Most anyone who follows what is happening with Twitter has undoubtedly heard about the whole stunt wherein Ashton Kutcher was vying to get one million followers before CNN. In the end, he won and in winning he vowed to donate 10,000 mosquito nets to Malaria No More, an NGO that shows no shame in using the helpless African child model for its revenue model. I’m not joking, look at the site, there are five of them on the front page alone.
For Kutcher’s part, it’s a cheap shot, but at the same time, it’s an ingenious shot because in this mad, mad race towards this ultimate pointless goal, he has made everyone feel like they’ve been part of this. The phrase, “it’s for a good cause” has come up on many a website as a reason to support Kutcher in this. Americans love this phrase as it’s so much easier to contribute funds to somewhere else in order to help people rather than to actually do it yourself. Does this make Kutcher a “social media expert” (see # 4)? No, not at all. He’s just a celebrity riding a wave of popularity for his perceived generosity. The donation of mosquito nets along with his new accessibility on Twitter only give him more “real cred” in the eyes of his fans. And who knows, maybe this will lead to his acting in a movie that doesn’t go straight to video someday.
I’m saying little new here and it’s obvious that I’m not a fan of this stunt, just as I’m not a fan of any of these celebrity stunts. The main reason I bring it up was because of this article on TechCrunch where they were under the impression that Kutcher’s Twitter stunt would improve knowledge of malaria. The net result remains to be seen in that, but even on this site, where there are in theory, intelligent people in technology, the comments were littered with the “it’s for a good cause” and people are now “armed with information” crap.
Thankfully, TMS Ruge, whose name I don’t know how to say right, but can be followed on Twitter in all his shirtless glory, chimed in. Thankfully, being that he is an African from Africa, people actually listened to him and don’t immediately write off his comments with the, “Oh yeah, what are you doing?!!” idiocy. I happen to like what TMS writes a good deal and most of what he says here is part of a quite excellent, larger article that addresses not only the Kutcher stunt, but also celebrity charity stunts in general. While I think it’s a great read overall, one particular paragraph really stands out:
The solution to malaria, much like varied solutions to ending our addiction to aid, can be found within Africa. My problem with the strategy of dealing with malaria employed by Malaria No More, Nothing but Nets, et al is that it erodes the ability of local capacity to deal with this problem. It is also not infinitely sustainable, and dare I say it, smacks of paternalistic ethos. It’s a band-aid on a gashing wound. It’s the “fly-to-Africa-and-adopt-a-brown-baby-instead-of-investing-in-a-sustainable-business-that-can-help-the-entire-family” syndrome.
It really is a shame that celebrities have decided that they need to invest themselves in new forms of technology to spread their supposed giving to Africa. Hugh Jackman has done this as well although it was leagues less annoying probably just because it’s Hugh Jackman. Obviously, this move was inevitable given that newspapers are dying off and that was the main place a celeb could flash their “amazingness” to the world. I’m sure that iPhone apps are next and I’m already cringing that one with Beyonce patting the head of a poor African child will soon be available for download; with all the proceeds from purchases going to charity of her choosing of course (charity: water get on that now!) This app won’t do anything I might add other than show that picture with Single Ladies playing in the background. It will just loop constantly so that you can be warmed by Beyonce’s giving all through your otherwise dreary workday.