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[Kony 2012] Alert the Internet!
I'm really surprised there hasn't been a thread made about this yet, but I figured I'm as good a person as any. There's a lot to debate about this campaign, I feel.
It centers on this video, I don't think I could explain any better than it (it's half an hour long so set aside some time if you're going to watch it):
There's a fair amount of controversy over it. I feel kind of bad copy and pasting a conversation from facebook but I feel like it's relevant:
Doesn't this kind of miss the point? The Kony 2012 campaign isn't aiming to be accurate, it's aiming to be massively disseminable. Let's be honest; an awareness campaign that was built around the real political realities of injustice in Africa wouldn't fit in a 30 minute video. The point of the massive simplification going on is clear; highlight a single "villain", make him relevant to Americans, have serious cultural awareness follow. The problem is that Americans just don't care about the rest of the world, the point of the campaign is less about Kony, Uganda, or child soldiers in general than it is about using social media to make your average American care about anyone but himself.
That's an interesting point. I definitely agree that we face a problem of Americans not caring about the rest of the world. I think there's value in raising awareness of this issue, and making an otherwise apathetic populace more conscious of social justice issues.
However, the video seemed pretty explicit in raising awareness to achieve one very specific intervention, that is continued US support of Ugandan forces in the hunt for Kony. This intervention has been tried in the past, with disastrous results (see Operations Iron Fist and Lightning Thunder). That also isn't helped by the fact that the Ugandan Army does not have a very good human rights record either, and that Kony has since moved northwest into the DRC. From what I've been reading, given the complex nature of conflict in the region, it's dubious that capturing Kony would really achieve anything. Supposedly, the LRA is more of a "symptom" than a "cause."
Long story short, I think that getting people aware of social/human rights issues outside their sphere of comfort is good. But, the presentation and intervention given by the video is really inappropriate for the situation as it exists today.
I've found this live blog from the Manchester Guardian to be very interesting, giving points from both sides of the debate:
I do agree that the narrative they've established is honestly in many ways misdirected and excludes important realities. Again, though, it's trying to condense and alter reality into an easy to deliver message. All people immediately empathize with the storyline "there's a bad guy hurting children, we have to stop him!" Even if this isn't the real truth, it's appealing. Meanwhile, Americans have grown apathetic to generalized pleas to consider the complex situation in Africa. There is nothing for them to empathize with on a base level; the situation isn't real to them and gets pushed out of their minds.
Also, if the video went into the fact that there's corruption in the Ugandan Army, or that capturing Kony doesn't necessarily fix anything, or the large number of other issues that complicate matters, you risk instilling your audience with a sense of hopelessness. It's very easy to look at these matters and then shrug and say "Whelp, that's FUBAR". Say we focus on this specific, highly targeted goal of arresting Kony. If it succeeds then everyone involved feels like THEY are responsible for it, like their interest and activism directly resulted in a favorable outcome. For most people it would represent an unprecedented feeling of agency over global events, and from that will naturally follow a greater interest. I guess what I'm saying is that the symbolic relevance is what's important here, not necessarily whether or not bring Kony to justice makes the world a significantly better place.
And the for funsies, here's how another individual reacted to my facebook posting of Kony 2012: