When I first watched the KONY 2012 video, Invisible Children's campagin to raise awareness of the war crimes of African guerrilla leader Joseph Kony, I was very moved and simultaneously very skeptical. Is KONY 2012 really going to help anyone? Or is it simply a really well made movie, designed to shoot straight into the hearts of emotional people, bypassing our brains and common sense?
For those that don't know of the media phenomenon, KONY 2012 is an initiative by the non-profit organization Invisible Children, to raise awareness towards the war crimes of Joseph Kony (pronounced Kohn). Kony is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a militant group that operates in southern Africa and is responsible for abducting children and making child soldiers or sex slaves out of them, among other crimes.
Invisible Children hopes, that through a large scale media campaign, the citizens of the United States can convince our government to keep the 100 troops stationed in the area to stay and continue advising local governments on how to capture Kony.
Since its first arrival on YouTube on March 5, 2012, both the video and the organization have come under fire for telling one tiny piece of the greater historical story. Some have even tied the documentary in with the idea of “The White Man's Burden,” and suggested that it is offensive to Ugandans in general.
After reading multiple different points of view that have blown up across the web I have come to this conclusion: despite all its criticism, the campaign HAS fostered something commendable.
Some of my politically inactive friends on Facebook have posted about it, and although a simple Facebook status is not going to change the world, it may be the first step.
Over twenty million people have watched the KONY 2012 video since it was posted on March 5, and that number is growing by the hour. Some of those people might decide to talk to their friends about the issue, or Google the conflict's history. Some will take the extra hour to read up the various strong opinions forming, and find their own footing on the issue. Some will donate maybe $1, $5, or $500 to Invisible Children, others will find another charity to donate to, and will contribute food and water or protection to some kid, somewhere that needs it. And the simple focus on Kony is not the limit. This video may be the catalyst to some teenagers' exposure to problems throughout Africa, and throughout the world. If 100 people out of the 21 million viewers of the video are inspired to take an action, give a meal, volunteer somewhere, or donate a couple of dollars, then I would think the campaign somewhat successful.
That is not to say that I think KONY 2012 has all the answers. Critics across the web have poked holes in the vague points put forth by the documentary, that smells faintly of propaganda. But I think propaganda with the intent of reducing the number of child soldiers in Africa is least offensive kind possible.
It is true, that trying to go after Kony militarily may not be the best idea, and I am never a proponent of asking the US to stick our long nose in areas that don't concern us. But I see issues in Africa as not issues of concern or relevance, but of human decency.
Also true, Kony may not be the world's most pertinent war criminal at the moment, especially to us American citizens. But why not him? A single man apprehended is better than none apprehended.
The verdict: there is no right answer, and I still have only barely formulated my own opinion. But I do think that Invisible Children has done something that is very admirable: they have brought a human rights issue under a national and somewhat global magnifying glass.
If people talk, some will do. I know I will go this weekend to the Berkeley Model United Nations Conference and over-zealously argue world issues as a mock member of the African Union. I might even consider planning my future to accommodate somehow, somewhere, helping people in need, be it in Africa, India, or Oakland. And if this 30 minute documentary can make me think so far, I would like to cautiously pat it on the back.
I encourage all of you to go research and form your own opinions. Then sound off below:
Is KONY 2012 an misguided ploy or an inspiring movement?
Check out the KONY 2012 video here:
Two widely referenced critiques of the campaign:
Invisible Children's Response to Criticism: