Culture

How Right-Wing Trolls Spread A Malicious Rumour About Bullying Victim Quaden Bayles

After the original video went viral, Quaden faced even more abuse after the conspiracy that he was 18 started to spread online.

quaden bayles is 18 rumour conspiracy theory

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Last week, a video of an emotional Quaden Bayles was posted to Facebook by his mother, Yarraka Bayles.

Yarraka documented Quaden’s heart-wrenching episode in a now-deleted Facebook Live video that had amassed over 25 million views. After picking up Quaden from school, Yarraka noticed her son crying and calling out suicidal thoughts after being bullied for his looks.

Nine-year-old Quaden has faced constant unwanted attention because of his achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism. Yarraka, at her wits end and unsure of what to do, uploaded the distressing video online in the hopes that she could raise awareness for the impacts of bullying and to possibly get advice on what to do.

In response to the video, people quickly rallied behind Quaden. Hugh Jackman sent a public video to Quaden to show his support and the Indigenous All Stars team invited Quaden to lead them out onto the field. But the effort that got the most attention for Quaden and his struggles was the GoFundMe account set up by Brad Williams.

Brad Williams, an American comedian with dwarfism himself, set up the GoFundMe with a $10,000 target to send Quaden to Disneyland to boost his spirits. In four days, the fundraiser surpassed its initial goal and is now sitting at over $450,000.

But because we can’t have anything good in the world, people started to pick at Quaden’s past to try and cancel the 9-year-old. During this unwarranted background search, the wild conspiracy theory started that Quaden was not a child, rather he was an 18-year-old man who had scammed the world.

How Did The Rumour Start?

On February 22nd, just three days after Quaden’s video went viral, a screenshot claiming that Quaden was 18 was shared on Twitter. The post, originally made by a now-deleted Facebook profile under the name Jasmein Dowe, implied that Quaden and his family were lying.

“Just so you know… he scammed everybody. He’s 18 has plenty of money and yeah, everyone fell for it,” the profile posted alongside photos from Quaden’s now-private Instagram page. “Now if I’m wrong please source your link and explain why to me. He’s an Instagram celeb and deleted captions pertaining to his 18th birthday post.”

The 18th birthday photo in question has since been deleted, but another photo from the night on Quaden’s profile reads “Garlen’s 18th Birthday” dispelling rumours that the photos were from his own 18th birthday. Beyond this, countless photos on Yarraka’s Facebook page have documented Quaden’s life since 2010 — where Quaden is very clearly a child.

A younger Quaden also appeared in the Australian media multiple times before last week too. In 2015, Studio 10 interviewed the then four-year-old and his mother after people in a shopping centre wouldn’t stop staring at him. The same year, SBSLivingBlack made a mini-documentary on the four-year-old and his struggles as a young Aboriginal boy living with achondroplasia.

Then in 2016, a photoshoot of five-year-old Quaden and his pet dog — who also had dwarfism — won over everyone’s hearts and was reported by both BuzzFeed and TODAY. A year later, Face Exhibition uploaded a video titled ‘Belonging and Acceptance’ which featured a very obvious six-year-old Quaden and his mum, Yarraka.

Despite the overwhelming proof of his age online, people still took images of Quaden wearing branded clothes and holding stacks of money as proof of him being 18. Even though there is no age cap on who can wear Gucci or hold money, and the Bayles family never actually claiming to be poor, people believed that Quaden had “fooled” everyone who donated.

An edit of videos and photos of Quaden in branded items and holding money quickly went viral online with one tweet gaining over 7.8 million views. The video, which was dubbed with a rap song, totally removed what Quaden was saying about the money. In the actual video, Quaden can be heard saying: “This is what you get for working… for working every day, you get this much money bruv.”

In this excellent breakdown of the bonkers conspiracy theory, BuzzFeed’s Cameron Wilson tracked down Quaden’s aunt to shed more insight into the money video. Mundanara Bayles explained: “[Quaden] is actually sweating his arse off in a hot tin shed at a fundraiser in Salisbury for Indigenous victims of Australia’s fires,” she said. “He was happy with how much money he raised.”

The Impacts Of The Wild Conspiracy Theory

Only days after the video that highlighted the impacts bullying had on Quaden, the internet went into attack mode and bullied the 9-year-old themselves. Fuelled by anger in thinking that they had been deceived, people thought Quaden had been lying about his age in attempt to bait people into donating money to his GoFundMe page.

Despite the GoFundMe account not even being created by Quaden or any of his family members, people still attacked Quaden on his Instagram page. Calling the original video of Quaden crying in the car a “scam”,  the influx of negative comments and bullying resulted in both Yarraka and Quaden having to switch their profiles to private.

Brad Williams even weighed in on the matter following all the rumours circling around the legitimacy of Quaden. “Money donated will not be wasted!,” he tweeted. “We have a team of people making sure everything is completely legitimate.”

But even without Brad’s tweet, anyone who donated but were now skeptical over how a trip to Disneyland could cost almost half a million dollars were covered by the campaign page itself. At the bottom of the description for the fundraiser, Brad wrote: “After all the flights, hotel, tickets, and food is paid for, any excess money will be donated to anti-bullying/anti-abuse charities.” This information has to honoured according to GoFundMe terms and conditions which outline that funds raised are only to be used for “purposes clearly stated in the campaign.”

Beyond this, even Rapper Cardi B had to use her star power to call for people to stop bullying Quaden, regardless of what they thought was true or false. “I really don’t think that he’s lying on his age,” Cardi said during an Instagram Live. “And just because there’s a video of him flossing money and acting all gangster and acting all cool, it doesn’t mean that kids do not pick on him.”

In support of her little brother, Quaden’s sister and model Guyala Bayles took to Instagram with a final message for all the bullies. “I say fuck the bullies and the haters! You’re the coolest, smartest, strongest and the most sweetest kid I know!,” Guyala wrote on Instagram. “You’re not alone and we’re all here for you my bruh.”