Chances are, you’ve probably already seen this on your Facebook and/or Twitter feeds (even if you haven’t watched it yet): The latest campaign from an organisation called Invisible Children, KONY 2012. The video is nearly half an hour long, and while it does labour its point a little, it nevertheless delivers an important message.
For those who want a tl;dw summary: Joseph Kony is a heinous war criminal whose crimes in Uganda and beyond have largely flown under the international radar for the past 20-odd years. The idea of the campaign is to increase public awareness of the man, in the hope that this will maintain pressure on the international community (and specifically, it seems, the USA) to secure his capture and arrest.
It’s also possible that you’ve seen the following counterpoint article at http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/ – if you haven’t, do give it a look. It brings to light some of the more questionable aspects of the campaign and the Invisible Children charity in general. I’ll do my best not to simply re-hash that article, but here are my thoughts on the matter:
– Firstly, I’m in no way trying to diminish the significance of this cause – Kony is clearly a terrible person who deserves to be brought to justice. My problems are with the campaign itself, not what it’s trying to achieve. From a purely personal point of view, I suppose I can look at the campaign as a success – I didn’t have a clue who Kony was until today. Then again, I also didn’t have a clue who Invisible Children were, so make of that what you will.
– Looking at the financial figures of Invisible Children does seem to throw the more tangible aspects of the campaign into question – do we really want to be spending money on posters and bracelets when that cash might be better spent working directly in the affected areas?
– The video essentially admits that bringing US troops into Uganda (even in an advisory role) has already caused Kony to change his tactics, thus making him more difficult to capture. One step forward and two steps back? In my mind, this doesn’t particularly bode well for Invisible Children’s support of direct military intervention either.
– Further to that, what happens when your holy grail becomes a poisoned chalice (a la Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussain etc)? Switching on the tunnel vision and going after one high profile target won’t solve the wider problems that affect these countries.
– Finally, I have a couple issues with the video itself. The usage of the director’s young son strikes me as a little manipulative – that might seem overly cynical, but hey, what was the name of this blog again? Secondly, the final part about our ‘ability to change the world’ (or whatever) feels like it treats the KONY 2012 as a grand ‘proof of concept’ for social media as a revolutionary force – but it’s a point that’s already been very much proved in the likes of Libya and Egypt.
-…oh and seriously, Mumford & Sons? Piss off. (There, that’s my ‘indier than thou’ moment.)
I don’t want to piss on the chips of anyone who was planning on donating or otherwise getting involved in the KONY 2012 campaign – if you think it’s the right thing to do, then go for it. But if you’re concerned about the situation and would rather as much of your money as possible goes to the affected areas, it might be worth looking elsewhere. Either way, it certainly doesn’t cost anything to spread the word about Kony via social networks – I guess that’s the least we can all do.