The Ice Bucket Challenge and the cycle of cynicism.

By now you would have to have been almost completely disconnected from the popular zeitgeist to have no idea what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is. However, for the inextricably uninitiated and for the structural flow of this piece i will endeavor to give a short overview.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is this. An online sensation which originally involved celebrities, but has now filtered down to us plebian masses, dumping buckets of ice water over their heads in an attempt to raise money and awareness of those suffering from the neurodegenerative disease Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.

Those of you who remember Kony 2012 will remember the initial rush of support and eventual backlash against that particular piece of online activism, which ultimately resulted in the eventual disregarding of that piece of attempted charity work.

Like clock work it seems to me that the cycle of support to cynicism has began all over again.


I’ve started seeing the first posts, comments and articles that speak out against those emptying buckets of iced water over themselves. In normal circumstances I would agree with the nay sayers. Inflicting such aquatic torture on oneself seems like the act of a lunatic. However, surely, the good being done through this particular online trend far outweighs any potential problems that may be prevalent?

I’ve seen posts that deride this campaign for its waste of water, quoting statistics about the number of suffers of ALS vs those without access to clean drinking water.

Yes access to clean water is a massive problem, and yes I can see how tipping out buckets of the stuff can easily be considered as wasteful. However nobody is posting videos on YouTube ranting about how people shouldn’t own swimming pools, because the water could be better used in draught relief. Nobody writes strongly worded statuses calling anybody who takes showers for longer than 3 minutes ‘wasteful’. There are far more ways that an individual can be saving water than just reframing from participating in charity work. It’s not like drought affected areas would have seen a single drop of any of the water used in the myriad of Ice Bucket Challenge videos anyway. Can you imagine the United Nations refusing East African farmer’s drought relief packages because too much waters been used for the Ice Bucket Challenge?
Gallingly I even read an article in a very popular publication that contended that the ice bucket challenge was wrong because it’s a form of boasting. The article stated that we in the western world are able to put ourselves in this uncomfortable position for fun is a symbolic slap in the face to the millions suffering around the world.

Now I really don’t think that a family living in war-torn Aleppo or sheltering from missiles in Garza would really care what the latest online activism trend is. I find it even more astounding that the Ice Bucket Challenge is offensive and yet the cars we drive, and the clothes we wear don’t get a mention. Surely it’s our entire lifestyle that could be considered, it’s these symbols of consumerism that quite often directly exploit workers in developing countries would be far more offensive than a charity raising money for a good cause.

That’s the thing. Lets remember that to date the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised around 80 million dollars for a very worthy cause.

Yes water may have been wasted along the way but I think the astounding results more than justify the means.

That all said if any of you, dear readers, get nominated maybe consider taking a leaf out of Matt Damon’s book.


Hello. Im a journalism and media student at melbourne's RMIT.

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