The Ice Bucket Challenge Is Just Another Celebrity Publicity Stunt


Over the last couple of months, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral. Despite the whole point of it being to raise money for charity, it seems to have turned in to nothing more than a publicity stunt for celebrities.

One word thrown around to describe the whole fiasco has been ‘slacktivism’, a term invented to describe people who take easy feel-good measures in support of an issue or social cause – in this case, ALS.

Now, there are obviously positives to this, with the main one being that so far, over 20 million dollars have been donated to the ALS charity. The fact that celebrities [by that I mean, famous people, most of whom can be considered celebrities] have taken to the challenge and then challenged their celebrity friends to it, is what has caused it to go mainstream, and helped the charity raise money.

Before I get in to some of the criticisms that have been raised, do we even know the rules? In case you don’t, here they are. If you get challenged, you must have a bucket of freezing icy water poured over your head, within 24 hours of being challenged. If you don’t do this or refuse to have it done, you must donate 100 dollars. If you accept it and do it within the timeframe, you only have to pay ten dollars, however in some cases, participants who have had the freezing water poured over their heads have not donated.

This is the first issue – since so many challenges have been accepted, surely it means less money is being donated to charity? Would it not be better if the challenges were rejected and 100 dollars was donated every time? Or how about doing both every time? While it’s likely to be the case that most celebrities probably donate money to the charity anyway, even after having taken the challenge, it’s a fact that some donate less or nothing at all. This defeats the whole purpose of the challenge and turns it in to a fun activity for famous people to do, before daring their millionaire friends to have a go as well.

It’s also been noted that very few of the celebrities [i.e. famous people] have bothered to mention what this is even for. When I first heard about the challenge, I had no idea why they were doing it. I had to look it up. In most video clips that have been put up, you just see the celebrity saying they have accepted the challenge and telling us who they are challenging, before having the bucket tipped over their head.

American TV personality Steve-O, known for performing outrageous stunts on television himself, has voiced his displeasure with the whole thing, stating that the celebrities never give any mention of their donation and the money raised so far is pathetic, given the star power and wealth of the celebrities involved.

He has a point. 100 bucks is not a huge amount of money to give for people who have a lot of money, and that’s exactly the amount President Obama donated, after refusing to take the challenge of course.

The challenge has been described in the Daily Telegraph as ‘nothing more than a middle class wet T shirt contest for armchair activists.’

Willard Foxton, who writes for the telegraph, said the whole thing went from a decent attempt to raise cash for a good cause to ‘combining the worst elements of social media, self- love and celebrity feelgood clicktivism.’

Yet another problem with this ever popular flavour of the month, is that it encourages loyalty to one charity. While they’ve done a great job in promoting this particular charity, it may alienate other charities from getting anything, because people have a tendency to pick one charity to donate to and leave it at that [you know, the whole ‘hey I’ve already donated to a charity, leave me alone’ attitude]. If the majority are currently being sucked in to donating for ALS, then other charities for equally important and admirable causes, who aren’t getting the same kind of promotion campaign, will lose out.

Aside from playing to celebrity ego’s and gluing people to their computer screens at home, as they watch multi millionaire’s challenge their buddies to silliness, doctor’s have warned that there may be serious health risks to this stunt, with many participants already sustaining injuries.

One way or another, something just doesn’t seem right with this whole thing. Whenever celebrities publicly get involved in these kinds of projects, it reeks of ‘look at me, I’m such a great person.’ Don’t they get enough pats on the back during their award ceremonies? How about just donating in private? Nobody has to know. I mean, have you ever donated to charity? How many people know about that?

featured image – Curtis Perry