Why Would A Blogger Create a Fake Story?

Every blogger wants to have their posts read. Whether it’s just by family and friends or their community or existing and potential clients for those who blog to increase awareness of their business, it’s safe to say that every blogger would love to have more than one person read each post. Every blogger would love to have a post of theirs go viral. One that gets them noticed by the mainstream media and the popular news and blog aggregator websites.

Viral posts such as;

Why Bloggers Love Viral Posts

Every time a blog post goes viral, whether the big time online news outlet with many readers “reblogs” the post in its entirety, or whether they paraphrase and quote passages from the original post, a link to the original post is normally included. If not, the blogger’s name and/or their blog’s name is given in a bio, and social media contacts are normally given. As small time bloggers we love this.

We love it when we get asked if our post can be republished by a website with a big following because we know that the link they provide back to our own websites will bring in traffic. Not often as much as we’d like, but heaps more traffic than what Facebook’s silly algorithms are allowing these days when we promote on that platform. We also love it when we get paid for these posts too, just saying. But that doesn’t always happen.

And then there’s one which I wish didn’t go viral. It’s a post that I know Oren Miller from A Blogger and a Father wish he didn’t have to write. It was his piece he simply titled “Cancer” on his own website. It was renamed I Am A Dad With Stage 4 Lung Cancer, And Here’s What I Know Now when it was picked up by Huffington Post. I know that Oren would have rather had just his family, his friends, his community and his fellow mum and dad bloggers from around the world read some stupid little anecdote he told about his kids rather than him having to tell the world he had terminal cancer.

I know, if anything, he’d rather his post about getting the Amazon Mom programme changed to Amazon Family be the one that went viral. And it did. Sadly, after he died. And the news of his death which made headlines on a few media outlet’s websites, and was talked about by many a fellow blogger who linked to his website amounts to nothing for him. Oren doesn’t need to watch those clicks turn over. Just because people might be visiting his blog now doesn’t mean that he’s able to take on a sponsored post thanks to any new found “fame.” Obviously, he can’t.

When Bloggers Fake Their Stories

I started planning this post back in April 2015 when the news about the Australian blogger/social media star Belle Gibson admitted that she lied about having cancer. For those who don’t know her story, Belle claimed that she had cured her own brain cancer by changing her diet and eating only wholesome and natural foods.

She developed an app call The Whole Pantry that sold a reported 200,000 plus downloads, and which won her awards. And it was with those accolades that she was afforded some level of fame which she “selflessly” converted to dollars being brought in for her to support many charities. Only the charities never saw the money. And people grew sceptical of her story. And her empire started to collapse.

I Wish Oren Lied.

Just days ago his wife shared an update with friends of Oren’s. It was a year to the day that his devastating diagnosis was given to him. Man, I really wish he WAS lying. Or joking. Sure, it’s in poor taste, and it’s something that, even though he had a wicked sense of humour, Oren would never have done. But if he did…

And if in hindsight, knowing the alternative was that we were where we are today, without him in this world, I would have forgiven him. And I’m sure everyone else would have too. Oren didn’t cash in on his misfortune. Maybe it was because, unlike Belle Gibson, Oren Miller knew the harsh realities of the truth. His truth.

Belle Gibson wasn’t the only one to cash in on the “I can cure cancer” bandwagon. Another Australian blogger, Jessica Ainscough who went by the name The Wellness Warrior was also a blogger who claimed that she could cure cancer by forgoing medical treatment, and by simply changing her diet and her lifestyle. Sadly, Jessica’s tale of having cancer wasn’t a lie. She died in February 2015. I’m sure she would have given anything to have been in Belle Gibson’s shoes. I’m sure that Jessica Ainscough would have preferred to face the world’s media and admit that she was lying rather than having to meet her maker.

Although she did not lie about her condition, Jessica was happy to promote to the world an untested and unproven natural cure. At the time of her death it is reported that she was making hundred of thousands of dollars a year as a natural health guru. I don’t know if she believed in her own hype. I don’t know whether she actually thought that rejecting modern medicine and relying solely on natural remedies was going to cure her. I don’t know either of those things about her so I don’t know if she, like Belle Gibson was merely out to make a quick buck while she was still alive, or whether she actually thought that she would cure her type of cancer and that she should be duly compensated for doing the “good deed” of spreading the word of the miracle cure to the world.

Why Do Bloggers Blog?

According to many other bloggers and research based articles around the web, bloggers start blogs for many reasons. For some it’s to be a voice. For some it’s to connect with like minded people. For some it’s a hobby. And for others it’s to sell their product or services. Yes, in the world of blogging, there are many people out to make a quick buck or millions more that that.

Elizabeth ““Elle”” Edmunds was another who faked cancer to make money on the Internet. She set up a Go Fund Me web-page and Facebook page to promote her fraud. She even shaved her head to make it look more believable.

And then there’s those bloggers who create fictional stories to promote their blog for no other reason other than to have some sort of notoriety. Debbie Swenson was one of the earliest cases of what is now known as Münchausen by Internet. She created a fictional cancer sufferer by the name of Kaycee Nicole and claimed this was an actual person, and then wrote about her on her blog. She even killed off the character which became the means in which her hoax was unravelled.

Unlike Kaycee, 5-year-old Garnett Spears could have only wished that he was a fictional character created by his own mother to tell her story of woe. Sadly, this was not the case. Garnett was a real, living, flesh and bones boy who suffered at the hands of his own mother who made him sick and kept him sick just to promote her blog. Although the trial judge stated that the boy’s mother, Lacey Spears was suffering from Münchausen syndrome by proxy, it would be safe to suggest that Münchausen by Internet was more likely the cause of her infliction. Her readers kept returning to find out how Garnett was going and they were sending prayers and well wishes to him via her social media accounts as well as on her blog.

Lying To Promote Your Cause

And then there are those bloggers who make up a story, not for financial gain, but to promote their cause. Meg Lanker-Simons who has a blog called Cognitive Dissonance and who has been referred to as a pro-feminist blogger was caught out in a lie when she posted a fictitious “rape culture” attack aimed at herself from an anonymous student within her university campus.

Anti-Abortion blogger Becca Beushausen faked a pregnancy with a baby that was not going to live very long to promote her anti-abortion stance. She even named her fake baby-to-be April and picked a rare disorder called holoprosencephaly which would mean that the baby was sure to die within hours or days of being born. Again, taking her story too far and posting a photo of her holding a doll that she claimed was the dead baby was her ultimate downfall.

There Are Plenty of Good Bloggers

At this point it might seem lopsided with me starting this post mentioning some of my fellow Dad Bloggers and giving links to their most viral posts whilst listing a bunch of women who have blogged under false pretences. That’s definitely not the angle I am going for by any means. This is not a battle of the sexes. I’m not the first to mention this, but in the world of parenting bloggers, women far out-number to men so it would be natural that a greater amount of the bad eggs are going to come from the mothering side of when it comes to those using children or unborn babies as pawns in their wicked games.

And when it comes to nutrition, healthy food and alternative therapies, again, based on my experience alone, women seem to be at the forefront of this genre of blogging as well. So once again, the greater amount of bad eggs are going to come from that side of the gender divide.

But then, it would also stand for reason, there are also going to be a greater amount of women, be they mothers or not who are writing perfectly good blogs about having sick children, changing their diet to benefit themselves or their family, or fighting for equality or justice, or whatever it is they are trying to promote, change or eliminate.

I follow many bloggers on social media or directly via a subscription to their blog, or if they’re also on my blogging platform, I get to save them to my community of bloggers. One blogger that I reached out to when planning this post was Roo Ciambriello who created the Scratch Or Sniff website. Roo has a few websites including one where she promotes herself as a freelance Jill-of-all-trades. But it was her blog website about food allergies that made me focus on speaking with her. I’ll let her describe the purpose of Scratch Or Sniff;

“…a website for parents of kids with allergies, asthma, and eczema, officially launched in June 2014 and we hit the ground running.

Our mission is to raise awareness about the gravity of food allergies, environmental allergies, and the asthma and eczema that tend to come along with the aforementioned two.

A growing epidemic and now recognized by the ADA as a disability, we’re happy to provide a much-needed resource to parents, teachers, coaches, and cool aunts + uncles alike.”

On the Scratch Or Sniff website there is a disclaimer tab like every reputable blogger should have (mine is called disclosure, so mark that as an either/or). And it was part of that disclaimer that I wanted to ask her about, so I did, via email.


 

Darrell: On your website you have a disclaimer page (like every good blogger should) and it reads like this;

All content here is not meant to treat or cure any medical condition or disease. Always consult with your doctor about your personal health and wellness. All reviews are strictly personal opinion. Scratch or Sniff does not claim responsibility for any of the products, restaurants, remedies, or companies discussed on this site. All blog content is for entertainment purposes only.”

I was with you on everything you said in that disclaimer right up until the last sentence about this being for entertainment purposes only. Whilst I find you and your website entertaining, when you consider a story like the Teal Pumpkin Project or the various product recalls that you report on, these seem way more useful and informative than entertaining.

My question in short is; while I admire and respect your disclaimer as a whole, why did you feel the need to add “All blog content is for entertainment purposes only”?

Roo: We have that listed as a disclaimer so readers are not taking our advice as a substitute from medical advice. Often I’ll say at the end of a post “We’re not doctors, just your friends on the internet.” While I consider Scratch or Sniff a resource, it’s the same as calling a friend and asking for advice about a problem. A friend may lament that her stomach hurts and I might suggest that she drink a little ginger tea. It may or may not help, but either way, she knows I’m not a doctor.


Darrell: You have what seems to be affiliate marketing by the way of Amazon, Ebay and Netflix on your sidebar, but you don’t have a e-store, nor do you seem to be pushing a product. And looking at your blog’s Facebook page you’re happy to share informative stories about allergies from other sources (such as Live Science). How important is it for you to have your blog as one that gets information out there versus being a source of revenue?

Roo: I started Scratch or Sniff because I saw a real need in this space for something for parents of kids with allergies, asthma, and eczema that was also relatable. We have costs associated with running the site (hosting, development, paying writers, etc), so generating revenue is important for us to cover those costs. Additionally, we enjoy connecting great brands to readers, and we make sure each partnership is a win for us, a win for brand, and a win for the reader.


Roo continues to not only entertain but inform the visitors to her website that she is not a doctor or a professional. Go on, visit her site. Read her disclaimer page. Read the very funny “about” page. And as I mentioned to her in my first question, her website IS actually very informative, so you can take her anecdotal advice which is more than often for you to check the product you are giving your allergy suffering child. And well may she do it with an entertaining flair because that is Roo’s style.

In my own food awareness post that I recently wrote about Rice Crackers; Are Rice Crackers Really A Healthy Alternative? I also gave heaps of heads up that my post was not part of a Choice Magazine or CSIRO study. It was merely me reporting the figures from the nutrition labels of the rice crackers that I purchased to do my own research based on a discussion I had with my wife about the sugar levels in so-called healthy snacks like these.

Now I would love to have the repeat visitors that other blogs have. I would love everyone who reads this post clicks through to another post and then follow me on social media and come back the next time I post. But I’m not going to try to win that captivated audience by making up stories about my kids and an illness they have. I’m not about to create an illness for me. I really hope that serious illnesses bypass this household completely.

And if that did happen. If someone took a turn for the worse and we were dealing day-to-day with an disease that one of us was fighting, and I felt the need to share this with my readers, I would disclose, disclose, disclose the hell out of each post to remind you that what might be working for us might not work for you, and vice versa.

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