In Defense of Kony 2012: Are You Afraid to Care?

Campaign poster, depicting face of Joseph Kony. 

Viral campaign Kony 2012 hit the online shores of Colombo late last evening. As expected it has been duly shared and re-shared by civic conscious netizens. That was last night. By this evening, Colombo’s youth intelligentsia has declared war on Kony 2012.  I find this deeply disturbing on multiple levels.

For one, there seems to be little appreciation of the vast human consciousness that is connecting and spreading worldwide via the internet as a result of a short documentary made by Invisible Children. Jason Russel has cleverly made the world that laughed at Rebecca Black and cried over Justin Beiber watch, comprehend and align with – for the first time perhaps – a social issue in need of awareness.

While watching Kony 2012 I was struck by the simplicity and effective elegance with which the video was produced. I spent 16 hours recently watching Chris Burgess [Assistant Director on Gladiator, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Batman Begins] shoot footage for a 5 minute trailer and could appreciate the fact that substantial time and energy had been invested in making this half an hour documentary.

I am also deeply appreciative of the amount of thought that has gone into planning Kony 2012. Invisible Children has some very clear objectives. They have a strategy and they are implementing it. They have only a few requests to make of the general public – sign the pledge, buy the merchandise, donate a few dollars every month, share the video and create awareness.

Critics have alleged that Invisible Children is a ‘dubious’ charity organization, with only ‘31% of fund received going towards actually helping anyone’ and most of the money being spent on the travel and filmmaking expenses of the top-tier. Shouldn’t 26, 684, 765 views on You Tube and 914k views on Vimeo as of March 8th 2012 ad the attention of the world be sufficient proof of the effectiveness of Invisible Children’s investment?

There is also a picture being circulated by critics that question the true intentions of the founders of Invisible Children. Indi has a picture of them here, captioned The founders of Invisible Children with guns they do support.”which is a rather sweeping, unfortunate judgement to make, given that he himself not too long ago was accused of – by unfair means of a photograph on Flickr – having ‘ties’ with the LTTE; Sri Lanka’s own brand of rebels who were finally and summarily defeated by…wait for it…military action in 2008.

The biggest criticism of the Kony 2012 project is that it recommends military intervention as a solution to the problem. If this is the case, both the video and the website have failed to make that clear, stating instead that the objective of the film Kony2012 is to ‘raise support for his arrest and bring him to justice’.  The website further elucidates that US military advisors are on a ‘time-limited’ mission in Africa and that public support is necessary to apply pressure on US policy makers have US military advisors ‘support the Ugandan Army until Kony has been captured and the LRA disbanded.”

Yes, this does mean that Kony will be militarily captured. If he puts up a fight, it will be bloody and messy and many of his child soldiers will die with him. But this is almost inevitable. It has been noted before that the violence with which is dictator (or in this case a violent war lord) is taken down is directly proportionate to his hold on to power. The alternative would be to not capture him at all leaving him to continue his abuses. Argument has also been raised that Kony has been virtually inactive since 2006, and no longer operates in Uganda, but I’m not sure how a ‘virtual inaction’ by a religious fanatic leading a violent army makes things any better or safer for children.

Ultimately, Kony 2012 is a social experiment, the first of its kind and it has enormous potential. As Derryn Hinch noted here “who knows: if the world had Twitter in 1939 maybe a beast named Adolf Hitler would have been stopped millions of lives earlier.” And he is right. Kony 2012 is a campaign that appeals to a human beings ability to care. It places its faith in and stems from a belief that if enough people knew what was happening they would care enough to do something, anything, to stop abuse from happening.

Criticism of the Kony 2012 project is an excuse not to care, an excuse to refrain from emotionally investing in a project that may or may not bring about the results we all want, that may or may not be the best, most meticulously thought out, painless way to go about stopping Joseph Kony. Certainly, we are not in possession of all of the fact surrounding Kony, Uganda, the LRA, the struggle etc and we have more to learn. But yesterday I didn’t know about Joseph Kony. Today I do. And that is a step in the right direction. And Invisible Children made that happen. Respect.

You can watch Kony 2012 here.


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