Celebrities Barely Cheat Digital Death

When celebrities like Janelle Monáe, Alicia KeysJennifer HudsonJustin Timberlake and Lady Gaga made the announcement at the end of November that they were stopping all tweets on Twitter until folks helped them raise one million dollars for AIDS research for Keys' Keep a Child Alive charity, I must admit that I was eager to see how threatening this promise was going to be. While I'm all for positive peer pressure, I couldn't help thinking that this was a task that was going to fail majorly, particularly in this falling economy where people are struggling to make ends meet. Also, I couldn't possibly believe that folks are that incredibly pressed to read tweets from celebrities that they would feel compelled to spend money to bring them back to life online. Was it just me?  Upon reading the results of the Digital Death campaign, I wasn't the only one who felt that way. The plan flopped. At first, at least. While in poor man's terms, they raised a nice amount within the first few days--just shy of $300,000--the one million dollar goal did not so easily happen. Compared to phenomenally successful online campaigns led by groups such as Yele Haiti and the American Red Cross earlier this year for aid for Haiti, the numbers weren't as stunning.

From jump, my initial question was why didn't the celebrities involved just pool their resources and donate their own money? If the cause of raising funds for AIDS research in countries outside the United States was so important to them, shouldn't they have kicked off the giving? That can't be too much to ask from ridiculously wealthy people. What did me in, I admit, were the expensive-looking posters they created to promote the campaign--the celebs in coffins styled to look "dead"--which spoke nothing to the cause they were supporting at all. The coffins were symbolic of their digital death, not the AIDS virus or anything relevant to the campaign. Between flaunting wealth and failing to inform potential donors of what they were donating to, this campaign was awful from the start. It's not surprising that pharmaceutical mogul Stewart Rahr donated roughly $500,000 yesterday to help the celebrities reach their million dollar mark, since, in all fairness, the money will be sent straight to pharmaceutical companies anyway. I'm just saying.

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Since this is a music blog, I think it's fitting to add my bit of advice to anyone affiliated with the campaign that may be reading: lure donors with music next time. Many of those who participated are music artists who could have sold music, performed at a benefit concert, kicked off a telethon--done something, anything other than faking their deaths--to engage fans to support their cause. At the end of the day, fans should feel like they want to help out--not hope or hardly give a care if an artist's digital death lasts indefinitely.

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