Anyone with any social media presence cannot have failed to have noticed the internet craze that is the ice bucket challenge. The last few days have seen thousands of people dumping a bucket of ice water over themselves in order to raise money for research into ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease). The disease was formerly known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, after the baseball Hall of Famer whose career was ended by illness.
The challenge is trending on Twitter and has been supported by numerous celebrities, business moguls and thousands of ordinary Joe´s. However one former President got in on the act when it might have been wiser to leave the ice bucket alone. The irony of George W. Bush, accused of implementing water boarding as an official interrogation method, undergoing torture by water surely cannot be lost on any but the most politically unaware American.
Nonetheless Dubya has contributed to a campaign that has gone viral on its way to raising more than $15 million for charity, and here is the inside story on how it happened.
The ice bucket challenge itself
Back on July 15, a Floridian golfer named Charles Kennedy was nominated to do an ice bucket challenge. Although the challenge was not officially linked to any particular charity at that point, Kennedy chose to donate his money to ALS research because his cousin suffered from the disease.
By accepting the challenge, nominees make a small donation to ALS research, or a larger one if they decline, and nominate three friends for a drenching. A nomination soon reached Pat Quinn, an ALS sufferer from New York, who in turn nominated former basketball player Pete Frates, who also suffers from the condition. In fact, Frates is credited with turning the campaign viral, after nominating friends and US football player Tom Brady.
An unquestionable success?
While there can certainly be no argument with the amount of money raised, some critics have railed against other aspects of the ice bucket challenge.
The wasting of clean water inherent in the challenge has angered those who are working towards conserving our water resources. Those Californians who have undertaken the challenge have come in for special criticism, as their state is currently experiencing a drought.
More importantly, some have criticized the challenge as an exercise in “slacktivism”, that is to say that it allows people to show support for a cause without really investing any time or thought.
There will be more viral fundraisers that raise the same questions, but it must be said that $15 million is a lot of money to go towards ALS research, even if it was raised by people who don´t really care if a cure is ever discovered.