The Kony 2012 campaign, conceived by San Diego based charity, Invisible Children, has successfully gone viral in under 48 hours. If you haven’t seen the video, clear the next 30 minutes and view it HERE.
Though the story is not new, in the last day or so, millions have just learned of Joseph Kony and the horrors of his war crimes. Kidnapping upwards of 30,000 children over 30 years...turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into child soldiers. A swath of mutilation and brutal murder across central Africa.
So a campaign to bring about awareness of this guy is good, right?
Not so, according to several critics, including some from inside Uganda and Africa. The Guardian has an excellent blog piece cataloging a wide range of views and facts on the issue. Worth the read, I promise. But here are the basic problems folks seem to have:
1) Kony is no longer in Uganda as portrayed in the video...he’s now in DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
2) Kony’s forces are not as large as they used to be.
3) Many have tried to capture Kony in the past and it is naive to think that new efforts will be effective.
4) Sharing Kony’s story paints an ugly stereotype of Africa.
5) Charities in Uganda want funding for their current local efforts, not for campaigns to chase down a warlord who is no longer a threat in their backyard.
6) The video over-simplifies the situation.
7) It’s all about the director’s ego and white knight syndrome.
8) The video is meant to appeal to Americans instead of focusing on what Africans at-large can do to solve the problem.
9) The video does not show the injustices of the ‘legitimate’ military forces in the effected nations.
10) The video does not explain that oil and other valuable natural resources are at stake in the region.
11) The video advocates convicting Kony in international courts, ignoring the cultural need for Uganda to hold their own trial.
And to all of the above, I say, “so what?”
The video is pure, glossy propaganda meant to pull at your heart strings. And I think it’s PURE GENIUS. Surprised?
The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw puts it best:
Maybe Jason Russell's web-based film Kony 2012, calling for international action to stop the Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony, can't be considered great documentary-making. But as a piece of digital polemic and digital activism, it is quite simply brilliant.
It's a slick, high-gloss piece of work, distributed on the Vimeo site, the upscale version of YouTube for serious film-makers. And its sensational, exponential popularity growth on the web is already achieving one of its stated objectives: to make Kony famous, to publicise this psychopathic warlord's grotesque crimes – kidnapping thousands of children and turning them into mercenaries, butchers and rapists.
It does not stick to the conventions of impartial journalism in the BBC style. It is partisan, tactless and very bold. But it could be seen as insufferably condescending, a way of making US college kids feel good about themselves. And is Jason Russell scared to come out and admit that effective action entails an old-fashioned boots-on-soil invasion of a landlocked African country, with all the collateral damage that this implies?
Yah, I have my suspicions about how any donations might be spent. I probably won’t be sending these guys a check anytime soon. But the basic message is worth spreading. Because here’s the thing, Kony is a bad guy. THE single, overall point of this campaign is to make him famous. So what if he’s moved to Sudan instead of Uganda...he’s evil and everyone should know that. This campaign does just that. A kick-ass logo, slick video, easy website, and genius action plan help too.
And frankly, I’m jealous. Republicans suck at this sort of thing. Well crafted multi-media campaign...why bother...let’s just slap up an 80’s-ish logo, walk some precincts and compare bad suits. Only Carl DeMaio may buck the trend and learn something from these guys.
Will the campaign stop Kony once and for all? Maybe, maybe not. Will this cause unforeseen problems? Probably. But anyone who wants to drill in Northern Uganda/Southern Sudan will know that we all know a little more about that part of the world, and maybe...just maybe, they will try to be better stewards of that region.
At the end of the day I really only have one genuine criticism of the video and campaign: it glosses over the fact that is is going to take military action and violence to find and capture Joseph Kony. Most of the early supporters of Invisible Children and and Kony 2012 are peace-nicks. Do they realize that to ‘arrest’ Kony, someone is going to have to shoot their way through his human shield of child soldiers? If we’re going to insert ourselves into someone else’s problem for the greater good, let’s try to be honest about the cost.