Friday, March 9, 2012

What March 9th Means To Me: KONY 2012?

After seeing the following video populate my friends' Facebook pages and Twitter feeds like multiplying cockroaches, I finally decided to take the thirty minutes to watch the below:

For those who haven't seen it, or deem it too long to watch, essentially its a viral campaign, by the Invisible Children organization, to bring awareness to the Ugandan war criminal, Joseph Kony, who abducted thousands of children and enlisted them in his youth army in an effort to retain his power.  Kony's crimes redefine the word "appalling," and he has been recognized as a top war criminal by various international organizations.  Arresting Joseph Kony is a worthy endeavor, and one that would bring justice (or some kind of peace) to thousands of Africans who have been affected by his deplorable actions.
So, knowing all the above, why does this video bother me? 

I have to fully admit the video is 100 percent effective, and I have zero doubt that they've already made raised a ton of money for their cause.  With its slick design and manipulative tactics (using his child!), it not only challenges the general cognitive dissonance that usually accompanies these sorts of efforts, but the grass roots feel of the video creates the appearance of an underground movement that America's youth can grasp.  This could be the "cool cause" that helps assauge the guilt for a whole youth generation not partaking in more charitable endeavors.  Essentially, the video (which is an admitted experiment) attempts to be the iPhone of civil rights movements. 

Before I even searched the Google to verify skepticism, like you can find here, I was bothered by the fact that the video seemed to be more about the filmmakers efforts than about actually bringing Kony to justice.  My impression is they are more interested in building a community or movement without having much of a plan (as inspired by the Arab Spring).  And, of course, and perhaps this is the cynic in me, but it appears that the filmmakers may have a slight desire to be famous, and are using this movement to satisfy some subconscious need to feel important (and that's something I guess we all can relate to).  I couldn't help but feel that way after their whole spiel about targeting famous people, not to mention the constant attention given to the filmmaker himself.  Yes, this could be a way to personalize the message (and, actually, that works), but there is a twinge of narcissism there. After all, the filmmakers own kid thinks Daddy's job is to "fight the bad guys," which kind of puts Daddy on a pedestal. 

Also, for 30 dollars, apparently I can get a "kit," which includes a cool bracelet to show support for the movement, but I still don't understand the overall goal.  Even in the video they claim that Kony is in hiding, and isn't even in Uganda anymore.  His army has been severely neutered (from articles I've read), and it would be incredibly difficult to find him.   The US spent billions searching for Osama Bin Laden, had the power of the entire US army, and it still took nine years to capture him.  So, what exactly am I throwing my 30 dollars at?  Their video fund?

I'm not trying to be too much of a cynic here because I strongly believe that finding Kony and bringing him to justice is a worthy cause.  And hey, the video has people talking about his atrocities and me writing about it, so I suppose that is the overall point.  I just wish the movement had more of a direction and overall goal other than simply raising awareness in exchange for money.  I guess I'd feel more comfortable if it didn't seem like a sales pitch to buy their snazzy lil packet and bracelet.  I'm glad people are discussing and sharing this video, that is definitely important (and should be continued), but you might want to read up on the Invisible Children organization before plunking down the cash. 

Either way, its a beautiful piece of propaganda that hits the right emotions needed to take action.


  1. Michelle SannicandroMarch 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    I had questions about it just like you. I opted to post it on my FB page and follow it on twitter but did not purchase any of the merchandise after I did some research & learned only a tiny fraction actually goes to the cause.
    The way I looked at it is if I'm going to post BS about my day to day life that nobody really cares about anyway why not post this? It's not hurting anyone.
    I do see your point though & it's good to hear opinions that actually question things like this.
    Hope you're doing well.

  2. It's worth noting that KONY 2012's transparency lacks something to be desired and that the non-partisan charity watchdog group, Charity Navigator gives them a poor rating. One of the links I saw mentioned better more reputable Central African charity groups and NGO's. It's great that we can be more informed givers in this day and age.

  3. Yeah, the poor rating thing causes concern, but if its awareness they want, its working. If its money they want, time will tell, but i bet that'll work too.

    And I agree, Michelle! Its more worthwhile than youtube clips featuring kittens. Maybe not panda bears. But def. kittens.

  4. Call me a cynic (usually that's more your realm Brett), but to me it's just an example of "lazy activism". It doesn't actually cost anyone much time, money, or effort, but hey, "If I post this up on my facebook wall I can appear to be an activist for a good cause and feel better about myself". Why not donate a couple hundred to charity or better still put in a few hours routinely with a food cupboard or habitat for humanity.

    And yeah, I thought I read something where only ~30% of the money collected for that charity actually goes to the ones it is supposed to support.

    1. Yeah, if they donated it to clean water in Africa, it'd be more worthwhile. Africa is a political intervening won't really do anything except cause more problems.