(Note: because I’m an idiot, the original post contained a mathematical error which was, sadly, not a typo! Thank you to those of you who noted this! Let me add an additional question: does the sum donated change the analysis below? If it were $150 for 15,000 reblogs would it be more, less, or as meaningful as if it were $15 million for 15,000 reblogs?)
Is the following proposition ethical: For everyone who deletes their reblog of the previous charity offer and instead reblogs this, I will donate $.20 to the same charity (which -at the present rate- would cost me perhaps $3000 for rather massive exposure).
Objections to this offer:
(1) It is self-aggrandizing and self-promoting. Of course, this is true of the original offer as well, which features a URL in its image for a reason; the poster might just as easily have donated $1500 to the charity in question, but by making an event of it she accumulates attention, which has actual and potential value.
Thus: I am no guiltier of this than she; if self-promotion or self-satisfaction disqualifies charity -and this is a rather old question- we are both guilty for exchanging attention (and esteem) for material wealth. This is common in philanthropy: one gets one’s name on the building, one’s photo in the paper, and so on. If it is not objectionable in ordinary circumstances, what makes it so here?
(It is probable that all she really wanted was to have a bit of fun as she did something good, which I should stress is, to me, commendable).
(2) This erases another’s charity instead of supplementing it. When I saw the original offer, I thought: what would happen if I were right now to pose the same offer for another charity? Wouldn’t I be ignored as an absurd epigone? Yes, and that’s because this community cannot pay its attention (again, attention is a scarce commodity) to dozens of charity offers daily or weekly.
If I want to make a difference, and acquire attention, I cannot merely repeat her gesture; I must displace hers. In allocating attention, we focus on what demands it; this is why our media all attend to the outrageous, the controversial, and the extraordinary. This distorts our sense of reality, of course, but scarce commodities accumulate around what takes them. Hence: shameless celebrity behavior. What is unnoticed is irrelevant to a mediated reality.
Besides: it is ostensibly the case that what matters here is the charity, and my offer means twice as much money for that cause. Aren’t other considerations about attention, credit, Tumblarity, and so on merely vulgar distractions?
(3) This is mean. The person making the original offer is quite clearly a kind, benevolent, good-hearted person whose post will mean money for a cause none can oppose. It is unpleasant to interrogate such gestures -the greening of our avatars in support of Iran, the placing of bumper stickers on our cars to combat racism, the donating of money to one cause when another is more dire by this or that metric, in which most of us -myself included- participate.
But I surely cannot have been the only one to wonder about the exchange rate -$1500 for 15,000 reblogs- or the implicit values traded in such acts of philanthropy, or other associated issues of intent, attention-scarcity, charity prioritization, and more. Indeed, if I was I am sure that only demonstrates my own moral poverty and will be something you can pity, rather than rage at, I hope.
Comments? Thoughts? Is my hypothetical proposition ethical, and if not, why not? Is this the sort of issue one should simply not discuss, instead applauding any and all good deeds without questioning their motives or incidental consequences?