Throwing cold water on the challenge

Anil Dash
Aug 27, 2014 · 5 min read

It’s getting out of giving

At least in its most common incarnations, the premise of the ice bucket challenge was that the participants were dumping ice on their heads to avoid donating to the cause. Now, the majority of extremely wealthy people who have done the challenge have chosen both to dump ice on their heads and to donate to the cause. But the setup being anti-charity stuck in many people’s minds as a fairly offensive premise. This objection seems a bit more dubious, given that nobody is actually using the challenge as an excuse not to give to the cause, but it certainly helped color the conversation for those who were already skeptical.

Charity Ought Not Be Public

Annoyance at the Participants

The rich are, of course, constant and often worthy targets of our scorn. And when they do anything to advertise themselves as being paragons of virtue, that’s a quick road to opprobrium. Even worse is when we combine that with egotistical celebrities nakedly expressing self-regard, thanking themselves for their own generosity. Rising naturally from the earlier objections to any public charity are even more strident objections to hyper-public charity.

Objecting to the Manipulation

When a friend or colleague publicly asks one to participate in a charity effort, it’s of course a deeply coercive action. There’s no suitable response other than yes, unless one is willing to look insensitive or cruel in public.

The Insensitivity of Mirth

Because ALS is a brutal, exhausting disease that ravages both those who are afflicted as well as their families and loved ones, the lighthearted tone of many videos from the challenge seemed tone-deaf. This becomes doubly true when so many on social media this week have been focused on profoundly troubling events around the world, from Missouri to Syria.

No real focus on ALS

One of the most pervasive threads of criticism is that the participants seemed largely disconnected from harsh reality of ALS, saying almost nothing about the disease, the Association dedicated to helping those with the disease, or even where people watching the video could choose to donate themselves.

Fundamental Funding Problems Are More Important

The most compelling, inarguable justification for objecting to the ice bucket challenge is that it shouldn’t be necessary in the first place. As many have pointed out, many elected officials who were willing to perform the stunt in ostensible solidarity with people who have ALS were also willing to cut funding to fight the disease.

How to address ALS

This final focus on the funding and research about the disease is the point most often overlooked in extremely viral online campaigns — because it leads to the sort of complexity that isn’t very much fun to share on Facebook.

The Message

A Pandaemonium Revolver Collection. Season 2 stars @anildash @alanalevinson @ftrain @hipstercrite @itsthebrandi @jamielaurenkeiles @vijithassar @yungrama @zeynep. Season 1 available on DVD shortly.

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    Anil Dash

    Written by

    Anil Dash

    CEO of @Glitch. Trying to make tech more ethical & humane. (Also an advisor to Medium.) More: http://anildash.com/

    The Message

    A Pandaemonium Revolver Collection. Season 2 stars @anildash @alanalevinson @ftrain @hipstercrite @itsthebrandi @jamielaurenkeiles @vijithassar @yungrama @zeynep. Season 1 available on DVD shortly.