Leave the Hurricane Sandy Telethon Alone

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NBC is currently scrambling to put together a telethon that will broadcast at 8 p.m. tonight, with proceeds going to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort. Considering the storm passed through just earlier this week, that's pretty quick turnaround time for a telethon. Word is that host Matt Lauer felt it needed to happen soon lest the devastation get overshadowed by everybody picking the winner of President Idol next week. So NBC made some calls and got the thing going for tonight. And they got some good people!

New Jersey's favorite son, Bruce Springsteen, will be playing on Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together, as will locals like Billy Joel and Jon Bon Jovi, and pop heroes Mary J. Blige, Sting, and Christina Aguilera. That's a pretty solid lineup for something that was put together in about two days. There will also, of course, be more celebrity appearances, though hopefully there won't be a "Barack Obama doesn't care about Italian people" moment from any of them. Basically it'll be your run-of-the-mill disaster relief telethon, just maybe a little more slapdash than usual. But that doesn't mean you should hate it.

On a personal taste level, I get why people might cluck their tongues about this thing. It's awfully rushed, it's too cheesy, it's a distraction from real aid work, etc. Those people would not be wrong entirely. Telethons are incredibly cheesy (though obviously well-intentioned) and it has only been a few days. But really, why should that matter? Whether the event is corny or not, shame on us for being so cynical and steeped in ironic detachment that we'd pooh-pooh a fundraiser for storm-ravaged people simply because it wasn't cool or self-conscious enough. I don't actually see many people doing that right now, so maybe I'm just projecting my own inherent feelings about these sad tune fests, but let's hope that that kind of passive, snarky condescension doesn't get applied to this likely goofy but earnestly altruistic (or at least as altruistic as network television gets) event.

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It'd be nice to say that the telethon hasn't been politicized yet, but good grief it has. The staff at Fox News apparently got a memo from on high this morning to go with a "This telethon is just an excuse for a pro-Obama rally mere days before the election" line, as it's already popped up in a couple places across the Fox mediasphere. Big dumb bulldog Eric Bolling kicked off the campaign this morning on asylum work-release program Fox & Friends, saying that "the timing is more than suspect." Then the irradiated chicken finger known as Steve Doocy chimed in, asking, "Where are the conservative performers?" Y'see, because Bruce and Bon Jovi and all them are terrible liberal types who have campaigned for Obama. So clearly this is another of the Obama camp's sneaky, elaborate schemes done in cahoots with the mainstream media. This said on the nation's most-watched news channel.

This silly and mean-spirited line of thinking was taken even further on FoxNews.com, with Hollie McKay writing an article entitled "Will NBC's Hurricane Sandy Benefit Become Unofficial Obama Rally?" The article suggests that the answer is a definitive yes, with a rep from the right-wing Media Research Center bringing up the old Kanye West oopsy and saying, "[a]ttacks on Romney here could be impossible to rebut, which may well be the goal." Yes. That is the entire goal. Or, uh, the goal is to raise money for hurricane relief, organized by people who happen to, y'know, live near the places that need it. The article also says that people on Twitter are calling for a boycott of the telethon, which, if true, is absolutely the acme of the American spirit. "If anything we politically disagree with is mentioned, then those people should get no help." What a sentiment.

In either case — the snide dismissal, the ridiculous political huckstering — the end conclusion is mostly the same: This thing shouldn't happen at all because it's not being done exactly the right way. Which is maybe a fine argument for some things — science experiments, singing competition shows, surgery — but in the case of something that will at the very least bring attention to relief efforts, who cares if it's a little sappy? And maybe let's not write the thing off sight unseen because it might, maybe, possibly have some tinge of the political to it. Or more particularly, of a political view that's in opposition to Fox News'. That's pretty much the height of cynicism right there and probably merits its own long post about how stupidly and childishly polarized basically everything has become, but now is not the time.

Now is the time, for people living near the damage or in it, or people who are far away, to care if they want to care. Watch a telethon and donate if you want to. Don't watch it but still donate. Don't donate at all. Don't do anything! Whatever. It's up to you. Whatever you do, though, the point here is that not everything needs a critical, pseudo savvy dissection. This a well-meaning enough telethon for people who don't have houses anymore because of a storm. That's all. Just let it be. Otherwise one runs the risk of being a smug jerk at best, and at worst a hollowed out shell of brittle political stubbornness. You don't want to be either of those things, so just leave the telethon alone.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.