So, as you’ve probably gathered if you’ve been in or around the internet over the last couple of days, #StopKony / Kony 2012, is all over the place. In a nutshell, “Invisible Children” released a 30 minute viral video that very effectively turns east African cult/militia leader Joseph Kony’s abhorrent use of child soldiers into an emotional and motivating call to action. Kind of like the ASPCA’s Sarah Maclahlan “Arms of the Angels” commercial combined with a hip Susan G. Komen-esk “buy pink stuff and tweet about breast cancer” awareness raising action plan.
“Invisible Children” itself and the narrative spun by the video are arguably a bit dodgy. As with any charity it’s good to check the organization out prior to giving because at the end of the day the charity’s ability to get retweeted by the cast of “The Vampire Diaries” and make you ugly cry really isn’t a good benchmark of their ability to effectively handle a complex humanitarian issue.
Overall effectiveness as an NGO aside, “Invisible Children” is certainly effective at raising awareness about Joseph Kony. Just check out Twitter. Or Facebook. Or youtube. Or any one of the 17 e-mail forwards you’ve probably gotten.
The world feels like a nicer, more hopeful place when the internet explodes about a serious issue like Kony. At least much better than when the internet explodes ad naseum about, say, anything Kardashian related.
So yay, awareness of Joseph Kony! That’s something positive and I really hope it’s a jumping off point for a broader and deeper discussion of the myriad of issues surrounding Kony, the conflicts in and around Uganda, and what role the average Westerner can play to be a positive agent for change in that situation.
Because dear Lord do we need a jumping off point for a broader or deeper discussion of these issues. And we’re not getting all that we need in that department from a video by a charity that apparently thinks Uganda is in central Africa.
It’s a huge, complex, nigh intractable clusterfuck of a global issue. Obviously the problem isn’t going to be solved by a bunch of Americans watching a viral video, posting about it, putting up signs, and giving money to get rid of That One Guy Who Is The Problem any more than genocide in Darfur or famine in North Korea are going to be solved that way.
And I think that most of the people who are excited about Kony 2012 get that at least on some level. At least I hope so. I get the impression that there’s a lot of good intentions and “Well. Okay. Here’s something I can do.This is at least a place to start,” floating around.
The Pavlovian nature in which this went viral is the point where I start to feel less heartwarmed by the outpouring of support for Kony 2012. It’s certainly a compelling video but a 30 second fact check on Google is enough to give anyone a heads up that there’s more to this story than the video suggests.
In this day and age, we all readily acknowledge that the e-harmony picture might not exactly look like the real person, the ‘hot girl’ in the internet chat room could really be a 50 year dude living in his mom’s basement, and facebook pages are highlight reels, not real life. Surely then we should also all be able to acknowledge that a viral video might be not be telling the whole story.
Because is it really awareness raising at all if people see Hilary Duff and Zooey Deschanel tweet something, think “Dude, that guy sounds bad!” and then retweet without taking the time to consider that the in’s and out’s of the situation are probably more in depth than this guy is explaining to his five year old? Or if you see a video that upsets you and then ask all your facebook friends to give money to the guy that made the video even though you’re not 100% clear on who that guy is or what exactly he wants to do with your money?
I worry that it isn’t. For it to really be awareness raising there has to be more than a kneejerk repost.
And more awareness surrounding this issue is pretty important if we want to make informed, maximally effective contributions and efforts to help Kony’s victims.