The Glamour of Revolution: Kony 2012

EDIT: For a far more interesting article then mine, click here!  

The other night during my routine intake of youtubing (disgusting habit) I came across the phrase “KONY 2012!”

Well, not so much came across as couldn’t escape from. It was everywhere. My first thought was that is must be some stupid acronym, or a thing that was going around youtube (like the “first!” comments or “I was sent here by bla-bla”).

But the same thing was littering facebook, twitter, my email and news pages.

What was going on?

For those who haven’t seen the documentary, it’s half an hour in length, which for a video on the internet is asking for a lot. However, in just four days it’s gathered over 49’000’000 views.

Here is a quick run down:

What is the point of KONY 2012?

The point is to try and find and arrest the man Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). This guy is EVIL, with crimes of the LRA generally centering around the extreme exploitation of children, first abducting them and then forcing them into sexual slavery, or to perform heinous acts upon others by becoming Child Soldiers. He’s so far managed to both evade arrest and continue to gather power and cause devastation over parts of Africa.
Invisible Children is a charity set up in the western world to try and assist the captured children and eventually contribute towards the disassembling of the LRA. They gathered enough support in the US for Barack Obama to agree to send a US military presence to oversee and assist local authorities in the capture of Joseph Kony. The issue now is that they have not yet been successful, and in order to keep the US troops on site, the US government has to be convinced that the people of the world are interested enough in them doing so.

That’s the gist of it.

What is KONY 2012?

This is a movement designed to make “Joseph Kony” a household name. It’s more or less mega publicity. If everybody is talking about him, there is enough interest going around for the US to be convinced to let their troops remain where they are.
The idea is to raise awareness. Obviously the power of the internet has been harnessed, with every web page, news forum and social networking site buzzing with the name Joseph Kony.
The other part of this KONY 2012 movement is something called “cover the night”, which is an event happening world wide on April 20th. The idea is for everyone involved in the movement to go out on this night in April and cover the streets with posters, banners, and stickers baring the slogan “KONY 2012”. The next morning, the rest of the world wakes up and BAM, there it is, everywhere, unable to be escaped. The message is well and truly rammed home- we know who this man is and we want him to be stopped. The governments of the world must respond, ergo facto, the bad guy will get nabbed.
We hope.

The campaign is more or less a good idea. Using people power to influence governments is a positive thing, and beginning the disassembling of an evil institution by taking out the head honcho, in theory is a good move too.

I have read a lot of accusing articles in my follow up to viewing the original documentary. Most of them are just as overly dramatic as the original doco itself, except less constructive. For every supporter of KONY 2012, there is a skeptic behind a computer screen writing out a counter argument. While this isn’t a bad thing, it does run the risk of over doing it and being angry for angers sake. The organization has good intentions and undermining them without good reason does seem unnecessary.
“Why are you spending only 33% of your funds on direct assistance?” “Is this just a temporary fix to a bigger problem? What’s the long term plan?” “White guilt?” “DUDE WHAT’S WITH THE PHOTO?”

However, there are some issues that need to be addressed, namely, Invisible Children getting their facts straight. This is a quote from a statement released by Invisible Children in response to a shit load of criticism heading their way from the disgruntled cynics of the world demanding answers.

“Invisible Children has sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format, focusing on the core attributes of LRA leadership that infringe upon the most basic of human rights. In a 30-minute film, however, many nuances of the 26-year conflict are admittedly lost or overlooked.”

My issue with this is that out of a 30 minute film, the thing I can remember most clearly are extensive montages of people wearing the same shirt running across conveniently empty stretches of grass, all wearing the same very heroic expression, all having an absolute ball in the glamourous life of a revolutionary.

Number one: these scenes were totally unnecessary. It’s so inspiring isn’t it? The glitz and glamour of changing the world? The fast paced, running around and bringing about change and uniting with your fellow human under the uniform of dyed cotton?
Yeah, no.  Anyone who has actually been to a rally or gotten involved in a cause before, knows that it’s not really like that. You spend a lot more time sitting around and waiting. Or writing letters. Or making phone calls that are vaguely humiliating and mostly ignored. This glamorizing of bringing about change is great for encouraging the masses to get involved (particularly the campaigns targeted audience- teens to early 30’s young adults), but it runs the risk of losing the original point. This article says it the best:

“…let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.”

That’s exactly it, isn’t it?
I wish the documentary guys had put a little more focus on making their facts crystal clear then building the hype. The extensive running around was bad enough. The “this is a video that will expire!” sense of urgency and drama kind of pissed me off a bit. So what, if we fail in 2012 that’s it? Oh well Kony won, lets go run around under the banner for some other cause!
NO! What bullshit. Cut the sensationalism out of it. Yes, we want this guy gone sooner rather then later. But this is life, not an action film.  One of the reasons I love supporting the Equal Rights movement is because of it’s ongoing nature and clear goals. Invisible Children has various programs and goals set up to assist those affected in Africa, but the problem with KONY 2012 is that these are largely ignored for the sake of gathering support for one big bang, which will likely then to trickle right back down again to just a few, dedicated supporters. (I’m exaggerating of course, but the point still stands. Once the adrenalin rush is over, how many of the millions are going to stick around for part 2?).

At the documentary’s end, you are given three instructions. Number one, buy our shit! Number two, give us money! And number three, ADVERTISE! Oh and like write a letter to some political members or… something…

After “Cover The Night” and MONEYMONEYMONEY! comes the third suggestion of things you could do to help out: write a letter to a politician.
… OR, you could write a letter or a tweet or send a video to a CELEBRITY and then they can get involved and give us money and advertise too! Weee!!!
Yes I’m being cynical. Sorry. But this made me laugh a bit.  I like the irony of it. “The culturemakers- when they speak, the world listens.” yeah, so lets shout at them until they agree to say the things we want them to say. Then we’ll listen. Then we’ll feel good about ourselves. Lol.

After watching the documentary for KONY 2012, my next stop was their website to pledge my commitment to trying to somehow help out with the whole situation (in other words, I signed up for a mailing list). And I intend to keep my word. I intend to stay informed, I intend to spread the world how I can (exhibit A- this blog post).
But the point I am making now is that there is no one battle, there is no one truth, and life is messy. Falling for the theatrics may help Invisible Children gain a bit of extra muscle and financial support, but I doubt it’s going to change the world.
Secondly, skepticism is good. QUESTION EVERYTHING. There is no reason not to, and you just might learn something.

So for every cynical article I’ve read over the past few days, for every starry eyes believer, both of you need to calm the fuck down. It is  a good idea with a good intent behind it, but there are lots of questions that need to be asked and more information that needs to be considered. Let’s keep our eyes on the goal, shall we?

We’ll end with what is probably my favorite quote about the whole Invisible Children and KONY 2012 business that’s I’ve seen so far, even though it only sort of kind of relates to what I’ve been talking about. Check it out.

There are problems here beyond that which are being discussed, and certainly beyond the reach of a $30 action kit.

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