Ian O'Doherty

Saturday 26 July 2014

It's easy to be a selfie show-off when it costs you nothing. . .

Ian O'Doherty

Published 09/05/2014|02:30

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Selfie: Michelle Obama with Bring Back Our Girls hashtag
First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama
First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama

So, have you taken yours yet? No, I'm not referring to your five-a-day (although that was recently increased to seven-a-day). I am, of course, talking about the latest, spectacularly unpleasant and self-aggrandising trend of taking selfies to promote a fashionable cause.

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I have to admit, I'm not one of those people who becomes apoplectic and blue in the face whenever the dreaded selfies comes up in conversation. After all, most of the people who complain the loudest about the phenomenon would have been the most enthusiastic purveyors of self-made snaps if the concept had been around when they were younger. If anything, it almost seems like anyone over the age of 30 tends to look at the latest expression of narcissism with a fury that borders on jealousy.

But the charity selfie is another matter entirely. This week's development sees every famous face with an eye for the zeitgeist and a terror of being left out tripping over themselves to show just how concerned they are about the the 257 girls who were kidnapped by Nigeria's resident evil – in this case, the Islamic nut jobs of Boko Haram.

Boko Haram have been causing chaos for more than a decade but they only made it into the big league this week because such noted intellectual heavyweights as Mary J Blige and Jada Pinkett Smith have decided to pose with the hashtag 'Bring Back Our Girls.'

Of course, it isn't just the brains trust of Blige and Smith who were quick to display their understanding of Islamic splinter groups. Everyone who is anyone, darling, has been busy uploading shots of themselves looking, like, dead serious and stuff.

In fact, I'd even go as far as guessing that some of them were so moved by the mass abduction that they may even have included an angry-face emoticon at the end of their tweets. And as we all know, that counts for at least as much as a bollocking from the UN. Actually, now that I think of it, Kanye West could probably muster more men from his personal security detail to go looking for the girls than the UN could find troops.

The situation in Nigeria is remarkably similar to the campaign a few years ago to hunt down the Ugandan psychopath Joseph Kone, who was head of the charming Lord's Resistance Army.

On that occasion, Kim Kardashian became the face of the international man hunt to apprehend this particular savage. That campaign certainly did a great job of raising people's awareness of Kim Kardashian, of that there can be no dispute. But the last we heard of Kone he was comfortably ensconced in a bolthole in southern Sudan.

Who knows, maybe if Kim and Kanye invite Kone to their upcoming Parisian nuptials, then he may be convinced to come out of hiding? After all, he does have a 'K' in his name.

So far, any sleb with a mobile phone and an addiction to self-promotion – which is all of them, that's why they're celebrities in the first place – has hopped on the electronic bandwagon and this is a perfect illustration of what is known in the charity world as 'slacktivism' – the kind of specious gesturing and sloganeering that does wonders for the self-esteem of the person who posts the picture, but actually takes no effort, no sacrifice and no brains. And, most importantly, slacktivism does precisely nothing to alleviate the problem they're talking about.

The levels of sheer absurdity reached new heights the other day when Michelle Obama even joined in and while the supporters of the campaign have thanked her for getting involved, nobody has been rude enough to point out that her hubby could have done more to help than send a small coterie of 'advisers' – a move that's as useful as a bandage in open- heart surgery.

There is something remarkably unpleasant and dripping in self-regard about someone adopting a solemn pose and engaging in fatuous posing.

It does nothing but cheapen a story which involves nearly 300 girls who face a fate worse than death, and I doubt the fact that Will Smith's wife donated 30 seconds of her time to take a picture will come as much consolation to them.

This is one of those occasions when people react with understandable horror to a story that is, sadly for Africa, a not unusual occurrence.

It is also one of those occasions when the very people who loudly protest against American and British 'imperialism' and interventions will now be quick to demand that something must be done.

Ah yes, 'something must be done' – the old reflexive response; the catch-cry of the permanently disgruntled who think that, as long as the cause is fashionable enough, then the West is not only entitled to intervene but has a moral obligation to do so.

William Hague has been smart enough to pour cold water on the idea of boots on the ground and he admits that: "It's difficult, of course, because this is primarily a matter for Nigeria and Britain can't just walk in there... and do what we like."

So is this just another hopeless situation, one which proves that evil runs rampant in Africa and we should just wash our hands of the whole thing?

Well, maybe yes. But maybe no.

Because if you genuinely feel strongly about the plight of these girls, then you might be interested to know that Ireland's first clinic dedicated to women and girls who have been the victim of the barbaric act of female genital mutilation opened in Dublin this week.

FGM is just one of the many violations these girls in Nigeria now face. So if you accept that we can't do anything about Boko Haram in the Nigerian bush, then how about you get in touch with the clinic in Dublin and offer to help them with their fundraising or any publicity campaign they might need volunteers for?

Of course, actually doing something like that involves a bit of effort and maybe missing Made In Chelsea.

So why not just stick to taking pictures of yourself with a convenient hashtag, eh?

Irish Independent

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