The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Negativity… a Rant Thereupon
Hello, Ranty! I suppose this has to be an angry post, then. Well, so be it.
By now, there is VERY little chance you haven’t heard about the ALS “Ice Bucket” challenge. This viral phenomena, which benefits the ALS Association which strives to vanquish Lou Gehrig’s Disease, has gained an incredible amount of attention.
Here’s how it works in a nutshell (as I understand it). Someone posts a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their head (or having one dumped over their head). They nominate three people who then, by honor, have twenty-four hours to either donate $100.00 to the ALS Association or to dump a bucket of ice water over their own head and nominate three other people.
To date, it has raised over ninety-million dollars for the ALS Association and raised awareness of the disease and its effect by an incredible amount. It has been taken and completed by internet personalities, celebrities, and people from all across the spectrum of human endeavor.
Anger starts now.
As with just about anything that becomes popular and/or successful on the Internet, a wave a nay-sayers has begun to step forward, decrying the Ice Bucket challenge for a number of reasons. I’ll address the reasons specifically in a moment; I need to address this reaction as a whole first.
Are you F*CKING serious? Honestly? A few years ago, it was “changing your Facebook Icon to a Cartoon Character is USELESS… STOP engaging in Slacktivism and MAKE a DIFFERENCE!” Well, THIS is what we might call “a difference!” This is how you propagate the needs of a charity correctly, with a popular appeal and a call to action! The ALS Association is looking at donations more than four times what they received only a year ago, there is a HUGE public awareness of the disease and its effects, and the internet negativity community STILL wants to take their collective self-absorbed dump on the effort? SHUT the F*CK UP.
To address this more specifically, I need to go over some of the arguments being made in opposition to an incredibly successful public charity effort. (Do you also find it sad that I had to type that sentence? I know I did).
“73% of the money is misappropriated by the Charity in question, so stop doing this.”
This statement is false. It has been addressed fully and completely by Politifact.com, Click Here for their excellent coverage of it. That a falsehood should be held up as an incentive to stop participating in the challenge is entirely unsurprising. In the above-mentioned “Replace your FB Icon with a Cartoon Character” effort to raise awareness of child abuse, a number of sources started spreading the falsehood that the effort secretly supported pedophiles in their efforts to lure children. When something becomes very popular and gains a lot of attention, those who have little or nothing to add to the effort can still gain attention for themselves by spreading a new and astounding “fact” that shocks and astounds those who have been in support of the effort. It must, of course, be negative, because that will gain the most attention. The ALS Association has a four-star rating, one of the highest available, when it comes to the management of donations to their cause; to malign them now with patent falsehoods is an obvious attempt to garner attention. (Note that I’m being relatively polite and not calling the falsehoods “LIES?” ‘Cause that’s how I roll).
“The Ice Bucket Challenge is Dangerous, so stop doing this.”
This statement is partially true. People have been injured in participating, there may have been a fatality. These are generally the results of people trying to “one up” another ice bucket challenge, scaling up the size of the bucket or its delivery method to ridiculous and potentially dangerous proportions. Ok, some of these have been pretty funny, but that doesn’t change the fact that there have been injuries. Now, when I see people taking an activity that isn’t inherently dangerous (like dumping ice water over your head) and ramping it up all Mythbusters style so that there are incredible and lethal forces involved, my first instinct is not to blame the charity they are trying to support. I might, however, say “hey, guys… are you certified to use that bulldozer?” Or I might remind someone that a pint is a pound, the world around, and that makes a single gallon of water eight pounds, and so standing under a ten gallon bucket of the stuff is standing under an eighty pound weight, so freakin’ BE CAREFUL. Urging some restraint and/or caution is entirely appropriate. Telling people to stop raising money for a charity because other people haven’t exercised restraint or caution is not appropriate. It isn’t a subtle difference.
“California is in the middle of a horrible drought, so stop doing this.”
Damn right we’re in the middle of a horrible drought. We’re losing ground water faster than Hamsters in a Herpetarium, and there’s little or no relief in sight. Personally, I’m expecting a VERY wet winter, but that’ll barely dent the problem we’re having. You know what else will barely dent the problem we’re having? Buckets of water being poured over people’s heads. Folks have been doing the challenge on their lawns, standing in kiddy pools, and in other places where the water isn’t “wasted.” Incidentally, when you live in a desert, dumping a bucket of ice-water over your head isn’t necessarily “wasteful…” sometimes it’s a bleeding survival tactic.
“I’m really tired of seeing the Ice Bucket Challenge all over the internet, so stop doing this.”
Thank you for your honesty! Now shut the f*ck up. People receiving a boost in funding and awareness for a horrible, debilitating disease trumps your internet viewing convenience. If you’ve somehow lost the ability to scroll past a video on Facebook, you should seek help. Like all fads, this one will pass… I’m surprised it’s still going as strong as it is, but I’m pleasantly surprised. The regular assortment of funny cats and vitriol will be back in a while.
“There are a lot of other charities that need money too, so stop doing this.”
This one gets me the most. This is the one that pisses me off to no end. “Your local charities probably handle the money better and they need your money too, so stop all this ice-bucket nonsense and give your money to other charities (likely charities that I, myself, would like to see support for).” You want the money to go to other charities? Here’s a clue… SOMEONE IS FINALLY DOING INTERNET ACTIVISM CORRECTLY. Someone has found the formula. It’s called the Ice-Bucket Challenge, and you’re hating on it. Find a simple activity with popular appeal. Present it publicly, call out people individually (perhaps popular or famous people with a good sense of humor and/or a good sense of charity), and add a call to action. Give out the website and the phone number. Plead for donations in lieu of participation, or inclusive of participation. Show us why you care about your cause, and freakin’ make me cry. Bring tears to my eyes with the suffering that needs to be alleviated, and show me that my participation in your cause can help to ease this suffering. Do NOT point to someone who is doing it right and bad-mouth them; that is low and petty and does NOTHING for your ’cause.
(Scott takes a deep breath)
Look, I get it. Negativity is easy. Looking at something that is popular and saying “I don’t like that” has become the easiest method for appearing intellectual ever. It isn’t new; knee-jerk resistance to popular ideas has been with us since fire and the wheel. We NEED a certain amount of that resistance in a society to prevent everyone from sliding down the intellectual slope into watching blinking pretty colors all day, but that’s when it’s done correctly. If you can support the negativity with facts or good reasoning; if you can be consistent in that reasoning and logic, and demonstrate a clear philosophy that displays how the negativity benefits social discourse, then GOOD! Tell me how much the stuff that I like sucks, I might agree with you.
Using negativity as a shortcut to the appearance of intellectualism leads to a number of negative effects. It can make you appear bitter rather than intellectual, or it may make it seem like you’re trying to whore for attention by being a contrary a$$hole. It might make you naysay a successful and honorable charitable effort on behalf of people suffering from a horrible disease for which there is currently no cure, and THAT would make me tell you to shut the f*ck up.