By now, you've seen celebrities, Facebook friends, and even local news anchors dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and money for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
The ALS Association says it has raised an unprecedented amount of money:
As of Monday, August 18, The ALS Association has received $15.6 million in donations compared to $1.8 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 18). These donations have come from existing donors and 307,598 new donors to The Association.
Well this is fabulous news. Even so, there are those criticizing the ice bucket challenge as "stunt philanthropy."
A Los Angeles Times writer, Michael Hiltzik, points out that ALS, though devastating to those with the condition, is a relatively rare disease compared to say, Alzheimer's, and other diseases that of course also deserve funding:
Stunt philanthropy like the ice bucket challenge doesn't accommodate these sorts of distinctions and comparisons--it just feeds whatever charity hits on a catchy device and treats all causes as essentially equivalent, distinguished only by their claim on public attention.
It's a fair guess that most people prompted by ice bucket publicity to make a donation don't know much about ALS beyond the fact that Lou Gehrig got it (maybe they know about Stephen Hawking, too). They may assume that it's a major public health problem, though the numbers say it's not./blockquote>
The writer concludes that if you want to do the ice bucket challenge just because famous people are doing it, "maybe you should give a bit more thought to where you donate your money."
Others have criticized the ice bucket challenge for being a form of or "slacktivism," advocacy that requires little real world participation, understanding or involvement in the cause.
"A lot of the participants are probably spending more money on bagged ice than on ALS research," wrote Will Oremus in Slate.
Here's Bill Gates taking the "ice bucket challenge:"