Last year, an unfortunate conspiracy theory spread all over TikTok denying Helen Keller's disabilities and achievements. Welp, the truthers are apparently back at it as 'Helen Keller' trended on Twitter this week for all the wrong reasons. So where the hell did this theory come from? At the beginning of 2020, crass Helen Keller jokes were trending on TikTok, which might have inspired TikToker @mygrandmaslooselip to post a video claiming that Helen Keller wasn't actually blind. What might have started out as a tacky ploy to take advantage of a trending hashtag quickly became a full-blown conspiracy theory, mostly backed by zoomers claiming she was either faking her disabilities, that her teacher Anne Sullivan was fabricating Keller's achievements, or that she didn't exist at all. The truly hard thing to believe is that the conspiracy itself is real. Many of these TikTok videos have an air of twisted irony about them—maybe it's all just a bit. Though one shouldn't underestimate the idiocy of TikTok trends. Maybe some would rather believe a conspiracy denying Helen Keller's existence than admit they'll likely never measure up to the achievements and activism of a woman who lived with blindness and deafness. We should say that not all of TikTok is all gung ho about the conspiracy. Many have posted responses debunking the theories. For example, TikToker @diwhine posted a rebuttal video with captions that read, "This is the worst thing I've seen on this app. TikTok is so toxic. People are literally denying the fact that Helen Keller existed & discrediting her...She knew five languages because she wanted to learn them and she was given the tools to do that. She was able to thrive because people accommodated her. She was able to do all these things because instead of people saying 'oh, you can't do that, you're blind and deaf'—no, they said 'sure, we'll make it work."
It's not totally clear why the theory has recently had a resurgence, but Helen Keller denial discourse has made its way to Twitter after a history teacher uploaded a TikTok video of himself reacting to his middle school students claim that 'Helen Keller was fake' or that she was 'the nazi guy.' Even more theories have since circulated, claiming that Keller was a racist eugenicist and that Anne Sullivan owned slaves. Despite the well-documented fact that Keller was an outspoken socialist, feminist, and early supporter of the NAACP, Helen Keller deniers are calling for her to be 'cancelled.' We can't make this stuff up. Unsurprisingly, Twitter has takes on all this. While most write off the theories as baseless and inherently ableist, some have used ironic jokes to mock those who believe in the conspiracy.