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Commentary: For far too many, ALS Bucket Challenge just another 'selfie' stunt
Published on September 5, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anthony L Hall

Invisible Children’s entire campaign smacks of little more than a feel-good PR stunt (perhaps even a misleading ploy to raise funds for administrative rather than charitable purposes). In fact, I would wager a fair amount of my pride that if you were to ask Rihanna and any of her followers a week from today who Joseph Kony is, they would react as if you asked what the Higgs Boson is….

(“Tweeting the Genocidal Joseph Kony to Death,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2012)

The same, of course, can be said for the vast majority of those now dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. In other words, ask them what ALS stands for and they’ll probably think you’re referring to some new sports league.

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at
The point is that we live in a selfie age when even acts of charity are more about looking/feeling good than doing good.

More to the point, even though this latest viral craze generated a spike in donations for ALS research, I would wager an ever greater amount of my pride that 90 percent of those who accepted the bucket challenge did not donate one red cent. After all, for them, this was just another selfie opportunity to say to the world, “Hey, look at me!”

Some women clearly saw it as a challenge to compete in a wet T-shirt contest, and gleefully affirmed the uplifting effect ice water has on you know what.

No doubt it’s hard to imagine notorious bad boy Charlie Sheen setting an example for anyone to follow. Yet he did just that when, instead of a bucket of ice water, he dumped a bucket of cold hard cash over his head, and then announced that it amounted to the $10,000 he’s donating to the ALS Association.

At least nobody expected those participating in the #invisible children and #bring back our girls viral campaigns to do anything except become aware of the plight of the victims involved. Mind you, as indicated in my quote above, for 90 percent of them, that awareness probably only lasted about as long as Chinese food satiates hunger.

Incidentally, Boko Haram has not only ignored all viral pleas to “bring back our girls,” its genocidal thugs have mocked the fecklessness of those pleas by kidnapping more girls….

On the other hand, the ALS Bucket Challenge is really predicated on people not just dumping water but donating cash. And, yes, it does matter that you participate not just by doing the former, but the latter even more so.

Not to mention that all that wasted water could clearly be put to much better use -- not just in perennially drought-stricken places like Ethiopia, but even in places like California....

For the record, Forbes reports in its August 29 edition that, since this challenge went viral four weeks ago, it has raised just over $100 million. This is truly commendable, especially when compared with the $2.8 million the ALS Association raised during this same period last year.

Except that, by contrast even more instructive than the example Charlie set, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has raised an average of almost $60 million annually over the past 50 years. And it has done so by simply holding a 24-hour Labor Day telethon on TV (i.e., without the viral benefit of social media).

What’s more, even after losing its superstar pitchman Jerry Lewis four years ago and reducing the broadcast to only two hours, the telethon still raised over $50 million annually, including $56.9 million from this year’s “MDA Show of Strength” last weekend.

Which raises the question: what challenge is the ALS Association going to rely on next year to raise comparable donations -- given that the ice bucket challenge is already melting away into cyber oblivion ... like #invisible children?

All the same, I feel constrained to note that, despite the billions the MDA has raised, we seem no closer to a cure today than we were 50 years ago. Not to mention the tens of billions raised over the years to find a cure for cancer. The reason for this, of course, is that most researchers work for big pharmaceutical companies whose corporate mission is to develop expensive treatments, not to find cures. After all, a cure for them would be tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs….

Nonetheless, we are clearly obliged to concede that there is as much merit in funding treatments for ALS as there is in funding them for cancer.

Donate to the ALS Association: here

Related commentaries:
Boko Haram
Tweeting Joseph Kony

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