Thankfully, the juggernaut that is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has lost its momentum in under thirty days. It lasted long enough to encourage cyber bullying, but not long enough to create riots. On the upside, it caught on far better than my pathetic attempt to raise awareness for Testicular Cancer with the Moose Knuckle Challenge.
As far as fads go, if you measure by longevity, I’m not even sure the Ice Buck Challenge should qualify. Is there a minimum time mob hysteria must last before it transitions from simple stupidity to actual lightening in a bottle? I fervently hope the various ALS charities had the foresight not to spend the millions and millions of dollars they have raked in this month too quickly because they will soon return to being an orphan disease with a monthly income slightly above the federal poverty level for a family of six.
If this does not qualify for a “Windfall Tax” similar to what Democrats would like to impose on for-profit companies, the word “windfall” should be immediately redacted from every dictionary in existence because it has lost all meaning.
My vitriol is neither for those who suffer the disease nor those who must watch an ALS patient atrophy and eventually drown on their own saliva. Watching a loved one slowly die is terrible. I reserve my venom for the behavior of their “supporters.”
There is a no more enthusiastic apostle than a convert.
Those caught up in the Ice Bucket Challenge hysteria have been duped into the Church of Awareness. Posting their Ice Bucket Challenge on social media is baptism into the faith, after which, they immediately search out non-believers to convert, extort money from, or both. Those who do not succumb to the peer pressure are bullied by their former friends, who have chosen the Cult of Socially Aware Philanthropy over them.
Cult leaders such as David Koresh, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones knew all too well how cult conversion works. Vulnerable people who have suffered loss and are looking to fill a void within themselves are prime recruits for groups looking to exploit them. The recruits gladly participate in silly (and occasionally dangerous) rituals to gain inclusion and acceptance of the group. They also turn over resources to the group in the forms of money, property, and labor.
Part of the indoctrination is isolation. At least, isolation from those not already in the cult. On declination of friends and family to join the wonderful new world of the initiate, old friends and previous family are discarded. Parents will never again see children, spouses never again see each other, and friends will be shunted to the side.
After ritual participation and acceptance comes spreading the message. New initiates appeal to logic and the desire for a better world to bring in the next crop, sort of a religious cult Multi-Level Marketing scheme. When those appeals fail, the proselytes resort to bullying, strong-arm tactics, and guilt to manipulate the non-believers into participation.
Am I the only one who sees the similarities?
Vehement attacks have been leveled against people whom, for various reasons, decline to participate. They are promptly made pariahs. WordPress blogger CindyPRN, who dared decline diverting dedicated donations to her already established charities and participation in the indoctrination ritual, received hate mail on her blog demanding to know why she would not donate to ALS research.
As a career nurse, I can guarantee you that Cindy has alleviated more suffering and contributed to society more than most people you know.
Kendall Breitman, writing for Politico, published a piece publicly outing Ice Bucket Challenge Haters, all of whom took far more principled stances on their objections than any of my aversions. In a Washington Post piece, Caitlin Dewey wrote,
“Hey haters, this might annoy the heck out of you every time you log into Facebook or Vine … but it’s producing actual results for organizations battling a crippling neurodegenerative disease.”
She is absolutely correct. The website for Time reports ALS donations topping $100 million. Now, let’s see these same organizations produce results of their own. How many millions of dollars would Ms. Dewey like to see spent before we throw in the towel on this one?
On my first exposure to the Ice Bucket Challenge, I wrote it off as another internet phenomenon for various attention seekers; celebrities, insecure women wearing white T-shirts, and internet slacktavists who want to assuage their guilt with minimal effort. It has grown beyond that. It has become a vehicle for cyber bullying, emotional manipulation, and public cries for attention. The good news for those who mindlessly go along with whatever is cool and popular is it gives these assholes another cause for which to raise awareness.