitter thread that insists that Gen Z’s mistrust of Keller’s story is not a joke.
Guys, something insane happened to me today,’ he wrote. ‘I am on a text chain with my teenage nieces and nephews along with my mom (their grandma) and today my mom asked them if they knew who Helen Keller was…
‘And their response was that Helen Keller was a fraud who didn’t exist.
‘At first I thought they were trolling grandma, which is admittedly fun. But after awhile it was clear they weren’t joking.
Mind-blowing: On January 5, screenwriter Daniel Kunka shared a viral Twitter thread that insists that Gen Z’s mistrust of Keller’s story is not a joke
‘”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.
‘I still thought I was getting trolled so I asked if I was getting trolled and they were adamant — Helen Keller was a fraud.
‘This is like a real thing. “Well how do you know she’s real if you weren’t there to see her?”
He replied: ‘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 emoji,’ he said. ‘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,’ he wrote.
‘Cause the things he did were actually realistic,’ they told him.
‘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.
No way! Commenters were shocked and horrified, with several saying the conspiracy theory is abelist because it expresses disbelief of what disabled people can do
‘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,’ he wrote.
Twitter users are horrified by the revelation, with several calling it extremely abelist.
‘It’s important to point out the role ableism plays in this: this is not remotely shocking to me as a disabled person because we constantly hear things like “disabled people can’t do X” or “disabled people are lying about their conditions,”’ wrote one.
‘As a disabled person, I’m zero percent surprised at this. It’s massively ableist, but our society as a whole is. Tell your nieces and nephews that disabled people can do a hell of a lot of bada** things,’ wrote another.
‘Tell them they are being ablest as hell and shame them for it. Keller wasn’t perfect but she was real,’ tweeted a third.
‘I’m sorry, but news reels from the 1920s with an elderly Keller and Sullivan are on YouTube. These kids are gullible and not terribly bright (ironically, least of all in street smarts) if they believe this conspiracy theory. Per usual, the gullible fancy themselves to be truthers,’ another wrote.
Origins: Keller was born healthy in Alabama in 1880, but lost her sight and hearing at 19 months old after an illness, likely scarlet fever
Accomplishment: At age six, she started working with Anne Sullivan, who taught Keller how to spell out words on her palm to better communicate, as well as how to read
Special skill: Keller could also lip read by putting her fingers on people’s lips
She accomplished quite a lot as an adult, writing articles and books including ‘The Story of My Life’ and ‘Helen Keller’s Journal’
Political: She was also a disabilities advocate, an activist who helped co-found the ACLU, and a member of the Socialist Party
Keller, whose existence and accomplishments are well documented, was born healthy in Alabama in 1880, but lost her sight and hearing at 19 months old after an illness, likely scarlet fever.
In the years after, she came up with her own hand signals to communicate with her parents, but would grow frustrated and sometimes threw tantrums.
At age six, she started working with Anne Sullivan, a then-20-year-old teacher from the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston. Sullivan taught Keller how to spell out words on her palm to better communicate, as well as how to read by feeling raised words in cardboard before turning to Braille.
Later, she learned to speak from Sarah Fuller of the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, as well as how to lip-read with her fingers on the other person’s mouth.
As a young woman, she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College.
She accomplished quite a lot as an adult, writing articles and books including ‘The Story of My Life’ and ‘Helen Keller’s Journal.’
She was also a disabilities advocate and an activist who helped co-found the ACLU. She was a member of the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World, and in 1964, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Johnson.
She died in Connecticut in 1968.