TORONTO, Jan. 14, 2013 – Celebrities involved in global charity work and humanitarianism often attract much attention and praise, but according to a new book by York University Professor Ilan Kapoor, their actions are often self-serving, promotional and actually cause harm.
Celebrity Humanitarianism: The Ideology of Global Charity, which launches Thursday, Jan. 17, takes the altruistic motives of celebrity charity workers to task, arguing that celebrities such as Bono, Angelina Jolie and Madonna, as well as billionaires and activist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including Bill Gates, Save Darfur and Medeçins Sans Frontières, end up doing harm with their Band-Aid approach by unwittingly advancing consumerism and corporate capitalism.
“Celebrity charity is most often self-serving,” says Kapoor, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. He points to Live 8 as an example, saying although it was billed as the “greatest show ever” in support of global humanitarianism, it was produced as a massive media event that sloganized and logoized debt and poverty, and served as a marketing platform for several corporate sponsors – AOL Time Warner, BBC, Nokia.
“It also provided ‘unpaid’ artists with wide global exposure and subsequent rises in music sales. HMV and Amazon album sales of Live 8 artists Pink Floyd, The Who, Annie Lennox, Sting/ The Police and Madonna increased by between 150 and 3,600 per cent in the week following the concerts,” says Kapoor. “In this sense, celebrity humanitarianism is not intended to save the ‘poor’ as much as help the ‘rich’.”
Although he argues against celebrity humanitarianism, he says he is not suggesting people refrain from helping marginalized people or abstain from “rescuing” those affected by disasters. “My point, rather, is that by focusing attention and resources on the immediate crisis and short-term emergency, as celebrities tend to do, the overwhelming tendency is to tackle the symptoms rather than the causes,” he says. “It is the celebrity and media-friendly ‘personal stories’ that get the attention, rather than the wider and recurring patterns of inequality and dispossession.”
What: Book launch for Celebrity Humanitarianism: The Ideology of Global Charity
Where: Senior Common Room, Founders College, Keele campus (see map)
When: Thursday, Jan. 17, 5:30 to 7pm
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