203: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Released Tuesday, 16th September 2014
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Throughout July and August of this year, social media users were inundated with an almost constant stream of short videos featuring people from seemingly all walks of life dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. This trend, known as the 'ALS Ice Bucket Challenge', went viral in an effort to promote awareness for the disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It soon became a most unlikely pop culture phenomenon, with various celebrities, politicians and athletes performing the challenge and posting their videos online.

Prior to this craze, ALS, a devastatingly debilitating and usually fatal disease, hardly registered at all on the consciousness of the public. On August 29th however, the ALS Association announced that the total donations resulting from the challenge had exceeded $100 million. For this reason, it would appear that it would be difficult to criticize the campaign, but it certainly has not been met without any detractors. One such individual is the investigative journalist and television producer Willard Foxton, author of an article written at the height of the craze entitled ‘The Ice Bucket Challenge – a middle-class wet-T-shirt contest for armchair clicktivists’:

"The whole thing has turned from a decent enough attempt to raise cash for a good cause into a ghastly narcissistic freakshow, combining the worst elements of social media self-love and celebrity worship with armchair feelgood clicktivism."

Mr. Foxton joined the Smells Like Human Spirit Podcast to discuss his article further, explore some of the issues with the Challenge, and evaluate possible alternatives to the current charitable-giving paradigm. Other topics covered in this podcast include online mysogyny in the wake of the hacked private photographs of a litany of female celebrities, and the Scottish Independence debate. Enjoy!

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