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Tue Aug 19, 2014, 03:39 PM

Slate Writer Gets Schooled on ALS "Ice Bucket" Challenge [View all]

Last edited Tue Nov 23, 2021, 07:32 PM - Edit history (10)

It started with a group of golfers raising money for various local charities. It took off when one of the golfers donated to the ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease) Association. And now it's spreading like -- well, a disease.

It's the ALS "Ice Bucket" Challenge, in which you are publicly tasked with either filming yourself getting ice water poured over your head or donating to ALS, after which you can challenge three people to do the same. It's quickly navigating through all sectors of the celebrity universe -- here's the rock band Bon Jovi (co-starring New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Boston Patriots owner Robert Kraft):

The ALS Association says it's received ten times the donations they had at this time last year. But not everyone is pleased, such as Will Oremus of Slate.com:

Facebook has become saturated with videos of people dumping buckets of ice on their heads...Watch the golfersí videos and youíll see the stunt was really just about getting their friends to film themselves doing something dumb for no reason. The charity part was an afterthought...

And the campaign is clearly working: The ALS Association told Fox Boston that it has raised $1.35 million in the past two weeks. It raised just $22,000 in the same period last year. Thatís welcome news for the 12,000 Americans who have the disease, which is devastating and ultimately fatal, and for their families and future generations.

Yet itís hard to shake the feeling that, for most of the people posting ice bucket videos of themselves on Facebook, Vine, and Instagram, the charity part remains a postscript. Remember, the way the challenge is set up, the ice-drenching is the alternative to contributing actual money. Some of the people issuing the challenges have tweaked the rules by asking people to contribute $10 even if they do soak themselves. Even so, a lot of the participants are probably spending more money on bagged ice than on ALS research...

Just donate the damn money, whether to the ALS Association or to some other charity of your choice. And if itís an organization you really believe in, feel free to politely encourage your friends and family to do the same. Congratulations! Not only have you contributed to a good cause, but youíve done your part for the environment by conserving the energy and fresh water required to make and transport large bags of ice.

Well, Mrs. Bo Stern, for whom ALS is not a just another trending passing fancy, begs to differ:

...Critics complain that the challenge is really about feeding our American narcissism and does nothing for ALS awareness or funding. They assert that people should just quietly donate their money and move on with their lives. I get that theyíre cranky, but I think maybe they donít realize what itís like to face this insidious disease, and then realize that itís nearly invisible to the rest of the world.

As I watch my husband become entombed inside his own body, I feel desperate for people to understand that this sort of inhumane condition exists. But for some reason, while everyone acknowledges itís one of the worst fates imaginable, funding for research and patient care is nearly nil...

Thatís why the celebrity faces and personal challenges happening in the ice bucket challenge are so effective at bringing in money. And if someone gets to look good while plunking their $50 in the ALS tip jar, I have zero problem with that. We are in for the fight of our lives with this monster, and the VERY LAST thing I want is for people to give quietly, anonymously, and then slink away. Raise the roof! Raise a ruckus! Call all sorts of attention to yourself! I will be happy for you and every Facebook like you receive as you nudge ALS an inch or two closer to the collective public consciousness.

(So) fear not, dear reader -- this, too, shall pass, and your Facebook newsfeed will go back to cat videos and kids singing Let It Go...

And if Mr. Oremus feels that having water poured on your head because you donated to charity is egotistically or environmentally incorrect, Mrs. Stern suggests these "alternative" challenges:

  • Pick up a 10-pound weight. Now imagine itís your fork and move it from your plate to your mouth repeatedly without shaking.

  • Strap 25 pounds to your forearm. Adjust your rearview mirror.

  • Before you eat your next meal, take a good, long look at the food...Now, imagine never being able to taste it Ė or any other food Ė for the rest of your life.

  • Install a text-to-speech app on your smart phone or tablet and use it exclusively to communicate for one day.

  • Sit in a chair for just 15 minutes moving nothing but your eyes. Nothing. No speaking, no scratching your nose, no shifting your weight, no changing the channel on the television, no computer work. Only your eyes...

  • Imagine that this is your life. Your only life...

You see, Slate, it's not about the donors, it's not about social media, it's not about social media trends, it's not even about the ALS Association. It's about the people that the ALS Association are now in a better position to help. Game, set and match, Mrs. Stern -- well played!


On edit: Steve Stern passed away in June 2015.

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Reply Slate Writer Gets Schooled on ALS "Ice Bucket" Challenge [View all]
rocktivity Aug 2014 OP
cyberswede Aug 2014 #1
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caraher Aug 2014 #3
Paka Aug 2014 #4
rocktivity Aug 2014 #5
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rocktivity Aug 2014 #7
rocktivity Jul 2016 #8