I watched a charity appeal for aid to tsunami-stricken Japan, and found it effectively moving. This American-financed 30 minute movie about Joseph Kony was cleverly filmed, included emotive images, prompting questioning of human actions in life. All it prompted me to do was to research the makers of this film, and their motivations. Here’s why I did.
If you were unfortunate enough to have come into contact with a social network this week, odds are that your senses met with the KONY 2012 campaign, propagated through most mediums with a benevolent attitude to oily and superficial marketing campaigns. The ‘phenomenon’ has provoked a storm of debate, and passions have run high from many commentators who have put on their ‘casual news’ hats. I cannot say that I got remotely angry, defensive or entered emotional overdrive at any point through these happenings. It has been one of the few times since entering the University system three years ago that I have been astounded by the superficiality that Facebook provokes among usually rational people. Unlike much of the literature that I have read these past three days on this new craze, this article is not declaring its support in favour of pro or anti the Joseph Kony campaign. It is of annoyance that even using his name in this article will just provide another search result for the high profile state that this war criminal (as designated by the ICC) now exists in.
To stunt the inevitable and ignorant comments that the author is against the notion of raising the profile of war crimes for the general public, I issue this statement. Honest and not-for-profit campaigns by scrupulous and hard-working charity groups that raise pertinent issues requiring national intervention or humanitarian assistance are condonable, and public awareness campaigns often succeed in raising much needed money for humanitarian efforts in many countries which need them.
The biggest issue with what I and millions of social network users experienced from the founders of Invisible Children was that the thirty minute video appeared to be enough evidence for the majority to start beating the war drum, screaming their support of the campaign throughout Twitter, Facebook and any other medium available. Many of these supporters were University friends, most of whom have been taught the basic methods of research and debate, albeit within a certain limited academic sphere; the opportunity to exercise these skills in a worldly context not often available and even more rarely utilised. There was something in this campaign video that sparked in the majority of viewers the righteous indignation of a social network user being introduced to an unacceptable truth. Very few looked at the source of the video and the extent to which Invisible Children are far from scrupulous in their charity-running. There were students promising to buy ‘packs’ for $30, plaster posters up and around Winchester and Southampton (from the numerous groups that I found myself mass-invited to), and statements to the effect that, uniting as a group would help to “bring that b*****d Kony down.”All of this public outcry (it dominated the #1 Worldwide trending spot in Twitter for ages, as well as my personal Facebook newsfeed) over a man last seen in 2006, and reputedly living in hiding in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is no question that his terrorist group, LRA, committed atrocities on an horrific scale, necessitating the need to bring Joseph Kony before the Hague on international war crime charges. The Ugandan army, charged with hunting Kony down, is well-known for its own uses of rape and murder in its own battle tactics. How many founders of Oxfam do you find posing with weaponry and a corrupt African regime.
Leaving aside the arguments about Invisible Children, the attempt to get Kony 2012 into the public sphere, and the chances that the UK government will send the army into the DR Congo to fetch him out, as all this information is available to those who can be bothered to research it. The real problem here is that Facebook users watched this video, clicked ‘like’ ‘share’, ‘comment’, and thought that with those actions, and maybe some money towards Invisible Children, they could rest their conscience with the knowledge that they had individually helped towards the collective Kony effort.
Here’s my contribution to this petty, yet overbearing argument; to make a difference, it requires more than an online bank account and twitchy keyboard fingers. Join a REAL charity, volunteer locally, give money towards causes that are crystal clear in their intent and source.
Happily, I woke up today and the social networks had gone mostly back to normal. The blogosphere was full of articles condemning the campaign for its many faults. This article joins those. In one month’s time, no-one will stop to wonder where the Kony campaign fizzled out.
Good luck to the 100 American troops hunting him.