Point/Counterpoint: An Argument with Myself About Kony
#KONY2012. If you haven’t heard about this African warlord yet then you are either too old to use the internet properly or you have your own fulfilling life that takes most of your attention. Either way, get in the know, people.
A Ugandan rebel leader that is best known for the truly abhorrent crimes he carries out, Kony has made a name for himself on the internet due to the growing popularity of an Invisible Children documentary that has actually been out for quite some time. The video became the fastest growing viral link in the history of Facebook… and you may have also noticed that it is galvanizing friends across the country.
First, for the positive about the documentary: Kony is committing atrocities across the continent. True, horrifying atrocities. And this video is letting the general public in on something that has otherwise been largely ignored by anyone outside of Uganda. Between the disfigurements, the abductions, and the rapings, you would think that Kony would be number one on the world’s list of leaders that need to be ousted.
The video by Invisible Children is allowing members of a country that can actually make a difference do so. It points out many of the problems in the area, as well as ways we, as a public, can help the most. We get to see personal stories and up close footage of some of the heinous crimes that Kony is perpetrating. Aside from the fact that it was posted 702 times on my Facebook timeline, I’d say there was very little downside to the documentary.
But then comes the wave of cynics.
It turns out that the donations to Invisible Children are probably only going to fund more movies about the problems in Africa. No one seems exactly sure about how a problem with such a large gray area is going to be fixed by a production team with a camera and a can-do attitude.
If you dig a little deeper you realize that the world has long been on the case of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). You realize that the issue isn’t as simple as identifying the bad guy and kicking his ass out of town. You might even realize that the LRA has killed far fewer than issues like malaria, diarrhea, and other preventable diseases. Why aren’t we quick to fund programs that will clean up water and hospitals? Has no one made the right viral video just yet?
So who’s right? Is it the bleeding hearts that want change and think their PayPal account will fix everything? Or is it the ironic online bullies that suspect change can’t come from a video being watched only after about a dozen cat remixes?
My guess is that it falls somewhere in between. In that gray area that isn’t getting enough press in Uganda.
The truth is, we’re never going to get rid of a dictator by getting soccer moms to donate fifteen dollars off of their prepaid Visa cards. We also would be a stunted and ignorant culture if we chose to simply ignore any video that was trying to raise awareness about such a serious world issue. The only thing we can do is try to remember the fight of the less fortunate year round. A donation to the African Red Cross would be just as welcome as one to Invisible Children, even if they don’t have the same kind of PR department.
#KONY2012 will be remembered as a well-run Twitter marketing campaign, a hollow tribute, a vastly important message, and everything in between.
And if we’re being honest… that’s exactly what it represents.