Yesterday I clicked on a link from my Twitter feed that took me to a YouTube video about a man named Jason Russell and his son and then I realized that the video was in fact about Joseph Kony and a decades old conflict in Uganda only Kony is no longer in Uganda and the conflict has been going on for decades. I also learned about the nonprofit foundation Invisible Children and by the end, I wasn’t sure if I appreciated or hated what I had just seen but I went to the Kony 2012 website and was prepared to contribute some money because I’m opposed to child kidnapping, murder, torture and the other atrocities Kony has committed over the years. I was also inspired by the enthusiasm of the people in the video who seemed committed to creating change even if their approach struck me as somewhat shallow and improbable.
The website is quite slick and the Kony 2012 campaign is quite slick but as I was entering my credit card information I paused because something kept nagging me.
So much of the video was about empowering young people here in the United States to participate in this campaign to make Joseph Kony famous more than it was about educating people in a meaningful way about Kony, the atrocities he has committed, and what it would actually take to find and try him in an international court of law.
So much of the video was about the filmmakers rather than Uganda, her people, and where they are today.
So much of the approach seemed very well-intentioned but completely divorced from the complex of realities of global conflict which assuredly cannot be solved through posters, Facebook updates, and wristbands. I was also curious about where the money was going because everything was so slick that a lot of money had to have gone into the production. When I contribute to nonprofits, I like some sense of what they might do with my money. I’d prefer they don’t spend it on say, more address labels for potential donors.
I took to Google and Twitter and quickly found a strong, negative response to Kony 2012 that addressed all of the things that were making me so uncomfortable about the campaign. Some of those links are below.
At Foreign Policy, Michael Wilkerson addresses many of the troubling issues surrounding this campaign, however well-intentioned it may be.
At The Atlantic, there’s an article that looks at the arrogance of trying to solve a global conflict with wristbands and a media campaign. Also at The Atlantic, an article about the good to be found in the backlash against this online activism.
On Twitter, Teju Cole composed a series of incisive tweets about the White Savior Industrial Complex.
Vice walks you through whether or not you should donate your money to Kony 2012.
At Boing Boing, there is a nice roundup of African journalists and activists responding to Kony 2012.
The Visible Children Tumblr compiles critical responses worth reading.
Joseph Acaye, one of the child abductees featured in the Kony 2012 film defends the filmmakers.
Kony 2012 has responded to some of the criticism.