It seems that just about everyone is talking about the KONY2012 video that's received more than 70 million views since it was posted last week on several social media networks, KONY, a former church altar boy, stands accused of overseeing the systematic kidnapping of countless African children, brainwashing young boys into fighting for him, turning girls into sex slaves and killing those who don't comply.

The popular video, which features Jason Russell, Invisible Children co-founder, is trying to find ways to explain KONY's atrocities in an appropriate way to his young son. It is compelling and quite moving. The film ends with a three point call to action:
  1. Sign the Pledge to Show Your Support
  2. Get the Bracelet and the Action Kit" ($30)
  3. Sign Up to Donate a Few Dollars a Month

My concern with this campaign is that the situation is probably more complex than what Invisible Children is painting in this film.

What we have with KONY2012 is, unfortunately, a call to action based on a simple way of bypassing the complexities on the ground in Uganda and in Africa in general. First, Joseph Kony isn’t in Uganda anymore, and hasn’t been for over 6 years and the LRA group (Lord’s Resistance Army) followers number at this point is in the low hundreds and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people, in America and Europe, are going to help deal with. a more complicated reality.
But let me be clear, Invisible Children deserved credit for raising awareness with their social media assault on Joseph Kony, no doubt about that but what Jason Russell seems to forget is that the area of Northern Uganda has been experiencing a time of relative peace and stability since the LRA’s exit six years ago and many over there fear that this campaign may increase conflict in the area. For some, who live there, this film is totally wrong and may bring more problem that help.

Suggesting that the answer, today, is more military action is definitely wrong, more US troops would not help at all and could make KONY scared or go on the offensive, something nobody Gulu and around want to see happen again.

Surprisingly, There have been a lot of criticisms about the film, especially that Jason Russell quoted only three Ugandans, two of them politicians, and that Invisible Children spent more time showing the filmmaker's son being told about Joseph Kony than explaining the root causes of the conflict. 
Curiously missing from the film too,has been voices of Ugandans (other than direct victims) and of experts on African conflict. Why?

I may be wrong or sound arrogant, but to me this look like another social media campaign or charity organisation project where you see an outsider trying to be a hero (the white saviour) rescuing African children ... and unfortunately, it does not end the problem.


April 20, 2012 at 7:28 AM Craig Wiesner said...

This resource was shared recently which I think does a good job of helping students learn media literacy from the Kony2012 film.

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