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Lakshmi Narayan

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Celebrity Activism: Who ultimately benefits, the celebrity or the cause?

I am doing a dissertation on this topic and would like people to give an opinion on what they think of the question. I study PR so anything that relates back to media, how the publics attitude is swayed and what happens if the celebrity and the cause don't align, and does the cause push the celeb profile or the other way around. Case studies that I've looked at are- Bob Geldof-Live Aid, Joanna Lumley-Gurkhas , Sean Penn-Haiti and Angelina Jolie- any campaign she has been affiliated with.

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    Apr 21 2013: This is a tricky question. On the surface of it, you have the question of "Does the celebrity gain more publicity and fame for supporting a cause? Does the cause gain more recognition from the celebrity which brings in more support?" But beneath that lays another question that needs to be answered: "Does the charity, aid group, or activist organization do things that actually alleviate the problems they claim to be about solving? Or do they make them worse? Even if the celebrity who is endorsing an organization is sincere in their desire to help, to gain nothing for themselves, is their support of the cause detrimental in that the group they have chosen to support, even those with good intentions, are doing things that only result in making themselves and their supporters feel good about themselves and do not actually solve the problem?

    There is at least one TEDtalk that I am aware of, on the value failure and learning from it, David Damberger's talk about learning from failure does highlight this problem (http://www.ted.com/talks/david_damberger_what_happens_when_an_ngo_admits_failure.html). Michael Marin's book "The Road To Hell: The Ravaging Effects Of Foreign Aid and International Charity" talks about the same problem, where groups is good intentions go in to a village, do their project and either never come back to maintain it, or the project itself causes greater problems (in one story villages fought over control of a well.)

    So if a celbrity is using their fame to generate awareness for a "cause" that is the project of an aid group, and that aid group gains large amounts of funding for their projects, you still have the question of "Does what they Charity Aid Group actually does alleviate the problem? Or is it merely a fascade to make contributors and workers, and administrators, and celebrities feel good about themselves?" If if turns out to be the later, then it definitely benefits the celebrity more, because the problem is not solved, it's perpetuated.
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      Apr 23 2013: Thanks for this idea. This would be good for my conclusion I think. Even if the celebrity is involved is the cause doing enough action to solve the issue at hand? The answer to that is tricky. More often than not people who donate are not told where there money ends up.

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