I originally planned to use this article to dispel the myths surrounding the KONY 2012 campaign and its now viral video. However, every day, more and more articles and bloggers are uncovering the truth behind this enterprise, so I don’t really have to do that. Tune in to Facebook or even type in KONY 2012 in a Google search and for as many articles that support this movement, there are about five times that amount that have a bone to pick with its claims.
For the sake of painting a complete picture, we should start with a bit of background. According to its website, “KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” The main purpose of the video is to bring Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army national attention. Kony, an international criminal, coerces young children into his army, which employs guerrilla tactics to wreak havoc in Uganda. The video is highly emotional and while its content is under criticism, all can agree it is a slick and inspirational piece of art.
But that’s just it. It’s a piece of art. A highly motivational piece of art meant to raise awareness and it does a beautiful job of it. It brings Joseph Kony and the LRA national attention, attention it most undoubtedly deserves. But Ugandans question the timing of this movement. Rosebell Kagumire (you can find her at rosebellkagumire.com), a Ugandan blogger, confirms that the LRA is now down to about 100 members, scattered across an area north of the country. I found this fact in multiple reports, which also agree with her statement that the army has not been active for five to six years.
News is still pouring out of all streams and journalists and bloggers alike are constantly churning out more information. While one can easily find support for the movement on its website, kony2012.com. There is also a blog that is congregating evidence against the credibility of the organization, compiled at visiblechildren.tumblr.com. Both sides of the issue are equally compelling and while I am leaning towards one camp, I’m not entirely sure of where I stand on the issue.
And why should I be? Information provided is biased and nothing extremely concrete has come from either side of the debate. Yes, the Invisible Children isn’t doing much to help the situation in Uganda and what they are doing is quite suspect, but the organization only claims to attempt to raise awareness, of which it is certainly doing a great job.
There are numbers and fact sheets and money trails to study before reaching a reliable conclusion. However, we can still learn something from this viral campaign, without deciding exactly how we feel specifically about KONY 2012.
One thing the video most certainly taught its audience (which I commend) is that we, as college-aged Americans, are not fully aware of international issues. However, what it taught us, and what many of us seem to have forgotten mere seconds after watching the video is that we don’t know a lot of what’s going on in the world. We don’t have all the facts; actually, we don’t have any facts!
What we should have learned from KONY 2012 is that we need to do more research and be more aware of the global climate. It should have spurred our investigative spirit and made us hungry for more information, perhaps spawned the question, “what else don’t I know about?” But instead we were so moved to act that we changed our profile pictures and signed up to plaster Portland with KONY 2012 propaganda, as if the city hadn’t heard enough about the issue already.
So if we take anything away from this experiment in social media, let it be that we are uninformed.
Let us seek knowledge and find for ourselves the correct channels to issue a response. Maybe we do that by helping the Invisible Children campaign. Maybe we do that by “trying to give these children a voice,” as Rosebell suggests. In any case, let our actions be guided by information, not speculation, and let us learn for ourselves the ways in which we can actually help the right people in the right way.
For those of you interested in further discussing this topic (this column could only cover a snapshot), ACE Board is planning to sponsor an event that will provide the opportunity to do so, to be announced soon.