ENFORCING THE PRINCIPLE of deterrence has seldom been more important than in the case of disgraced blogger, entrepreneur and “cancer” patient, Belle Gibson; the admission her ailments, tumours and surgeries were false — coming after months of media scrutiny that included the loss of a publishing contract and a deal with Apple — must now see her charged. The need to terminate a dangerous precedent outweighs any concerns for her welfare.
I’m not really departing from the political theme tonight, for law enforcement is a practical application that results from the political process; and with that in mind, I want to say a few things about a despicable matter of public interest that — even now — appears to continue to be played like a piano by the beautiful, charming, fork-tongued miscreant at its epicentre.
I’m not going to trawl over the seemingly endless saga of Belle Gibson that has held a disgusted and appalled public riveted for months as first doubts, then questions, and finally the truth emerged: this apparent medical miracle, “cured” of cancers of the liver, spleen, uterus, and “terminal cancer” of the brain by healthy eating and lifestyle choices — and who claimed to have died on the operating table during cardiac surgery — has finally admitted, beaten, that the whole thing was a fabrication.
Those who’ve been living under a rock this year can get the gist of the story — good word — from reports in today’s press here, here and here, and it seems poetic that one of the most widely read publications in Australia, Women’s Weekly, is publishing a humiliating tell-all interview with Gibson under the heading “My Life-Long Struggle With The Truth.”
But if Belle Gibson were merely a congenital liar, that might be where this story starts and ends, with the exception of those close to her feeling betrayed and exploited, and some of those around her recognising her as the liability she clearly is — and opting to get on with their lives unencumbered by her acquaintance.
But — and there’s always a “but,” where this kind of thing is concerned — there’s money involved. Lots of it. Just how much is hard to discern through the tightly woven tapestry of lies and bullshit, but there’s money behind this story: and much of it appears, at face value, to have been acquired under false pretences.
Like the fundraising done in the name of “at least five charities” — none of which appears to have ever been distributed.
Or the revelation that of those five, investigations by Fairfax Media (see the linked article) revealed four of them were unaware fundraising activities even took place, whilst the fifth received a paltry $1,000 after the journalist contacted it.
Or the fact Fairfax confirmed Gibson and her business entities are not legally registered as fundraisers.
Or the recipe app, said to have been downloaded 300,000 times at a unit price of $3.79 — there’s well over $1.1 million just there — which has apparently hoodwinked desperately sick, desperately gullible people into dumping conventional medicine in favour of Gibson’s snake oil remedies: and Gibson’s own spiel boasted that it “helped” people abandon the very treatments that offered the best prospect for saving their lives.
Of course, since the scandal erupted some months ago, Gibson’s footprints have quickly disappeared, with her blogs taken down and her social media presence vanishing into the wind; a promised “open letter” to explain the emerging inconsistencies in her story never materialised — and even if it had, it seems Gibson is so cavalier about the truth that it could scarcely have been believed.
But there’s a bigger issue here as well; so far this year there have been three “outings,” to different degrees, of young women in the health space for misleading people, broadly, over medical treatments or weight management regimes; aside from Gibson, so-called Bikini Body Ashy Bines has been accused of — and admitted — plagiarising content for her books and online publications; even so-called “wellness warrior” Jessica Ainscough, who died in February, reverted to chemotherapy and other orthodox oncological treatments shortly before her death after years advocating that a vegan diet and supplements could cure cancer.
They didn’t, and they don’t.
The point in raising them is that when it comes to frauds, charlatans, soothsayers and snake oil salespeople, where there is one, there are usually others; of those who have been exposed to date Gibson is the highest profile, and it is Gibson at whom my remarks are primarily aimed.
I don’t think it’s particularly significant that these three are all female; there are plenty of male shysters floating around the place. But the fact that beautiful, charming, smooth-talking young women are being revealed as charlatans probably says something about an opportunity that is taken more often than anyone can know, and certainly more often than the silently guilty would ever care to admit — until they are caught.
And the fact that these examples all fall broadly within the “health and wellbeing” silo is probably irrelevant too; as sure as night follows day, it’s only a matter of time before others — in other fields, peddling bullshit predicated upon some whole other set of lies, half-truths, exaggerations and wild claims designed to elicit sympathy, attention, and for profit — are unmasked.
People — good people — are, on the whole, extraordinarily generous; they will give time and money to what they perceive to be a good cause, especially if it’s in the name of someone sick, suffering, or otherwise dealt a poor hand in life.
The inherent goodness of such people doesn’t — as a rule — extend to the kind of deep suspicion and distrust that specimens like Belle Gibson ought to inspire.
And that is why she should not get away with what she has done, scot-free.
It’s not just the easy money these grubs pocket — and as anyone who has put money, houses, livelihoods and potentially marriages on the line to try to build a business knows — it’s the fact that many, like Gibson, stand to walk away with most or all of their ill-gotten booty intact; those who genuinely invest money, honest hard work, and with no guarantee of legitimate success as entrepreneurs have every right to be affronted by Gibson.
That affront knows no bounds, as Victoria Police recently declined to pursue Gibson, which raises the question of whether she is allowed to pocket at least a million dollars without consequence, albeit on a false premise.
For every Belle Gibson who does this kind of thing — and gets away with it — someone, somewhere, is going to sit up and take note, and go and rip someone else off: and this is merely another reason why the law must now fall on Gibson like the proverbial ton of bricks as a deterrent to others.
Yet it seems justice is too much to ask; as readers will note from the articles I have linked to, Gibson is already mounting a defence based on a “difficult childhood” — standard fare for the criminal, the mercenary, and the bad to the bone — to which I give my standard answer that I couldn’t care less about her childhood: she’s old enough to know better, and obviously intelligent enough to tell right from wrong if she can lift an easy million dollars from the unsuspecting based on a lie.
The rest of her utterances — as quoted in all of the material I have linked today — show this pretty girl with the forked tongue is already deploying a clever use of language to attempt to slither away from her responsibility, her culpability, and the fact she has committed a rotten outrage against people who will think twice before trying to help someone who genuinely needs it.
(This — published an hour and a half after my own article — is precisely the kind of gullible apology for Gibson’s ills her “explanations” are designed to elicit).
And, finally, comes the issue of community standards, which seem to slip a little further every time something like this comes along; rhetoric about her background, or her troubled life, or her “problems” with the truth are offered up as cover for potentially criminal misconduct: and if as a society the likes of Gibson are excused and tolerated because of what is probably another fairy story, then it sends the message to everyone else that they can behave according to the law of the jungle, for under proper laws there won’t be any consequences.
So long as they get the story straight.
With Gibson’s admissions, there is now ample evidence of misleading, deceptive, and fraudulent conduct — everything she has said, done and published can be distilled down to that simple summary.
There must logically also be money or other assets that can can and should be recovered and, where practicable, liquidated and returned to either the original purchasers/donors or distributed between the charities in whose names Gibson amassed her filthy lucre in the first place.
A deal with prosecutors and/or other relevant government agencies doesn’t cut it.
Abruptly stopping the precedent Gibson has set for the less ethical to emulate is more important than any concerns over her welfare, or limp-wristed sanctions that effectively exonerate her: it is to be hoped that saner heads prevail in the law enforcement agencies that to date have refused to prosecute her, and that Gibson is hit with the full force of the law.