The Woman Who Fooled The World: Belle Gibson’s Cancer Con compellingly charts the rise of a figure who rode the wellness bandwagon to fame while gullible publishers promoted her, with little-to-no fact-checking of her false and dangerous story.
The journalists who broke the still-unbelievable story about how a young Australian woman conned the world into thinking she beat brain cancer via wellness and a healthy diet explore how she did it, how they broke it and why the media (and social media) was so gullible.
Belle Gibson became a social media darling in 2014. She was young, attractive and used Instagram to promote her wellness regime. This turned into an app, The Whole Pantry, and a book deal. Of course, this inconceivable story was too good to be true and Apple and Penguin are deservedly criticised for promoting Gibson.
Donelly and Toscano track the rise of wellness and how this has been hijacked by some to push pseudoscience over western medicine. Investigated with a nice touch of empathy, it is at its most devastating when the stories of cancer sufferers, and those who fell for Gibson’s lies, are told.
Though they broke the story in 2015, it is a timely reminder of why a good dose of skepticism is needed in this era of unaccountable social media and the importance of investigative journalism in these perilous times for traditional media.
Author: Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano