I’m a little surprised to see that one of the most popular searches that bring people to this blog is “Marlo Morgan hoax” (and occasionally a rather hopeful sounding “Marlo Morgan true”). I am pleased about this, because there is surprisingly little on the internet about what is one of the more curious cases of fraud in the history of publishing. The fraud was unmasked before her book Mutant Message Down Under was even published, yet was snapped up by Rupert Murdoch’s Harper Collins and relabeled “fiction” to avoid prosecution.
One of the most common responses from fans when they discover that the story is a hoax is try and fudge the importance of its authenticity. They try to argue that it is “still inspiring even if it is a work of fiction”, or that somehow it could be true in some mystical sense. For example, this reviewer claims:
If the reader approaches the book as non-fiction, then he or she is challenged to believe that certain events could have actually occurred, even though they might seem implausible at first, and in the process challenges the reader’s worldview to expand to consider possibilities beyond the ordinary. If read as a work of fiction, the tale becomes a mythical metaphor…
This kind of apologetics ignores not only the atrociously inaccurate and deeply racist portrayal of Aboriginal culture in the book, but also sidesteps the fact that Morgan has repeatedly and explicitly claimed her story is literally true, and her status as messenger to the world for the last “true” Aborigines is authentic.
Just to put this on the record, I am linking to and transcribing (below) the entire text of an interview in which Morgan makes these claims. Her stupid book has been on numerous university courses, including ecology and anthropology, not to mention being extensively and uncritically used in primary and high schools. She has toured the world giving lectures as an expert on “Aboriginal Culture”, a subject of which she is entirely ignorant. Her last appearance I am aware of was in 2004.
Her book has been translated into 26 languages. (Ironically, the book seems to actually gain something in translation. The original self published book was the worst piece of prose writing I have ever read.)
It is unusual for liars to be as blatant and brazen as Morgan has been, and the interview below is a demonstration of her skills in this regard. (She seems to come a bit unstuck in a different interview, where the interviewer doubts her and questions her unexpectedly on a few details. She is floored, for example when asked for details about exactly what kind of health work she was doing in Australia.)
This, along with first hand accounts of her behavior and the general way this fraud has unfolded, make me suspect Morgan is suffering from a clinically identifiable form of psychosis, possibly bi-polar disorder. I offer this speculation merely as an attempt to comprehend how Morgan seems to have convinced herself of her story.
Here is a link to the audio of the radio interview. The transcript is below the fold.