What a bizarre tale. An extraordinary rapid rise to becoming a brand attracting fame and status. The 23 (
26) year old mum, with her heartrending story, not only managed to garner hundreds of thousands of followers, but secured book and app deals, plus won Cosmopolitan’s 2014 ‘Fun, Fearless Female’ social media award.
It was in 2013 that Belle Gibson first claimed she had been diagnosed – back in 2009 – with aggressive brain tumours, and only given four months to live. She recounted a tale of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Then, one day after passing out – she woke and changed her life.
And did she change her life. Most people can only dream of such a rapid rise.
She began a series of alternative therapies from vitamin and Ayurvedic treatments, to oxygen therapy. She gave up gluten, dairy, meat, preservatives, GMO foods and sugar (I wonder if she really did). As Adelaidenow reports, after building followers, she launched The Whole Pantry application in August 2013 (which had 200,000 downloads in the first month at $3.79 per app), and got her glossy book published by Lantern through Penguin – plus had 197,700 Instagram followers.
In July 2014, she claimed she had been diagnosed with a third and fourth cancer. But as always, even when doubters tested her, this was her message (2 years ago):
“…this is my journey and I encourage you to do what is best for your body and situation with love and an open mind. I have been healing a severe and malignant brain cancer for the past few years with natural medicine, Gerson therapy (organic, plant-based raw food theory that is supposed to activate the body’s healing powers) and foods. It’s working for me and I am grateful to be sharing this journey with over 70,000 people worldwide.”
What is startling about Gibson as a social media sensation is the quality of her branding and the marketing machinery around her. “Her” book, The Whole Pantry, which I have not read, seems well produced.
Then in 2015 it all came crashing down when she was exposed as a fraud, and went on to 60 Minutes to try explain.
Well, one thing is obvious. There is money in alternative medicine and it has a following, and it seems society is desperate to hear about other ways to treat and avoid cancer.
So what can we learn from this sorry tale of her dastardly lie.
Question medical and health marketing
There has been quite a fuss over this “fraudster” with a alleged personality disorder, and at this stage we do not know of any “collateral damage” she may have caused.
So if Gibson – a 23 year old mum with a laptop – can con hundreds of thousands of people – THEN what can big pharma achieve with billions of dollars, and marketing teams in the tens of thousands. And with big pharma, we know the the collateral damage is vast. But not much fuss.
Take one drug, Vioxx, as an example. Or 55,000 examples as reported in theweek.co.uk:
“The recall came just days after Merck discovered that a top medical journal was about to publish a study by an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) investigator indicating that the drug in question greatly increased the risk of fatal heart attacks and strokes and had probably been responsible for at least 55,000 American deaths during the five years it had been on the market.
It soon turned out Merck had known of potential lethal side effects even before launching Vioxx in 1999, but had brushed all such disturbing tests under the rug.
With a TV ad budget averaging a hundred million dollars per year, Vioxx swiftly became one of Merck’s bestsellers, generating over $2 billion in yearly revenue. Twenty-five million Americans were eventually prescribed Vioxx as an aspirin-substitute thought to produce fewer complications.
There was a fair amount of news coverage after the recall, but pretty slim considering the alleged 55,000 death toll. A class-action lawsuit dragged its way through the courts for years, eventually being settled for $4.85 billion in 2007.”
The fraudster’s message
What she was advocating, e.g. no sugar, no preservatives, no GMO etc. could not be more spot on. A great message. I hope it healed some people. And I hope those calling for her “blood” are not advocating for people to revert back to fast food, sugary diets and fizzy sodas.
The focus has been on her fraud. A character assassination. Unfortunately, her deceit has done a huge DISSERVICE to the general health and well being movement – and she must have caused personal pain and ANGUISH to cancer sufferers who were hoping and grasping for their own healing.
Be on guard for the deception
What a perfect saboteur she was.
Journalist Claire Weaver said when interviewing Gibson for the May issue of Cosmopolitan, that she “tells stories that are frustratingly vague, unverifiable and sometimes far-fetched.”
Cosmopolitan reported that The Weekly was unable to find evidence of “Dr Johns” who diagnosed her in 2009. But they did track down alternative health practitioner (not a qualified doctor) named “Phil”, who did the second diagnosis.
“I worked on [Gibson], yes,” Phil told The Weekly. “She definitely did have cancer. She explained to about four or five of us that she already had a [brain cancer] diagnosis – we had to believe what we were told. I didn’t see any evidence other than what we could physically see in her. We did tests. …But I’m not allowed to talk about it. I’ve been asked not to talk about it.”
Who asked Phil not to talk about it?
And apparently he charged her $8,890 worth of treatments, including a “machine” and “special travel blanket”. And The Weekly describe the receipts from Phil to Gibson as “mind-boggling”.
There are some very strange aspects to her story
Who was pushing or helping her? Did Gibson dream up 80 recipes?
Gibson began posting in May 2013, launched her iphone app that August, and her table top cookbook (with 80 recipes) was published in October 2014. The Apple Watch launch was scheduled for April 2015. And all the while she was supposedly sick or recuperating. It seemed none of these marketing, publishing or publicizing companies did their due diligence.
She is mostly likely an opportunist – but IF I had a suspicious mind, I’d say Belle Gibson was a set-up to discredit alternative and natural medicine. Maybe Phil was her “handler”. Stranger things have happened, like Oswald being accused for shooting Kennedy with a magic bullet. She did say in her interview on 60 Minutes that she is also a “victim”.
Is the Gibson law being drafted?
I wrote a submission to the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission when they were trying to “address the promotion of unscientific health-related information or practices which may be detrimental to individual or public health.” I found the scope, the wording and the terms of reference quite sinister, and it raised my suspicions as to the motives of the Health Care Complaints Commission and who orchestrated such an enquiry.
And this Belle Gibson story has an odd smell about it, and we will probably never get to hear what really happened. But I’m sure her story will surface (in a legal argument) at some point to further advance the controlling medical view.
Focus on the real information and not on social media
This site, The Truth About Cancer, is an excellent resource. These are medical professionals and experts providing an alternative mainstream approach, and this is their trailer: