Over one-million Australians tuned in to watch Belle Gibson get grilled by Sixty Minute’s Tara Brown on Sunday night.
Despite rumours of boycotting the show, many were curious, mesmerised and then dumbfounded by the contradictions and stunning lack of insight and empathy that Gibson showed during her infamous interview.
I was one of them. Although not a fan initially I became aware of Gibson ironically during her fall. I was hooked not on her ‘story’ of survival, but on the stark reality of what one person can do if they continue to run unchecked.
During the past five years as a speaker and writer Ive regularly been presented with Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion in Outliers, that practicing something 10,000 makes you an expert.
This statement of Gladwell’s seems to have become the bloggers doctrine, extending it to say that if practicing something for 10,000 hours makes you an expert, and you write several posts a week then over time you’ll reach expert status.
And of course once you’re an expert then you can write a book, conduct news interviews, get on the speakers circuit…before long the world’s forgotten that you aren’t actually an expert, what you are is someone who has written a lot about a particular subject.
Do you have an interest in the subject – sure. Are you knowledgable – absolutely. But an expert – well, maybe not!
The ease at which we can setup a free website still stuns a Gen X’er like me. Anyone it seems can start typing and with a bit of training on SEO and some social media know-how can find an audience starving for an alternative position on almost any topic.
And I would know because I guess Im one of them. I am what Becker would call a Moral Entrepreneur. Okay, let me back that up.
So during the 1960’s Sociologist Howard Becker observed a number of people organising themselves into lobby groups, and using those groups to apply social pressure for people to behave a particular way. Mothers Against Drunk Driving was one of the early pioneers in this. When I kickstarted the One Punch Can Kill campaign I joined these ranks also, convincing people that violence is never a solution.
Belle Gibson also falls into this definition. She may not have overtly been telling cancer patients to refuse medical intervention, but certainly she implied that a healthy lifestyle was curing her when medical intervention had proved insufficient.
Moral Entrepreneurship is nothing new, but unlike the 60’s we’re now in an era where anyone can find a public space for their opinion, and where audiences are hit with so much information we’re struggling to find a way to censor and scrutinise.
Think I’m over-exaggerating…then how do you explain people preferring the views of ex-supermodel Miranda Kerr on anti-vaccination over medical and scientific research?
I recently launched an online program encouraging those with a personal message to take it to the stage. Even that there is a market for this demonstrates how audiences are yearning for compelling stories from everyday people. People who may not necessarily be experts in their field, but who can break down some complex issues into a story that is relatable and meaningful. Human’s are optimists, programmed for survival and sometimes that emotional pull to survive overrides our own common sense.
We ‘moral entrepreneurs’ are obligated to remember that. We’re obligated to treat a person’s following with care and respect, and to know when we’re stepping into territory we shouldn’t be messing with.