For the Love of Controversy: The Kony 2012 Campaign
On Wednesday morning I woke up to a world which was talking about Joseph Kony. My husband and I sat there, refreshing the Invisible Children’s Facebook page to see the number of likes go up by the second. I am always bitter that stupid things trend on twitter like #thingsnottodoaftereatingtacos or names of obscure celebrates like Vanessa Paradis. But this day was different. The masses decided to trend something that I wrote about. In fact, I kinda felt like the average American was stepping on my turf, all of the sudden becoming advocates to end a type of human trafficking, child soldiers and sex slavery. I watched in awe and fascination, as did the others who can’t stand social injustice. What in the world was happening to our world? Where had the indifference gone? People were suddenly very aware.
Now, if you don’t know what I am talking about, here is the movie that went viral on Wednesday:
Yet, as this movie went became an epidemic and the day progressed, people started taking sides. Which is pretty typical. People take sides in most normal things- chess games, soccer and politics. There had to be someone questioning what was going down.
The first counter-argument I read was by a sociology and political science student at Acadia University (Nova Scotia, Canada) called We’ve Got Trouble. I thought the guy had some really good points. I wanted everyone to read it. Then later I read Guest post: Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things) by Michael Wilkerson (a journalist and Oxford grad student who is familiar with Uganda). His post was more of a critique of Invisible Children and the Stop Kony campaign. The one thing everyone still agrees on, though, is that Kony is a bad guy and should be brought to justice.
Honestly, personally I can appreciate these. Social issues are delicate things, to really get them we must learn how to ask questions from every angle. Before these critiques were all over the Internet I was already hoping people were asking questions like these:
- What does “Stopping Kony” really mean?
- Who will get hurt and who will die in the process of stopping Kony?
- Is their risk and sacrifice worth it?
- What might God think about all this?
- Do we have the right to meddle in these affairs?
- What is the best way for us to help? Is it giving money? Is it supporting development work?
In general, I just think its healthy to be challenged.
Yet, as time has passed, I think we just started feeling confused. Forced to take sides. Required to defend our position. Which can just become more confusing because it is not totally black and white. Neither side is totally perfect. And this is where I have something to say.
Last week Invisible Children did not say to themselves “Hey, lets make this insanely long video and maybe it will go viral by Wednesday! Maybe a huge amount of money will pour in and we will be rich! Its totally going to work, man!” I can assure you, they weren’t scheming. Also, take a minute to scan their response to these critiques. They have very good stuff to say. Here is an interview which kinda sums up their defense.
INVISIBLE CHILDREN has been around about ten years. I have always seen them as an organization which exists to help channel people to care about and do something to help people hurt by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). My best friend advocates for hungry children in the richest county of the USA. It doesn’t matter that there are much more children much more hungry in other parts of the world. She sees something that is wrong here, and stands up for it. I support that. We all advocate for something if we have seen it personally. For those who started Invisible Children, they are no different. They just were talking about an extremely bad evil and happened to have the means to create an awareness of this issue they had seen personally.
Originally, they did this through their film Invisible Children: Discover the Unseen, which went through college campuses and eventually garnered enough “care” that something was done. Ironically, the only thing that stood out to me about the movie was that guys were puking in it, like college party puking. Gross. Don’t think that is what they wanted me to remember. Anyway, last year, largely through their lobbying, the USA sent a small group of advisers to Uganda to help find Joseph Kony (who, yes, is not currently in Uganda). I remembered tweeting about this then, and, not surprisingly, I didn’t get any re-tweets.
Personally, I believe that Invisible Children was just taking a next step to maintain the awareness they had. They didn’t even come up with an original idea. Kony 2012 is formed on the most basic practice of all advocacy: let your cause by seen by as many people as possible and work with the celebrates and politicians who already care.
They were not trying to create a stampede.
They were not trying to raise a mass of money for their organization.
They were not planning on having to defend themselves to the whole world (who for the most part never bothers to even look at Charity Navigator, so why do they care now?)
They were just trying to keep the momentum they have had from dipping while continuing towards one of their main goals: ending the LRA’s rule. Why do I know this? Well, because they posted a picture on Wednesday where they are jammed in their conference room trying to figure out how the heck to control the madness which was beginning to ensue. And their web-servers wouldn’t have crashed. They wouldn’t have had to quickly draft a response to the criticism they were receiving. They would have already had that 5th board member in place if they were expecting that immediately millions of people around the world would care about that fifth board member. (Update: In a new blog post on March 16th read their response to the Foreign Policy: Invisible Children Responds and know it was millions of people’s criticism and misunderstanding that caused Jason Russell to mentally crack).
And they would have had more of a plan than keeping with their general methods of just growing awareness and having people petition. Who expects a 1/2 an hour video to go viral? Really? Its 1/2 an hour long! Supposedly, they were only hoping for 500,000 views. Seriously. Not 67 million (last I checked).
So, my point being- GIVE THEM A BREAK. Just give Invisible Children a break. Be excited for them! Be excited for us, because for once, Americans and others actually care about something important as part of mainstream culture. I am all for the Kony 2012 campaign! It is AMAZING it has gone this far. Kudos!
Hitler killed his millions. Not enough people stood for what was right then. In Rawanda, we didn’t stand up for what was right, and almost a million more died. In Darfur we began to raise our collective voice, and we saw that grassroots movements of people standing up against injustice works. Then Osama Bin Ladin was taken out this past year, and for the most part, the US was ecstatic. He killed almost 3000 Americans through 9/11. I know its not personal to us like 9/11 is, but Joseph Kony has abducted 30,000 children to create an army. That is a lot more people hurt by him! Then over 2 million had been displaced or become refugees thanks to the LRA. Who knows how many people have died- probably somewhere way over 30,000 (which seems to be a vague starting-point guess in this BBC article quoted by a critic).
In reality, these numbers are still small. Conflicts have ignited our globe, slavery exists globally and extreme poverty has hurt over a billion people- all unnecessarily because of evil manifesting itself in selfish ambition, indifference and greed.
Yet, right now, because of a long video that unexpectedly went viral, we care about a conflict happening in Africa. And I think that is wonderful. If I was Joseph Kony, I would be peeing my pants with fear. But even if we don’t catch this guy, at least we are becoming aware and learning to love, by caring about injustice. And for that, I am thankful.
Some of the best parenting advice I ever got was “Just do what is loving.” Terribly unclear, I know. But I believe often God guides me to know the answer to this question. In the case of the havoc reaped by the LRA, I know we can ask the same question- What does loving our neighbor really mean?
Picture Slide Show of the LRA’s Progression from bad to worse: In the Name of the Lord
A guys from Uganda’s thoughts: Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions. He had some really good stuff to say, like these snippets below:
“On the other hand, I am very happy – relieved, more than anything – that Invisible Children have raised worldwide awareness of this issue. Murderers and torturers tend to prefer anonymity, and if not that then respectability: that way, they can go about their work largely unhindered. For too many years, the subject of this trending topic on Twitter was only something that I heard about in my grandparents’ living room, as relatives and family friends gathered for fruitless and frustrated hours of discussion.
…Yet, though President Museveni must be integral to any solution to this problem, I didn’t hear him mentioned once in the 30-minute video. I thought that this was a crucial omission. Invisible Children asked viewers to seek the engagement of American policymakers and celebrities, but – and this is a major red flag – it didn’t introduce them to the many Northern Ugandans already doing fantastic work both in their local communities and in the diaspora. It didn’t ask its viewers to seek diplomatic pressure on President Museveni’s administration.
…But what the narrator also failed to do was mention to his son that when a bad guy like Kony is running riot for years on end, raping and slashing and seizing and shooting, then there is most likely another host of bad guys out there letting him get on with it. He probably should have told him that, too.”
War Child is a great organization to become aware of. They are also working with victims in the countries that the LRA has touched. AND they work with children of war throughout the world, both child soldiers and civilian children. Here is their worth-while response to Kony 2012.
Here is a video of a nice woman in Uganda with Invisible Children who doesn’t really have too much substantial to say. Its more of her plea to believe Invisible Children.
Buy cool products from Mend, an organization started by Invisible Children that economically empowers an area affected by the LRA in Uganda.
Sign this petition to our governmental leaders with Amnesty International.
Learn lessons from Kony 2012 to apply to social media activism in other ways: Kony 2012: Juggling Advocacy, Audience and Agency When Using #Video4Change
Still want to do the Stop Kony 2012 Campaign?
Well if they make more kits, go here to buy one: http://invisiblechildrenstore.myshopify.com/products/kony-kit
Of course, you can be creative and make your own signs and posters. Nothing wrong with a little creativity.
Find some people who are doing it too, and paint the town red & blue on April 20th! Stop Joseph Kony!
Check out the next step, Action: Cover the Night to End Slavery (KONY 2012 Pt. 2)
We all have of plenty of labels. For example, I am a wife, a mom, work for a church, I like to adventure and am creative (out of which flows this blog). The other people who write on this blog have their own labels to define them, too. But the one thing we all have in common might not so much be what we do, but who we are: people trying to love. So, I ask, who are you? And maybe even more important, who are we all becoming?