An Ice Bucket Challenge Backlash? Really!?

Is there no topic dull contrarianism won’t plunder?


Predictably, this summer’s ice bucket challenge, which has raised millions for ALS research and clued a new generation (including my own children) into issues surrounding ALS, has created a backlash. Articles in Time and Philadelphia magazine, among many others, have criticized the challenge as either shallow, wasteful or even (despite all the money raised) counterproductive.

There have always been scolds and fogies, but the rise of the Internet and social media has turned reflexive naysaying into something of a sub-genre of media commentary. I’ve decided to call this dull contrarianism, because these arguments are rarely more interesting or clever than the parent at the Slip’N Slide party who starts talking about kids losing eyes.

OK, sure, some people who have heard of the ice bucket challenge don’t know it's for ALS. Yes, it arguably lacks the gravitas befitting conversation about a tragic disease. Admittedly, it does indeed take energy to make ice. (I’m not making that up — someone has registered this as an objection.) Are these really good reasons to put down a fad that’s raised nearly $23 million for ALS research? I say they are not.

In fact, the arguments against the challenge kind of piss me off. Jacob Davidson, in Time, says the challenge is “problematic in almost every way” — excepting the many millions raised to help fight the disease, I guess. He also “doubt[s] many learned a whole lot from contextless tweets of wet celebs smiling and laughing.” This is demonstrably untrue.

In an age when young people are constantly browsing endless streams of ephemera on Instagram and Twitter, are we really going to complain about something that gets them to stop for a minute and focus their attention on a money-raising effort? For many, the ALS connection will not register. For many more, it will. I’ve heard conversations about ALS and Pete Frates among some of the young people in my life. This would not have happened without the ice bucket challenge.

Maybe it’s a feeling of genuine distaste for the idea of people enjoying themselves on behalf of a serious cause. Maybe it’s a lingering puritanical streak. Maybe it's an ocean of online commentators desperate for something to say. Whatever it is, let’s stop being buzzkills and let America have some fun and do some good this summer.

Jim Sturdivant is a Philadelphia writer. Follow @Jim_Sturdivant on Twitter.

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  • PPABootsquadVinnie

    Yeah, yeah, Nobody I know is sending money to ALS, all they are doing is posting dopey videos of ice water being dumped on their heads, and ‘calling out’ other dopes to do the same. Somebody show me where all these so-called ‘millions of dollars’ are coming from, other than those rich & famous glomming onto a fad. The regular folk are using it as a performance piece of self-aggrandizement, Not as a fund raising vehicle.
    So Shut Up about being ‘buzzkills’ because some of us recognize it as the BS it is.
    I’m STILL waiting for them to find that cure for Jerry’s Kids. Buncha horse
    hockey. You want Real bs, read that Daily News opinion piece on the gentle gian, poor Michael Brown.

    • pete

      You must have a bunch of dopey friends and not know the good ones. 1.2 million new people have donated a total of 62.5 million as of today. Plenty of my smart friends have donated.

  • Bill

    I pretty much am beginning to agree with the first comment. The backlash has nothing to do with any of the reasons given in the article. Truth is, it’s starting to feel self serving, simply all about the person on the video clip and who they pass it on to. Les Moonves, Pres of CBS challenges his wife but mentions it’ll will happen on Big Brother…at the end of the show, of course. It’s becoming all about marketing for the person, people, organization who gets dunked. Really, do a rant about how every single thing in this country is nothing but more marketing! House of Straw!

  • Bill

    Doesn’t take a genius to realize it’s “jumped the shark”

  • DeeMD

    My point to as below.. i do not think the majority of people ARE sending in money..just posting videos..but then again anything that does get the committed people to give and it’s for a good cause..i guess we can put up with..hopefully winter will set in soon and unless they want to hit themselves with a block of ice..maybe we can get a rest for seeing this all over facebook to sick of it.. just do it..and give money..or better yet..give to a charity period..when things like this fad or something in the news comes’s been noted that other charities the focus is on whatever is in the media at the moment to the loss of the normal range of charities.

  • Bill

    Wow, so many negative comments, a lot of people must have had someone piss in their Cheerios this morning.

    • tmmccloskey

      or dumped ice water on their heads

  • tmmccloskey

    I am totally against famine, but am I allowed to be critical of Live Aid?