Unless you have been buried under a social media rock, you have no doubt been lambasted with notification of tweets, retweets, likes and shares of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign video. It’s an effort to make the Ugandan warlord, and head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, famous to pressure the global community to track the man down. The video deftly highlights Kony’s evil: kidnapping children and forcing them into his army, performing grotesque mutilations on captives and numerous other human rights violations and war crimes.
Simply put, the video clearly tells us that Joseph Kony is a bad man, he’s on the run, and he must be brought to justice. The video tell us that the best way to do this is to raise awareness is by getting in touch with influential policy makers and celebrities, and by donating to Invisible Children to further their cause.
Within hours of the video’s circulation the “Monsters”, “Swifties” and “Beliebers” that dominate Twitter were so up in arms over Kony that Uganda had to move to Defcon 5; the tween demographic was prepared to invade.
Of course, had any of them stopped to consider what they had just seen and asked a few questions, they might have come across the fact that Joseph Kony is not in Uganda, but in the jungles of the Central African Republic, where he has been since 2008. They also may have found that the Ugandan Army (of questionable Human Rights record itself), along with members of the African Union are in hot pursuit of Kony, whose forces are believed to be under 200 – far fewer than the Invisible Children video implies. Those calling for Western action might have discovered that in 2010 President Obama signed an agreement with Uganda committing U.S. resources and troops to the hunt for Kony up to 2014.
More importantly, they may have come across one of the several criticisms of the Invisible Child organization, which was characterized by the group’s Director of Ideology, Jedidiah Jenkins, as “not an aid organization” but “an advocacy and awareness organization,” and questioned what the money they were donating (currently estimated at $15 million) was really going to be used for and how much help it would provide.
In general, they would have found that this is a far more complex issue than a thirty-minute YouTube clip can acknowledge; and yes, all of this information is obtainable during a ten-minute Google search – less than half the time it takes to watch the complete Kony 2012 video.
Ugandan political analyst Nicholas Sengoba called the movement “sinister,” believing that those of Invisible Children “have other motives they are not putting out in the open.”
Yet the video is being taken at face value.
Is our instant gratification-based culture at the point where we feel validated simply by sharing a message regardless of its truth? Have we become so gullible that a sinister voice and post-production effects render a message above questioning? The simple answer is both yes and no; however, underneath the Kony campaign is another factor, ever-present when taking on African hardships: “white guilt,” or perhaps more aptly phrased, “Western guilt.” The ridiculous Kiplingian notion that is the burden of the West to bring civilization to and fix all the problems of the “African sub-continent.”
After all, the man has been at it for 26 years, and what has Africa done to stop him? Surely the region has been defenceless and simply watched its children be stripped from their beds; families, villages and governments praying for the West, a hero in shining white armour to come and save them and deliver them from evil.
To paraphrase every mother ever, “where the hell do we get off thinking that?”
The sheer arrogance behind this movement is astonishing. Of all the policy makers that Kony 2012 deem influential, only two are not American (Stephen Harper and Bun-Ki Moon) and none are African. Where is the campaign to send letters to the President of Uganda, or the Pan-African Parliament? Surely those in the region are better equipped to address this crisis than America or the West is. And where are the influential African celebrities?
Even the ones who have made much of their fame in the West like Diedier Drogba (soccer player, Ivory Coast) or Akon (singer, Senegal) have a more relevant relationship to the region than the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Ryan Seacrest.
If only Rudyard Kipling could have summed it up in one 140 characters or less and thrown in a catchy hashtag.
Ugandan social critic Timothy Kalyegira has drawn some ire for calling the campaign “more like a fashion thing.” A trend, and is that not exactly what this campaign is doing? Trending?
What happens to Africa when it stops?