Friday, August 15, 2014

#IceBucketChallenge Participants Pretend to Care Says VICE Columnist Arielle Pardes

Recently Arielle Pardes of VICE posted this disparaging article about the Ice Bucket Challenge that has become a viral social media fundraising campaign for ALS over the last couple weeks with celebrities like Martha Stuart and tech moguls such as Mark Zuckerberg participating. Pardes reports in her article that the Ice Bucket Challenge is little more than "narcissism masked as altruism" and that this is the "crux of millennial 'hashtag activism'."

She goes on to attempt to back up these claims by comparing this campaign to those launched for Haiti in 2010, Livestrong bracelets, the Red Equal Sign created by the Human Rights Campaign, and more. Her point(s):

  • $8 million dollars in relief donations aren't enough, if we really cared about Haiti it's supposed to consume our lives until the problem completely goes away.
  • User's changing their social media profile pictures to the Red Equal Sign in opposition of the Defense of Mariage Act had nothing to do with the outcome.
  • People wearing a Livestrong bracelet were merely looking for a way to "obnoxiously flaunt a social cause that you have no real connection to."

What Pardes fails to realize is that awareness for a cause is just as powerful as raising money. When I support Breast Cancer Awareness in October, I'm not disguising my narcissism as altruism, I'm spreading the word about a cancer that affects millions of women and their families and leaves children without their mother which is wholly treatable when caught early. The same is true for prostate and testicular cancer in men and teens. Most guys don't know testicular cancer is a young man's disease, and don't know they should, or how to, examine themselves. Many men, woman, and teens are often too embarrassed to talk about these things with a doctor, and just don't understand how important it is to do so during your physical with your PCP. If we can get one young man or a woman to perform a self exam that leads to early discovery of cancer, we can save a life; a life saved is far more valuable than any amount of money you might be able to donate.

Pardes also takes a shot at the LGBTQ+ community, and their supporters, for proudly standing together in solidarity against a cause we all care so greatly for: Equality. Did displaying the Red Equal Sign on our Facebook, Google+, and Twitter profiles and pages directly cause the defeat of the DMA? Probably not. Did it cause people to ask questions? Yes. Did it help to create a dialogue? Absolutely. Did it help to show other LGBTQ+ youth that they're not alone, that there is an entire community out there that supports them? Hell. Yes. Did we show our legislators we won't stand by and let them continue to deny basic human rights to some Americans, but not others, based on something so silly as their sexual disposition? Absolutely.

She wrongly assumes because we're not still in a Twitter uproar about Haiti, we must have stopped caring. Unfortunately, yes, Haiti is still wracked with problems, and yes, donations have slowed to a trickle. Would it be great if we were still pulling in $8 million rounds of relief funding? Of course! Is it realistic to expect the world to focus on this one issue forever? No. There are an uncountable number of other causes that are all just as worthy of our attention as Haiti is. Do we ignore these issues while we all focus wholly on the problems in Haiti? No.

It is unrealistic to think people can continue to donate money to a cause again and again, not everyone can afford to give like this. Not everyone can afford to give at all, but don't let Arielle Pardes catch you doing what you can do to help like sharing articles and helping to spread awareness, lest she accuse you of participating in, what she likes to call, "narcissistic altruism."

I say: Tweet, Share, dump ice water on yourself, and donate money if and when you can. Not just for ALS, but any cause you care about, whether it affects you directly, a friend, or a family member, or maybe you've never been touched by the cause you support. Just support it. Do whatever you can, because if there is one thing Pardes was able to get right in her article it's this: We really can never do enough for those affected by devastating natural disasters, horrible diseases, and other social causes. At least we're doing something.

For what it's worth, the ALS Association had this to say in their Augest 12, 2014 news article about the Ice Bucket Challenge:

Between July 29 and today, August 12, The ALS Association and its 38 chapters have received an astonishing $4 million in donations compared to $1.12 million during the same time period last year. The ALS Association is incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from those people who have been doused, made a donation, or both. Contributions further The Association’s mission to find a cure for ALS while funding the highest quality of care for people living with the disease.
Take that, Pardes.

I have reached out to Arielle Pardes on Twitter for comment, but at the time of this writing have not yet heard back.
I have reached out to the ALS Association Media Relations Dept. for comment, but at the time of this writing have not yet heard back.