I first heard of Joseph Kony back in about 2006 in an article in The Times (or perhaps it was The Guardian) in which some crazy journalist went into the heart of Africa to interview Kony and other members of the LRA. The article shocked me that people like that even existed and made me want Kony brought to justice. But then I put the paper down and forgot all about him as we all would.
So when I watched the Kony 2012 video I was moved obviously, to want something done about this guy who is still going around killing people, raping them, encouraging cannibalism, and abducting children to make them soldiers. I mean, who wouldn’t right? I, along with millions of others, posted the video on my Facebook wall and thought that that was that.
Immediately there was a comment telling me to read an article detailing the various shortcomings in InvisibleChildren.org and saying that the whole Kony 2012 thing should not be encouraged. I was accused of hopping on the great bandwagon and just being the next westerner to feel the pangs of white guilt. Er, sorry what?
While I was never going to give to Kony 2012 (organisations like this seldom get my support – judge away) I was fully on board with the whole idea to make Kony infamous. Sidenote – infamous is the word to use, not famous. George Clooney is famous, Hitler is infamous, i.e. famous for doing something bad. Making Kony famous is about as laudable as giving Bin Laden a Nobel prize. It is an excellent idea to keep such a detestable man in the public eye so that he is not ignored as he mostly has been for the past few years by the western powers. Not that they’ve been unaware of him or they haven’t tried to capture him before, it’s just they’ve kinda not cared about him as much as they did about Bin Laden, Gaddaffi, or Kim Jong Il. Those three names were all known before their deaths. The average person wouldn’t know Kony from Ke$ha a month ago. You really have to agree that keeping Kony’s name buzzing in the public consciousness is a good thing.
And if that’s the whole point, what exactly is wrong with bandwagoning this all the way to the bank? Bandwagons, while infuriating at times, do not negate validity. Ok, so some people on this particular bandwagon wouldn’t know Uganda from say, Namibia or Nigeria, but would they be able to point to North Korea? Afganistan? Iraq or Iran? Just being ignorant, although it increases scepticism does not remove your enthusiasm or the right to campaign against injustice.
Now, as it turns out, InvisibleChildren.org has issues. And not just issues that can be lightly brushed aside either. Let’s start with the video itself: right from the start I felt emotionally blackmailed and manipulated. I hate being manipulated into things. Yet although I deplored some of the heart-string yanking that went on, there was also more. It was stupidly simplified. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but when you’re asking for money, it’s a bit dodgy to simplify the issue so a five year old could understand and then not to provide other sources to further explain and back you up. Come on guys, this is Campaigning 101. But then again, these things alone are the teeny tiny tip on a rather large ice berg.
I could go into huge detail here but I won’t because you’ve all probably heard and read the articles about this already. Suffice to say that Invisible Children is in bed with some organisations which are almost as sickening as Kony and the LRA itself (the Ugandan army, some Ugandan churches and political movements) and they need to be taken with an entire salt shaker. But hey guys – did anybody with a brain actually think that InvisibleChildren.org was a big gang of angels here? No – and that’s not what they’re trying to say. Well ok so maybe they are saying that but hey – all this info, while it obviously makes you think several times about actually giving to them, does not remove the fact that now the entire western world actually knows about Joseph Kony and lists him on a par with Kim Jong-whatever-his-son’s-name-is and his ilk. This is a good thing.
But will it make a difference? Well it’s definitely going to do more than was being done a month ago right? Yes, this would all be helped along massively if the US actually got involved with the International Criminal Court instead of sitting out in the cold with Russia, Iran, Libya, and Zimbabwe. But the fact that people will now be doing stuff and campaigning for Kony to be brought to justice, with or without Invisible Children, has to be commended.
Perhaps the whole US troops on the ground in Uganda is a little unsettling for you. Yes, it is a little dubious and raises numerous questions about endgames and where equipment is going to end up etc, but in my mind the scenarios that have been postulated mostly seem to be fair prices to pay for finally stopping Joseph Kony.
To sum up: InvisibleChildren.org has massive issues and needs an overhaul. However, its efforts are incredibly impressive if nothing else and should be applauded in bringing Joseph Kony and the LRA to international public attention. I would much rather an African force capture the man, but if they honestly require western help then I say we give it, if only to save more innocent civilians from the various atrocities done by members of the Ugandan army. Let’s stop this patronising nonsense that because Kony 2012 supporters may be jumping on various bandwagons, the cause is unworthy of attention or action. There is evil in the world, and we do this planet and ourselves a disservice in ignoring the fact.
Will anything be done? Can Kony actually be brought to justice? I don’t know. But I do know that I’d rather stand with those calling for action than with those bypassing the issue to criticise those with good intentions.
Kinda not very related video of the day:
You know what? If somebody actually shouted at the public like this, they perhaps people would wake up and pay attention.