Notre Dame fire elicits a flood of donations from brands worldwide

Its iconic bell towers and central rose window still stand, and even as the world mourns the devastation, philanthropists pledge millions to resurrect the landmark Paris cathedral.

As sections of Notre Dame Cathedral still smoldered, pledges began pouring in to rebuild the Paris landmark.

The effort toward the resurrection of the historic cathedral—which 200-foot-high flames consumed Monday while a stunned world watched—began immediately, as Christians worldwide observe Holy Week.

CNN reported:

As flames ripped through the roof and into the spire of the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Monday night, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed his citizens.

Looking distraught, he said: “Notre Dame is our history, it’s our literature, it’s our imagery. It’s the place where we live our greatest moments, from wars to pandemics to liberations … I’m telling you all tonight — we will rebuild this cathedral together. This is probably part of the French destiny.”

The response was immediate.

CBS News reported:

Bernard Arnault, one of the world’s richest men, is donating 200 million euros to fund the reconstruction of Notre Dame – that’s about $226 million. Arnault and his family announced the donation via their company’s Twitter account.

Arnault is the head of LVMH, a massive company with 70 worldwide brands under its umbrella, including Louis Vuitton, Sephora and Marc Jacobs. With a net worth of more than $90 billion, Arnault and his family are ranked fourth-richest in the world by Forbes.

The French family and their Paris-based company announced their contribution to Notre Dame on Tuesday, the day after the major fire at the iconic cathedral. “The Arnault family and LVMH Group, in solidarity with this national tragedy, are committed to assist with the reconstruction of this extraordinary, symbol of France its heritage and its unity,” their statement read.

The Arnaults are not alone in their altruism.

TechCrunch reported:

Macron continued on to say that France planned to start an international fundraising campaign to raise money for the renovations.

He may have a major head start on that campaign, thanks to billionaire François-Henri Pinault, who has already pledged more than 100 million euros to rebuild the cathedral. According to the AFP, Pinault said in a statement that he plans to provide the money through his family’s investment firm, Artemis — funding that he hopes will help church officials “completely rebuild Notre Dame.”

Likewise, major global companies have pledged hefty donations.

CNBC wrote:

French companies including L’Oreal and luxury groups LVMH and Kering have pledged millions of euros to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after it was severely damaged in a fire Monday night.

François-Henri Pinault, whose Artemis holding company owns a controlling stake in Kering, pledged 100 million euros ($113 million), while Bernard Arnault, chair of LVMH, gave 200 million euros.

Kering owns labels such as Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, while LVMH’s star brands include Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Moet & Chandon champagne.

Meanwhile, cosmetics group L’Oreal and its majority shareholder the Bettencourt Meyers family and the Bettencourt Schueller foundation said they would donate 200 million euros, according to a Reuters report.

Donors shared their intentions on social media.

A world in shock

In heartbreaking images broadcast worldwide, fire spread quickly from its wooden spire to other parts of the roof; both the spire and roof would ultimately collapse. The bell towers and world-famous rose window survived the blaze, as did parts of the interior, including the cross in the apse.

An iconic example of French gothic architecture, the cathedral—which had endured the French Revolution, World War I and World War II—was being renovated. Early reports suggest that those renovation efforts might have played a part in igniting the blaze.

The news made headlines around the globe, and viewers turned to TV and online feeds to witness the fire’s tragic progression.

World leaders were among the multitudes expressing their grief.

The age of misinformation

As many communicators and media outlets rushed to cover the story, misinformation made its way around social media, again highlighting the care communicators must take when sourcing content, updates and commentary.

The Verge reported:

At BuzzFeed, Jane Lytvynenko shows how one Twitter account misrepresenting itself as CNN falsely stated that the fire was the work of terrorists, and how another misrepresenting itself as Fox News posted a fake quote from a Muslim congresswoman allegedly saying “they reap what they sow.” (She said no such thing.) Both accounts put “parody” in their bios, but their visual branding copied CNN and Fox News exactly, there was nothing evidently parodic about their tweets, and few people likely clicked to check their bios before retweeting them.

On Facebook, a 2016 story about a plot to blow up a car outside the cathedral was linked from a site that regularly spreads Islamophobic misinformation, with no clear sign that it was totally unrelated to the fire. (Facebook’s story designs don’t make it clear when pages re-share older articles.)

And on YouTube, well … this happened. From Chris Welch:

A fire has broken out at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral today, and, as you’d expect, many news networks are offering live coverage of the breaking situation. What’s a little more unusual is that YouTube seemed to temporarily mix up the unfortunate burning of a historic cathedral with the 9/11 New York City terror attacks.

Underneath live streams from CBS and others, viewers saw an explainer for the September 11th, 2001, attacks. These two things are completely unrelated, and there has been no indication that the Notre Dame fire is a result of terrorism or even criminal arson.

Confusion online forced Notre Dame University in Indiana to offer a simple rebuttal on its Twitter feed.


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