Our limited generosity is being wasted on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The celebs taking part seem more interested in name-dropping their famous friends than raising awareness of motor neurone disease
  • @tompeck

In the name of charity, everyone from Taylor Swift to Tiger Woods, Bill Gates and Vin Diesel is pouring iced water over their heads and sharing it over the internet.

If you’ve managed to avoid the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, well done. If you haven’t then you can be proud of your lack of contribution to a cause that is sapping away at the world's limited goodwill.

It seems like David Beckham can sell anything, and his contribution to the Ice Bucket Challenge has been considerable, but he might not be able to cure amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, not even with the help of his fellow footballer Christiano Ronaldo. So it’s reassuring that neither of them are actually bothering to try.

It’s been more than a month since famous people started "raising awareness" of ALS, or what's known here as Motor Neurone Disease. They do this by filming themselves pouring a bucket of ice water over their heads, and nominating other famous people to do the same.

Unfortunately, almost none of them — Beckham, Messi, Ronaldo, Rory Mcilroy, Tiger Woods, Lady Gaga, the list goes on — manage to take a second out from all the hilarity to state what the whole thing is about, before whacking the clip on Youtube.

Okay, so the widespread publicity means that donations to the ALS Association have risen to $21m in the last few weeks. But this is a campaign that has enlisted the help of seemingly every A-Lister on the planet, including the rather deep-pocketed Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

As no less than Steve O from Jackass has pointed out (and been terrorised on social media for): "the fact that not more [...] has been raised is a tragedy. What awareness has this actually raised?"

Ah yes, "raising awareness." It’s not about the money, it’s peddlers will point out, it’s about getting the message out. This lazy "slacktivism" was magnificently skewered by Unicef recently, with their “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio” posters.

Motor Neurone Disease might not be as well known as Aids, and perhaps it could do with the publicity boost, but it’s not as obscure as you might imagine. It is known in the US as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the Yankees All Star baseball legend who died from it. Today it is more immediately associated with Professor Stephen Hawking, who also puts his vast public profile to good use shifting discount specs and making high-profile bets with other scientists.

Video: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

There’s no shortage of suffering in the world, and a lot of good causes out there, far more than we have the appetite or the spare cash for. Generosity is a finite resource, and whatever tiny part of it is used up by watching Ronaldo sat in his pants and namechecking his famous mates — but not the actual cause — is a waste of everyone’s goodwill.