Does Technology + Social Media Make Philanthropy Less Authentic? The Modern Reaction to Disasters & Tragedies.By carleser on 17 Feb 2010
Recently when logging into my twitter, I found out that "Haiti" was a trending topic. Other words like "Earthquake" and "Wyclef" were also popular topics as well. After doing some googling with bing.com, I found out that there was an Earthquake that had 'torn up' Haiti.
Unfortunately, I am pretty uneducated about the state + social makeup of Haiti, but it seems like it is probably a country with minimal opportunities for professional development. Since there aren't innovative young professionals, the country is probably in economic disarray. At gunpoint, I would assume that it is one of those countries that is still trying to recover from the backwardness of colonization, and possibly has some form of government that abuses power in an irrational way. I really have no idea how many people live in Haiti, but it is probably either the size of a medium-sized American city, or something outrageous, like the population of China shoved on to one-tenth of the real estate.
After the earthquake, there has been a huge outcry by people to 'give' in order to help with disaster relief. I feel like I have never been able to sort through the noise surrounding the story, since I am not familiar enough with Haiti to figure out if I am helping with 'disaster relief' or if their country is in 'complete disarray', and by helping, I am indirectly supporting the rebuilding of a country. Modern Americans seem to be all about 'helping' on paper, but not really wanting to 'commit to rebuilding' a nation in the post-Saddam Hussein world. It seems refreshing that Americans want to 'focus on our own country' b4 acting as peacekeeper + social servant to every other country. Apparently the USA is in 'mad debt' so this is also a good economic decision.
I think one of the main bottlenecks to the spirit of authentic philanthropy is probably the early adopters who rally behind a cause that isn't logically identifiable to Americans. I feel like Hurricane Katrina and 9-11 were probably the most identifiable tragedies in modern American History because they happened 'on our own turf.' Because Americans could mildly project themselves into the unfortunate position of the American victims, the events had a more organic response + genuine rallying cause.
The Levels of American Tragedy as Interpreted by Americans
Level 1 Tragedy/Disaster: Terrorist Act that Kills more than a plane load of people in your own country & leaves a powerful image of destruction like the traditional office building + rubble combo
Examples: 9-11, Oklahoma City bombing [via Timmy McVeigh], the hypothetical situation where a nuclear weapon is detonated in a major city
Notes: The visual imagery of a terrorist attack is impossible for citizens of a country to ever forget. The 'shock and awe' factor of something violent, destructive, and in direct opposition to our way of life is something that makes Middle Americans huddle closer to the center of our great country in order to rally against the bad guys. In addition, poor people usually aren't victims of terrorist acts, so more middle+upperclass people with complex feelings are able to wonder 'what if that was me'?
Level 2 Tragedy/Disaster: Natural Disaster that Happens on Your Own Country's soil
Examples: Hurricane Katrina, miscellaneous Hurricanes that will happen in the next 10 years, Previous Earthquakes in San Fransisco, California breaking off into the Pacific Ocean [via 2012]
Notes: I think this type of disaster really makes people feel bad because of the helplessness of the victims. Natural disasters highlight the helplessness of man against the Earth's natural forces, reminding us that one day we will not be on Earth any more [via global warming/nuclear weapon/meteor hiting earth]. Also, local news outlets can highlight displaced and affected citizens that were displaced to your local community because of the disaster.
Level 3 Tragedy/Disaster: The assassination/tragic death of popular political or celebrity figure who represents a positive or polarizing idea.
Examples: Assassination of JFK, Magic Johnson if he had died of AIDS, miscellaneous assassinations in the Middle East that could spark the third world war, Michael Jackson's assassination
Notes: I feel like the internet would crash if Barrack Obama was assassinated. You would not remember 'where you were' when he was killed; instead, you would remember what you tweeted/something stupid that some1 posted as a facebook update. In general, people feel like 'order' and societal normalcy is gone when some one who represents these ideas are taken from the Earth.
(I really want to see if an Osama Bin Laden assination has the opposite effect.)
Level 4 Tragedy/Disaster: Natural Disasters in non-American + non-white/english speaking parts of the world
Examples: Landslides & Tsunamis in Pacific Island countries, Earthquakes and shifting plates in the southern/eastern hemisphere
Notes: I think Americans find these to be some what 'sad', and enjoy the process of rallying behind a place they will never see with their own eyes, but I think the Christian spirit of 'giving to the less fortunate' in order to make yourself feel like a 'good person' usually overrides the human spirit. Because Americans are not familiar with foreign lands, they think that their donation of the American dollar or American canned good will help 'save' the country in the long run.
This level of tragedy sort of sums up the feeling you have when you see the trajectory of a hurricane that is pounding a Caribbean Island, but you hope it stays away from America/dies down before it hits our soil.
Level 5 Tragedy Disaster: Micro-terrorist act that kills + injures a limited number of people (not on airplanes), Tornadoes
Examples: Miscellaneous bus bombings, the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta
Notes: I think these acts are scary, particularly when there is public transportation involved, but I think the human spirit usually assumes that 'nothing bad will happen to them.' While there are usually a few powerful images that come from the attack, it is basically has the aggregate power of 10-15 local news stories that all seem identical to one another/like the tragedy struck some one who didn't matter in an 'isolated incident' kind of way. Bombs on Airplanes are probably closer to level 1, since people can get really spooked about flying + their plane crashing.
Tornadoes also seem to not be a big deal since hurricanes are usually the most destructive forces. After the movie TWISTER, tornadoes have been branded as something that give you enough time to evacuate + something that you could drive a truck up if you really wanted to [via 'storm chasers'].
Level 6 Tragedy/Disaster: Prolonged Serial Killer spree, school shooting, cults that commit mass suicide
Examples: The Unabomber, Ted Bundi, Columbine school shootings, Lee Boyd Malvo & John Allen Muhammad DC snipers, miscellaneous trendy serial killers, Heaven's Gate, David Koresh + Branch Davidians
Notes: It seems like there haven't really been very many serial killers lately because the people who are 'really fucked up' probably have an outlet for angst at an earlier age. Usually, they just end up listening to hardcore music, playing video games, and working at Taco Bell. I don't think most people really think about the victims in these cases, but are more interested into getting into the minds of the killers. The 'fascination' to understand how some one ended up being so insane, then wanting to kill other people.
Level 7 Tragedy/Disaster: Something that you feel entitled to being 'taken away' from you or made costlier + more inconvenient
Examples: Public transportation and postage increases, Flight Delays, Price markups for goods and services, losing your tumblr username, a larger government entity or private corporation 'screwing you over', a grocery store by your house going out of business and you are forced to go to a larger store with more options that is less convenient to arrive, Napster shutting down
Notes: These level 7 mini-disasters are what give 95% of Americans 'something to talk about' on a daily basis. Some people say that your ability to handle Level 7 disasters is directly related to the the amount of stress + problems in your life. Many of these disasters are due to the human inability to handle the climbing cost of goods and services.
We are still learning to accept/deal with/mourn disasters on personal, national, and global scales. This is part of 'evolving' as a human within modern society. Since we now have the ability to 'express ourselves' on the internet [via status message], we are still working out how to effectively mourn/vent/express frustration in order to deal with human tragedy. The act of genuine mourning + reflection is more private than ever, but our presentation of our feelings to our social network is more contrived/deliberately crafted than ever.
These disasters make us who we are, and the more disasters we tweet about to 'make us seem more interesting', the more saturated our personal brand gets within our network. If we tweet about too many personal tragedies, we might lose the attention of our tribe when a 'legitimate' disaster happens. Sorta like 'the bro who cried _______.'
We can only assume that there is some sort of 'guilt' in all of us, or maybe repressed feelings inside of us since there weren't social networks when 9-11 happened. If Generation Y had been able to tweet out their feelings about 9-11, maybe 'the Millenials' would have turned out differently, with less of a desire to overshare. Maybe we wouldn't over/under react to modern disasters and tragedies since we would have been able to deal with the #1 tragedy of our lives'. Unfortunately, we will have to wait for another Level 1-3 tragedy before our technological mourning strategies change.
The major disconnect with the Haiti Earthquake was that it was a Level 4 Tragedy that got Level 1 treatment. Because of the rate at which humans can share/mourn/rally, the internet probably 'overreacted' to the tragedy. I feel like the response + outpour of support is a net positive, but the rate at which trends evolve on social sharing services left this 'Give 2 Haiti' trend in the limelight for too long. The longer an idea exists on the viral internet, the more inauthentic the meme becomes. While 'Haiti' is in crisis that warrants aid, there is a hollow core at the center of most 'causes' to help 3rd world countries.
I feel confused by technology when natural disasters that require monetary aid occur. I feel like modern social networks are built for me to have fun and stay connected to my innercircle. It really 'takes me out of my comfort zone' when I am asked to send text messages and tweets for the sake of 'helping'/donating money. It is probably a good idea to help, but I fear being branded as some one who is pressuring other people to 'help.' Even if I gave money privately, it seems like it wouldn't 'mean' as much in the modern world, since I didn't use the act as a way to guilt other people in my network to 'give.'
Major celebrities and famous musicians that sell mad albums have to use natural disasters as a branding tool to 'make it seem like they care.' They seem to be pursuing the brand of George Clooney, an A-list celebrity who has a brand of 'genuinely caring' + making a difference with little backlash against the authenticity of his philanthropic spirit.
The new 'We Are The World' 25th anniversary remake has become the ultimate symbol of 'philanthropy for the sake of personal branding' by a group of self-involved musicians whose career moves are governed by their PR agents. It seems like this might have worked if Michael Jackson was still alive and rallied these people. Because he was insane, this insane product probably would have been more acceptable.
I think back in the 1980s, the power of celebrity probably 'meant more.' Celebrities were actually talented resources whose brands represented something larger than life. Today, modern celebrities embody a personal branding strategic robot who must react to social and technological changes on a daily basis.
In the modern world, the most important metric = 'hits'/pageviews/video views. The power of celebrity is only the power of your Google rank, which is why the modern 'We Are the World' wasn't as 'pure' as the original. Seems like they just had to tap into as many possible artists who appeal to varied demographics in order to create the ultimate meme. I am not sure who still 'gets off' to mega collaborations, but maybe the goal of creating a meme with a massive amount of unintentional comedy is more desirable than avoiding it.
Felt scared seeing Janet Jackson singing with her brother. I am not sure if she matched her skin tone to her brother's for the sake of Haiti.
Lil Wayne autotuning appeared to be like a bold decision meant to cause blog chatter.
Good to see Barbara Streisand collaborate with black + tween artists who she has never heard of for the sake of generating 40+ year old interest.
Great to see rappers 'collabing' to make this song modern with an inspirational rap part.
It seems difficult for consumers to believe that artists are genuinely interested in helping a cause. Their role in the modern pop culture blogosphere is to evolve into trainwrecks + make questionable statements or life decisions. When so many popular people enter a room in the name of 'saving Haiti', it is natural to doubt their intentions, since they are only really useful to consumers as people who make mp3s + newsbits for us to consume. We no longer live in the 80s dreamworld when being a 'celebrity' means that you have something worth saying.
Even Wyclef Jean, the bro from Haiti, has been accused of trying to rejuvenate his career by piggybacking off the Haiti crisis meme. For the past several years, he has really only been known as 'the poor Man's Will.I.Am.' Wonder if he is trying to turn into a 'God' amongst the Hatian people.
Wonder if Arnold Schwartzeneggy became Governor of California because he cared about making the state a better place, or because it was a great opportunity to redefine his personal brand while assuming minimal risk.
Are celebrities/musicians 'smart people' who know what they are talking about? Is it their duty to 'speak up' for causes since 'stupid tweens' listen to them, or should the government regulate celebrity philanthropy? Should the government just have a 'global cause' tax so that citizens don't have to worry about donating to a charity for every global crisis?
It seems difficult to 'select a charity' that will turn your donation into a necessary resource these days. I feel like most of the articles I read say that charities that are run by celebrities and athletes 'don't know what the fuck they are doing.' Basically, they build a foundation with their own name attached to it as a way to employ some their family+friends with minimal tax implications.
So confused. Everything seems like it is presented as a Level 1 crisis in the modern blogosphere/news cycle. I think this is probably to 'generate hits' and give media outlets a globally aware, compassionate brand. Just wish I didn't have to deal with it, like I could limit my own network of news.
Feeling overwhelemed, like I need to tweet about my personal philanthropic crisis, but then I am worried about 'seeming like an ass hole' for 'not caring.' Just wish people would realize that I am self-aware, and I accept that I will be the most organically moved by events that directly implicate me. Like my parents dying or my best friend getting run over by a car. Wish ppl could understand that I'm not selfish, just trying to manage my emotional capital without getting all bummed out.
Just wish more social media sharing + personal branding tools were around during 9-11 and Janet Jackson Nipplegate so that I would have had a modern outlet to talk about a critical moment in my social formation. Jealous of tweens for getting to grow up on high speed internet loaded with rich, streaming content.
How do yall handle tragedies/disasters?
Do u care when something bad happens 2 ppl on the other side of the world?
Do yall care about Haiti?
Does n e 1 know an authentic charity 2 donate to?
Should we just 'bomb the fuck' out of Haiti [via people who thought we should just nuke Iraq]?
Is We are the World 25 the best/worst meme of 2k10?
Should indie celebs make their own version of 'We Are The World', then give the mp3 away for free to raise money for Haiti?
Do 3rd World Countries 'matter less' since their countries are already in disarray?
Should American focus on saving America before saving the world?
Should the Red Cross be disbanded?
Was Vince Vaughn this most important contributor to 'We are the World 25'?
Should we create a new 'We Are the World' version every time a natural disaster happens?
Do u feel pressured to 'give'/'care', then feel guilty a lil bit?
Do u trust your mobile carrier since they 'rip u off' every month?
Should we send Haitian citizen iPods preloaded with the 'We Are the World' remake to help them to move on from their national tragedy?
Every one knows that the Arcade Fire have tried to be the band that is single-handedly trying to save Haiti with their indie/alt vibes. But what if I told you that one man was tired of seeing the inaction of the Arcade Fire, deciding to save Haiti himself?
His name is Jared Leto, the Most Alternative Man Alive.
Jared Leto is the most alt man alive, and there's really nothing he can't do. He's sorta like the Alt version of Chuck Norris. He's so alt he can fly. He's so alt that he will never die. He's so alt that he can save Haiti by himself just by going there and filming a documentary and taking some pictures.
▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲Did u hear that?▲▲▲▲▲▲▲
▲▲▲▲Haiti was just saved, yall! ▲▲▲▲▲▲▲
▲▲▲▲And all it took was Jared Leto.▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲
▲▲I am the Letbro.▲▲▲▲
Were the Arcade Fire 'half-assing' their philanthropy mission?
Who is doing more 2 save Haiti?
Is every1 helping, or did the Arcade Fire just do it to minimize their mainstream backlash?
Do u <3 Jared Leto?
Does he seem 'deep'?
Do u think▲▲Jared Leto▲▲ 'saved' Haiti?
Haiti used to be a relevant disaster zone because there was an Earthquake there that stole a lot of disaster buzz from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. However, now Japan is sorta the leading buzz disaster, and Libya is also getting a lot of international relations buzz, so Wyclef Jean is basically the only celeb who is still buzzing about Haiti. Anyways, Regine Chassagne is the 'front woman' of the Arcade Fire and she made the Arcade Fire donate $1 million to Haiti, and now she made them prolong their album cycle in order to play a 'free relevant secret popup show in Haiti.
The band plays a 45-minute set at the Hotel Oloffson in Port-Au-Prince
Anyways, the most relevant meme of this performance is Regine Chassagne's 'show stealing' performance + stage presence as she jimmy jangled the tambourine.
In addition, she also played the accordion, trying to prove that she could play more instruments than the Ginger Bro.
In addition, the violin girls in the Arcade Fire also looked visibly jealous of Regine's spotlight, particularly in Haiti.
Is the Haitian earthquake 'still buzzworthy'?
Is Regine staying true to Haiti?
Do u think the band is tired of being Haitian-wave indie?
Is the band jealous of Regine?
Do they try too hard to be 'humanitarian'? Should they just anonymously donate, or are they trying to be the next U2?
Did Win Butler 'rip off' Coldplay's gimmick uniform, or did they rip off Tom Morello [via Rage Against the Machine]?
Who is the #1 Jimmy Jangler in indie? Or are yall on #TeamZooeyJimmyJangle?
Miley! Ur a real good samaratan! Kinda like Sean Penn, bb!
U went to Haiti to spread good vibes to those who were injured in the tsunami Earthquake... Ur a good role model, bb!
A lot of tween stars would be busy buying material things and being selfish. But not Miley. She really PUT HER TIME IN and went to Haiti and found this kid who needed help and helped him. #TeamHaiti
Personally, I give $20 of my paycheck every month to St. Jude's. I know it is not much, but I KNOW in my heart that I am helping with all I can. Sure, I do go on shopping sprees at Payless where I spend twice that much, but I do need to help the world, but also need to HELP ME to be happy. Bc if I don't <3 myself, who the hell else is gonna <3 me? #LOL
Props 2 Miley. #TeamMiley
When does ur new album drop, bb?
Arcade Fire is a former indie band who is in the process of 'going mainstream', possibly about to be just as mainstream as the Kings of Leon. Even though their songs have been licensed to huge films and events like the Super Bowl, they seem to always 'give their money away to charity.' One of their members is apparently from Haiti, so she probably throws out ideas like "Let's give a million dollars of our money away to charity" and the rest of the band members are like, "hmmm... okay... we'll see.... still gotta finish paying off my condo in Montreal, but we'll see..."
Arcade Fire is one of the few indie bands who can ride a 'charity meme.' The goal of dropping a charity meme is to 'distract people' from trashing ur album, since it is tied to the cause of 'helping humanity.' As pure as the intentions are, riding the charity meme can help u form a forcefield of positive vibes around ur album that no music critic can penetrate.
Seems like they 'pulled a Wyclef Jean' and started one of those 'text 2 donate' lines:
According to the Times, at the show, Arcade Fire co-leader Régine Chassagne revealed the creation of a nonprofit organization called Kanpe, which funnels aid from Canada to Haiti to help the poor. (Chassagne's parents emigrated from Haiti to Canada.) According to the Kanpe website, Chassagne sits on the nonprofit's board. At the Quebec show, Win Butler, Chassagne's husband and Arcade Fire co-leader announced that audience members could donate $5 to the effort by texting 30333. UPDATE: You have to text the word "STAND". The band promised to match every donation from the public up to a million (Canadian) dollars.
Wonder if they are going to be like most famous musicians and athletes and let their incompetent friends/innercircle work for the charity for high annual salaries.
I sorta feel most comfortable with 'telethons', since I know what I am getting into when I turn it on. I know people are gonna be begging me 4 money, and when I don't wanna watch it any more, I can turn it on. H8 when I'm just searching for buzz mp3s, and then people ruin my chillvibes by bringing up 'harsh global issues.'
Seems like the lead singer wants every1 to know he is loaded, and doesn't even make money any more. Probably 'wipes his ass' with $100 bills.
Butler said, "Please, take our money," the Times reports.
Will any buzzbands from the modern chillwave lofi era ride charity memes, or is the Arcade Fire in a unique mainstream market position?
Will Arcade Fire raise a million dollars?
Do cool dads who read blogs donate money to charity via text, or is that more of a twitter phenomenon?
Do u think Arcade Fire is trying to 'minimize' their inevitable backlash by linking their brand with charity?
Should they donate all proceeds of their album to the Boys and Girls Club, kinda like LeBron James' "The Decision" special?
Is Haiti still rebuilding? Haven't seen them as a trending topic on twitter in a while
Is the Arcade Fire neglecting our oil spill? Should Americans boycott their album?
Do u h8 it when famous people + bands get philanthropic, or do u respect them because they are using their voice for good?
Can u believe the Arcade Fire are millionaires?
Do u think they will raise a million dollars, or do they know that they will make under $100k in donations?
If the Arcade Fire wanted to make the perfect indie charity meme, would they organize an indie 'We Are The World' meme?
You might remember Grizzly Bear as one of the 'major players' in the Great Indie War of 2k9, the Battle for the #1 Album on the Pitchfork + Billboard Charts. It seems that the lead singer / 'front man' Edward Droste gave away his guitar for the sake of helping people in Haiti. It seems like the guitar will be auctioned for money, as opposed to donating it to a Haitian family to jam on. While this might be for a good cause, insiders can't help but speculate that this guitar was spiritually linked to the strength and success of Grizzly Bear. By giving away this guitar, insiders imagine a scenario where the band is 'cursed' and their status as a relevant band fades away, losing their massive fan base and authentic credibility.
Ed’s parents gave him the guitar on his 15th birthday. It’s not only the guitar he learned to play on but was also the primary guitar used on Sorry for the Delay, Horn of Plenty and Yellow House, played by both Ed and Daniel Rossen.
Will members of the band Animal Collective purchase the guitar and put some sort of curse on it in order to derail Grizzly Bear?
Should Grizzly Bear have 'manned up' and donated a Volkswagen instead?
Will Grizzly Bear be able to survive the loss of this guitar?
Will Grizzly Bear be able to 'top' Veckatimest without this guitar?
Will some alt bro purchase this guitar and use it as a 'cum rag'?
List of 10 artists who are 'using' Haiti as an opportunity to make their brand 'seem more philanthropic.'
List includes the bro from Creed (Scott Stapp), Dave Matthews, Coldplay, Jessica Simpson and The Who.
This post is intended to illustrate how 'artists' don't genuinely care about human crises, and instead use them as an excuse to make/auction/promote their mediocre 'art.'