Quick Takes: Kony

Invisible Children Has Right to Inform

The 30-minute video “Kony 2012,” released March 5 on Vimeo and YouTube by Invisible Children, has become a phenomenon like “David After Dentist” and “The Numa Numa Dance,” garnering over 65 million views on YouTube and over 15 million on Vimeo. With the Kony 2012 video campaign, Invisible Children is doing something truly extraordinary: it is using the internet to bring awareness to a neglected cause.

And here’s the incredible thing: it isn’t funny, or grotesque or disgusting. It doesn’t involve ugly people singing badly, children high on anesthetics or bald men dancing in unexpected ways. Instead, it’s timely, educational and moving — three things viral videos tend not to be. The subject of the video, Joseph Kony, has been terrorizing villagers in four Central African countries for nearly twenty years. His tactics include kidnapping children, burning down huts and outright massacre — tens of thousands of civilians have been slaughtered by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

These are the undisputed facts. In light of them, the public’s former ignorance is shocking. The first step to solving the problem is spreading awareness — precisely what the Invisible Children campaign aims to do.

Whatever else may be debatable — which Central African country Kony is currently occupying, or where the video was shot — is trivial by comparison. Invisible Children is attempting to inform the public and evoke its empathy for an issue an ocean away, the first step to solving an incomprehensibly complex problem.

-Ayan Kusari
Staff Writer

Campaign Oversimplifies Situation 

There is no doubt that the “Kony 2012” campaign is well-intentioned, but the endeavor is entirely misguided, oversimplified and disrespectful to the Ugandan people.

For one, of the $30 spent on an “action kit” composed of “Kony 2012” paraphernalia, only 37 percent actually goes towards “helping” Ugandans. Also, instead of going towards initiatives that would help Uganda take care of itself — education, infrastructure and peacekeeping, for instance — Invisible Children has admitted that part of this funding is used to lobby for the U.S. government to support the Ugandan state military. The rest of the funding goes towards employee salaries, overhead, travel, advertising and filmmaking. 

It’s true that Joseph Kony has committed horrendous crimes that must be stopped, but the Ugandan military isn’t exactly clean either. This isn’t a case of “good vs. evil” — the situation in Uganda is far more complex and convoluted than what can be condensed into a 30-minute film.

Despite the improvements made in Uganda thanks to African-led organizations such as Project Diaspora, the campaign ignores these homegrown peacekeeping organizations. It maintains a distinct, paternalistic attitude that Africans cannot take care of themselves and are incapable of aiding Westerners in their own countries.

Instead of spending money on trendy “Kony 2012” T-shirts that are being used to purchase machine guns in an already war-torn country, the public should get educated about the issue and support other trusted organizations that actually understand the complexity of the problem and recognize the value of the African voice in humanitarianism.

-Lorato Anderson
Contributing Writer

Video Undeniably Spread the Word

A half hour documentary entitled “Kony 2012” went viral last week. The video, produced by the nonprofit organization Invisible Children, was an effort to raise awareness about the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, led by Joseph Kony. However controversial Invisible Children’s tactics may be, it is undeniable that the organization inspired people worldwide to take new interest in Uganda’s problems through this video.

As of Saturday morning, “Kony 2012” was viewed over 65 million times on YouTube. The social media sites Facebook and Twitter were bombarded last week with posts and tweets about the film. Virtually overnight, Kony’s brutality became known around the world.

Many celebrities such as Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey and J.K. Rowling are taking advantage of their prestige to spread the word about Kony via Twitter. Justin Bieber alone has over 18 million followers on Twitter, who all saw his tweet “It is time to make him known. I’m calling on ALL MY FANS, FRIENDS and FAMILY to come together and #STOPKONY.”

This celebrity powerhouse is not merely promoting a one-sided picture of Uganda’s problems. Movie stars Don Cheadle and Kirstie Alley both expressed desire to find out the full story first, and make sure they are acting as ‘helpers’ and not paternalistic encroachers.

While the effectiveness of Invisible Children’s proposed solutions is up for debate, the organization deserves credit for kindling worldwide interest in helping the victims of Uganda’s ongoing turmoil.

Chris Roteliuk
Staff Writer