The tale of “Invisible Children” and the horrific actions of Joseph Kony have been brought to the attention of the masses in the past week. It has brought about a revolution of sorts among social medias such as Twitter and Facebook with everyone jumping on the bandwagon to condone such actions in the most public way they know how. Of course this huge abuse of human rights has to be announced when I’m away from the comfort of my own home that has as much internet as I want.
I’ll freely admit to being addicted to Twitter. The introduction of 3G internet from O2 was a leap for Enniskillen into the twenty-first century and it has proved to simply fuel this desire to convince the world that I’m a wholesome individual who has the ability to make valid and insightful comments in the space of 140 characters. So when I found myself rather lost in Newcastle on the way to the university open day, instead of checking an online map, I checked twitter to find ‘#kony’ making up the majority of recent updates from others.
As I’d been out of touch with the news and my web allowance doesn’t extend to allow me to freely stream videos, I had no idea as to who, or what, Kony was. From what I could gather, Kony was not a new music festival, nor a new game coming out but a person. Instead of joining in with the outcry, I decided to reserve judgement on the matter until I’d actually learnt what the whole issue actually was. I managed to do so by commandeering the free wireless internet in a coffee shop.
It transpires that Joseph Kony is a warlord; the commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, who has been kidnapping young children, forcing them to kill their parents and turning the boys into child soldiers and girls into sex slaves. However, although it appears from the sudden explosion of awareness of this man, he hasn’t started to do this recently. On the contrary, he has been doing this for just over a quarter of a century.
The recent publicity of his actions is due to a thirty-minute long video by an American filmmaker, simply entitled ‘KONY 2012’. The intention? To ‘make Kony famous’ so people will realise the reason why he is at the top of the International Criminal Court’s most-wanted list, and why people should support a campaign to arrest him as well as putting pressure on the US government to maintain their position in Uganda trying to stop him.
The YouTube video has had almost 75 million views in the week that it has been online which signifies that an awful lot of people are now aware and are indeed making home famous. While it doesn’t focus hugely on showing the physical impacts of the LRA, it remains a difficult video to watch and maybe that was the intention of the filmmaker – make it hit people so hard that they can’t forget about it.
The cause has had a huge backing from celebrities which has only helped raise awareness of what is happening in Uganda and garner huge financial support for the Invisible Children charity. Justin Bieber, a teen pop sensation whose music I have never willingly sought out to listen to, engaged with over 18 million people in one post, asking for everyone to give the cause their support. Angelina Jolie, known already for her humanitarian work, has also stood up to pledge her support to stopping Kony.
While this all seems perfectly above board and something we should all be out there campaigning about, it seems that this viral video has split people into two conflicting stances. On one side there is the much larger group who are incensed with horror at what is happening and feel so guilty at not knowing about this before, feel they have to do something to support the movement, even if it is only sharing the link with their friends.
The other faction believes the charity to be a huge scam that is ultimately making a profit out of the torture and pain of others. Indeed, two days after the short film was uploaded, there were donations of over 5 million dollars. Last year, they raised $8.6 million but only 32% of this actually went to directly help those in Uganda who the charity claims to pursue justice for. The rest was spent on the likes of postage, staff salaries and over $1 million on travel alone.
While the video urges publicising the cause, signing a petition, buying an action kit, bracelets or posters, and donating the charity itself, it’s hard to understand how this will in real terms aid the slow pursuit of Kony and his cronies. Never once in the video are we actually told what any money that is donated would be used for; all we know is that it is apparently desperately needed.
It focuses largely on Uganda, but it is only in an aside that we are told he moved on from the area in 2006. As such, we’re shown the aftermath of his actions rather than what his current actions are. This of course helps to sensationalise the video, much like images of starving children in third world countries are used to encourage donations to the relevant charities. It seemed to me that the filmmaker has exploited his young son to tug at the heartstrings of watchers, with his innocent view of the world.
Another problem is with the attitude displayed throughout the video. You could very easily be forgiven for believing that Invisible Children were the only people who cared about Uganda and the wrath of Kony. Somehow, within the half-hour long video, they neglect to mention the efforts of the Ugandan army to fight Kony and his army over the past 25 years. Many who live or have an affinity to Uganda are willing to express how much distain they have for this campaign – that perhaps the only true benefit is to help people worldwide find Uganda on a map. It’s produced at a detriment to the area in that none of the positives of the area are illustrated, such as behind-the-scenes rebellions or the community spirit that is fostered through uniting against a common cause. A Ugandan journalist even went as far as to call the video “irresponsible”. It seems that the film could backfire because of how oversimplified it is and so cause more problems in Uganda than it ever could help.
I’m not against the core ideals of the #KONY2012 movement. I think it’s great that something is being done to stop the powerhold of this one man and his appalling treatment of children. Of course it’s better to have people aware of the problem than to have them completely oblivious, and the overwhelming global response has definitely motivated people with the Invisible Children shop now being completely sold out of all items.
My problem is that the only real long-term positive of this huge social media campaign is that it will possibly encourage people to become more involved in other humanitarian movements in the future. There’s a risk that individuals will feel that they’ve become a social activist by simply sharing the video and stop all interest at that, almost as if that’s their one good deed for the day done. I hope that Kony is stopped and hopefully this momentous campaign will help in some way. I don’t care who stops him either, whether it be the US government or Invisible Children; I just want him stopped, so children of the future are allowed to enjoy their childhoods just as we do in our developed country.