When it comes to the world’s most oppressed peoples, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. That seems to be the thinking of Robert Thurman, cofounder and president of the cultural-preservation charity Tibet House, which is holding its annual benefit concert at Carnegie Hall tomorrow night. (Interested parties may buy tickets by appearing at the Carnegie Hall box office, or calling Carnegie Hall at 212-247-7800.) Mr. Thurman told The Observer that he didn’t understand the flap over Groupon’s much-derided Super Bowl ads that appeared to make light of Tibetan awareness in America, which Mr. Thurman has spent years building.
“That was great–I loved that,” he said. “Some people in the Tibetan movement who were more P.C. or pious thought it was being trivialized.” But to Mr. Thurman, a longtime practitioner of of detachment, “It was kind of an ironic, self-deprecatory thing.”
Groupon apologized, sort of, for the advertisement, broadcast to the largest audience in U.S. history, and redirected traffic to advocacy groups and charities. That boost in traffic–and the publicity for Tibet, which Mr. Thurman called “subliminal”–was worth the ribbing. “It was foolish of a few P.C. hothead Tibetophiles to get upset about it.”
Of course, the real target of the ad, which featured Timothy Hutton, seemed to be the use of celebrities to promote serious issues (ahem, Richard Gere). But Mr. Thurman, whose benefit this year features performances by Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, and the Flaming Lips, and whose daughter, Uma, is a film actress, disagrees. “I don’t think it satirized celebrities–it’s a double-backhanded-irony thing,” he said. “Look, I have no idea! I still don’t understand that coupon thing, what they sell or what they do, spending so much money on ads.”
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