The Dangers of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This is the root of my skepticism for the whole ice bucket challenge. It’s all a little overwhelming the way we can all be so hoodwinked into movements centered around clicktivism: the moment there happens a movement like the Ice Bucket challenge, you’re probably already giving money to an organization that has a surplus, from the sheer number of people that did the challenge before you. By focusing all of our, as Maclean’s puts it, “limited money” into a single charity, where does that leave the rest? Yes ALS is a tragic disease, but what about the tragedy of Syrian refugees– the tragedy we see everyday happening in our own streets (especially if you live in a city like Vancouver)? Because here’s the tough truth: ALS is precisely so shitty because it’s so impossible to diagnose or discover where the disease is coming from. Millions must be poured in before any move is made at all. Meanwhile, giving a woman just discharged from the hospital for cancer treatments 10 dollars will give her a night in a shelter. That right there is a life at stake.

More distressingly, it’s time to start looking at where the money donated to ALS actually goes: only 27% of their profits are actually put into research. Where does the rest of it go? Fundraising, marketing, employee bonuses (the CEO makes close to 400 K a year). Doesn’t this all sound familiar? Oh yeah, Kony 2012. Because here’s the thing guys: all of these ‘charity orgs’ that are capable of pulling off these widespread social trends have to have a massive media budget; they have to be large enough already to spread the trend and, worse, have to place a great deal of their budget on ways of making MORE money. These foundations run their charity like a business, that’s precisely why they’re so successful.

But the most distressing thing of all for me is the ‘moral’ reaction to the Ice Bucket challenge. I’ve had a lot of– very intelligent– friends say at the beginning of their video that they’re doing this challenge and donating because it’s “the right thing to do”. Donate to charity? Absolutely. This all starts to get out of hand, however, once people start publically shaming anyone who begins to criticize the movement– people with very valid concerns, such as, oh yeah isn’t there a water shortage across America? Isn’t California experiencing it’s worst drought in a century? Aren’t there better and more immeadiate charities to be given to? But I’ve seen these people been called “angry skeptics”, “bitter hashtag users” and “cynical naysayers”. In the end, they were classified as ‘bad people’. Because they had a different opinion. Does that not sound disconcerting?

I did the ice bucket challenge; probably wasted a couple gallons of water doing it. But I never felt completely comfortable doing it– always felt like I was being forced to do it by the rest of my peers on the social media. The internet is a powerful thing: it’s always breathing down your back, whispering in your ear. It’s as dangerous as it is powerful, and as bad as it can be about wasting your time, somehow I find that the internet’s at its scariest when it encourages movements. What happened to a free online forum? Facebook trashed that one five years ago.

And that’s why I’m taking my video off the internet, and why I’m asking all the people I challenged not to do it. Instead I encourage the three people I challenged to support a grass-roots organization that may encourage help in their very cities. You don’t have to, of course: you’re not a bad person if you don’t. But I think it’s time to start allowing for some different opinions here, what do you say?


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