Two weeks ago I came across a heartbreaking article on the internet about the Australian writer and blogger Belle Gibson. Heartbreaking in a weird kind of way.
According to the article Belle Gibson built a public profile (since 2013) around her claim through her book, Instagram and Facebook accounts that she was diagnosed with brain cancer as a 20-year-old in 2009 and was given four months to live.
Her book ‘The Whole Pantry’ was promoted at the London Book Fair in 2014 by publisher Penguin Books and she was invited by Apple Inc. to attend its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco that same year.
What’s pathetic is that she lied about her cancer. She lied about rejecting conventional treatment and beating it through healthy eating. What’s more, she exploited public generosity by falsely claiming most of her income went to charities. And in 2015, she admitted that she never had cancer. The article reads:
“Federal Court Justice Debra Mortimer ruled that Gibson’s deceptive and misleading claims about her charitable donations from the sales of her cookbook “The Whole Pantry” and a related app constituted unconscionable conduct under Australian law.She could be fined up to AU$200,000 and her company, Inkerman Road Nominees which is now in liquidation, could be fined up to AU$1.1 million at a penalty hearing later this month.”
Seriously? I wonder how many people have believed her, followed her diet and taken her on her word. You would think that Penguin, one of the oldest and biggest reputable publishing agencies, would do better than that.
It disgusts me to think how people can lie and fake even cancer to get some attention, some publicity and wealth. It disgusts me to even think that the publishing business is only about profit lately. It disgusts me to learn that Penguin Publishers have published her lie and promoted her cookbook, thus causing perhaps hundreds of people with real cancer to follow her diet and her lies.
It disgusts me to learn that there are writers who have sold their soul and dignity just to make money and be talked about. Who can sink that low and pretend to have cancer just to gain a few followers on social media?
Shame on her! Shame on them! And shame on the people, in this case primarily Penguin, for providing them with the platform and for allowing them to do as they please.
Do you remember James Frey’s story? When he lied on national television about his memoir, about his wholly fabricated details of his criminal career, and said “all true – I think I wrote about the events in the book truly and honestly and accurately.”
His book ‘A Million Little Pieces’ was first published in 2003 by Nan A. Talese, Doubleday, and became a New York Times Bestseller before it was chosen for Oprah’s book club. But three years later it was withdrawn from bookstores.
Are we as publishers, agents, writers, so desperate to make it big and get rich quick, so as to forget all ethical and moral issues? Are we to sacrifice our values and everything we live for and believe in for the sake of financial gains or for marketing purposes?
It saddens and depresses me to think that there are thousands of dedicated writers out there with great stories, whose work won’t even make it onto the publishers’ and agents’ desks. And yet they keep writing and trying and sending or emailing their proposals here and there only for their queries to be marked as spam and end up in the trash of some agent or publisher.
Shame! Shame! Shame!