Posted at 05:22 PM ET, 03/14/2011

Earthquakes, celebrities and the aftermath: Does Japan differ from Haiti?


Rapper 50 Cent contributed his own jokes, and offended women in the process. (Kevin Winter - Getty Images)
As the relief effort for earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan enters its fourth day, a couple of American celebrities are getting attention for their work on Twitter — just not in the way you’d expect.

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried began tweeting jokes after the magnitude 8.9 quake ripped into Japan. (View live Japan updates.)

“Japan is really advanced. They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to them,” Gottfried wrote in a Sunday tweet.

(Update: Gottfried has lost his longterm gig as the voice behind the Aflac, Inc. quacking duck, the Associated Press reports.The insurer will seek a replacement for Gottfried, who does not do voice over work for the company’s Japanese division.)

Rapper 50 Cent contributed his own jokes, and offended women in the process.

These statements are made for shock value, but would they have happened a year ago, when a magnitude 7.0 quake hit Haiti?

In January 2010, celebrities immediately broadcasted ways to help on Twitter, but that wasn’t enough. Active response to the devastation was swift and even expected.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie pledged $1 million. Musicians sold songs on iTunes and donated the proceeds. Wyclef Jean tried to run for president of Haiti, and Sean Penn moved there to found a relief organization. Penn is taking Charlie Sheen down for a visit next week.

The devastation in Japan prompted celebrity goodwill on Twitter, but an organized effort seems to have stopped there. Sure, Lady Gaga is selling bracelets. Sheen is donating proceeds from sales to his upcoming “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option” show.

But this is far from a rallying cry.

Why does one situation seem so markedly different from the other? Our proximity to Haiti could be a simple explanation, but Haiti is also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; the earthquake devastated a population already desperate for aid. Japan’s economy is the third-largest in the world. But as conditions worsen for the Japanese, it’s possible a larger effort will need to materialize. So far, one of two solutions offered from Hollywood is a plastic bracelet. How could celebrities help inform the public? Is it even Hollywood’s responsibility? Tell us by using #helpJapan on Twitter or in the comments below.

I Designed a Japan Prayer Bracelet. Buy It/Donate here and ALL proceeds will go to Tsunami Relief Efforts. Go Monsters: http://bit.ly/f0aYwZless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

By  |  05:22 PM ET, 03/14/2011

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