Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Selfish Meme or: ALS Bucket Backlash, now who's all wet?

Hi Mike! Today we go on a journey of critical thinking to see which meme variant is less stupid!

This post started a Facebook comment, become a status update halfway through, then I decided for better or worse to immortalize it in blogdom. So for readers from the future in your self-flying cars:
"The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on someone's head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research. It went viral on social media during July-August 2014." -  Wiki entry for Ice Bucket Challenge
Back in the present, short videos of people pouring (or failing to pour) cold water on their heads have been blowing up our newsfeeds. For a few weeks they were frequent enough to be slightly annoying - but at least they were a break from the simultaneous barrage of politico-crypto-racist spins on the Ferguson unrest.

Once celebrities started picking up the bucket, things got more fun. Dre challenged Eminem. Eminem challenged Rick Rubin and some nice lady named Rhianna. Sulu challenged Gandalf. Captain Picard simply wrote a check and drank a scotch. Good old internet shenanigans. Then, right on cue, there's this crap.

The good news is that even fallacious negativity is more free publicity so they're helping in their own way. Of the variants I've seen, however, none of them have any positive message about where to go to donate to water sanitation. It's pure reactionary shaming - holier than thou with toothpicks propping up the logic.

Obviously one cause having a larger footprint doesn't mean the other shouldn't get attention - it's not an exclusive decision. That would be equivalent to claiming that there is no point worrying about minorities gunned down by police because heart disease kills more.

Is the above disgruntled graphic-maker implying that wasting water in a region where it's abundant actively harms areas where it's scarce? 'Cause that's not how plumbing works - there's not a cartesian well in Africa that's drying up because I took a mid-day shower in Missouri.

Want to save water? Go order a tall Long Island with no ice. Maybe it'll calm you down. Then you can donate to, people who actually know what they're talking about.

Perhaps acknowledging the pretty blatant reasoning gap, this has also been spun as a sensitivity issue. Maybe the problem is that it's callous of us in the developed world to showboat the fact that that we have such extravagances as running water. We need to keep that on the down-low. Like any minute now some poor thirsty kid in the Republic of Burundi is gonna flip open their MacBook air, login to the local wifi network (password "Makamba123"), see us flaunting our household plumbing and that will add insult to injury. Trust me, if they have YouTube, they already think we're assholes.

Dumping water on your head is silly. So what? Effectiveness of a marketing campaign isn't measured by how un-silly you can make it. If Geico had decided that a talking lizard was too goofy for a serious insurance provider's mascot, I would still think they were a company that produced clarified butter.

So is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge effective? As is often the case, we don't have to speculate. The numbers are public record; they speak for themselves. Forbes has an article with a sweet info-graphic if you want to bask in the full glory of comparative statistics.

The positive difference made by "people dumping water over their head to avoid donating to charity" was one hundred million dollars within the first two months. Measured in pennies, that's ten billion reasons to shut the fuck up. Or as my friend Daniel Shar would say...

“Hashtag activism is not real activism.” - Noah Frank, Columnist, WTOP
"Noah Frank is a jackass. Speech is for everyone, not just people who work for media outlets." - DJ Pompey, No Coast
Nighty night, and GO SNOPES YOURSELF!

Play us out, Mos: