I understand that telethons are used to spread awareness as well as raise money. During the 1985 Live Aid concert, donations were only trickling in, but during a break, a short film was broadcast showing starving and diseased Ethiopian children. The rate of giving became faster in the immediate aftermath of the heartbreaking video.
However, last night's concert extravaganza didn't serve the same enlightening purpose. In the days since the Haiti earthquake, we have all seen plenty of pictures of destruction and suffering. If everybody is already aware of the earthquake, then how does the telethon really help? Or why does it help? Are there really people who need to see Justin Timberlake singing Hallelujah before they'll donate? Yes, apparently there are millions of people like that.
A few days ago I got into an argument about this on a Sims board. Yes, you read that right. I got into an argument on a message board for the Sims video game. Some players wanted the game makers to sell special Haiti themed game items and donate a percentage of the profits to the Haiti relief fund. Zynga is doing something similar with Farmville. My caustic response was, "Give directly to the Red Cross and don't worry about what's in it for you and your fake people." Wow. That did not go over well with the other Simmers. I guess I should get over the idea that people should be altruistic.
I think Stephen Colbert was brilliant with his new Humanitarish Award for cost-benefit analyzed generosity:
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