Karthicka Suthanandan & Andrea Tang

Members At-Large in McMaster Debating Society


K: Last week, Invisible Children released a video that went viral instantaneously. The video documented personal testimonies and accounts of issues in Uganda, specifically the crimes of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The heinous nature of Kony’s crimes essentially appeals to the viewer’s emotional side, outlining the crimes of abducting innocent children from their homes and turning them into soldiers. Though Kony has terrorized Uganda for years, the Stop Kony 2012 campaign has actually brought it to youth attention. Not only inspiring hope, the campaign encourages individuals to do something about the issue and stop the tragedy from spreading.


A: It is indeed nice to see youth paying attention to things other than their so-called “first world problems;” however, what it is essentially promoting is the idea that merely joining a Facebook group or re-tweeting a video can cause real social change. It can be easily agreed upon that justice for Uganda is not even close to a simple matter. The injustices occurring in Uganda and its neighbouring countries cannot be reduced to the faults of Kony alone, nor can true justice be brought to victims through simply catching one man. If youth don’t direct their positive energy toward implementing a set of workable solutions, they may be disappointed when the justice and change they’re expecting does not occur.


K: It is important to note the aims of this video. They specifically talk about “changing the conversation of the media that influences us everyday.” Facebook and Twitter are everywhere, but even the smallest step towards social change is more purposeful that status updates about Snooki’s pregnancy. First and foremost, this video is about awareness and a first step to action. It is a good start and certainly directs the focus of the world to Kony’s crimes. Problems may not dissolve with the single arrest of Kony, but with the world paying attention, they can be changed.


A: A campaign titled “Stop Kony” promotes youth to put to justice one man involved in starting a complicated problem in Uganda. Unfortunately, even with such a start, the majority of youth that has not actually researched the complexities behind this issue believe that stopping Kony is equivalent to stopping all the problems presented in the original video made by Invisible Children, which we all know is not actually true. When the Globe and Mail interviewed some of the actual victims of the Ugandan war, they indicated two things that were needed for true justice in their country. First and foremost, government leaders need to be responsible for the victim’s suffering (as government soldiers are alleged to have committed serious crimes against civilians such as rape and murder as well). Secondly, victims of atrocities should be compensated by those responsible. This really proves that capturing Kony is only a small part of what really needs to happen.


K: Maybe the campaign needed to be simplified. If you want people to get involved and make a difference, it isn’t exactly convincing to make the goal seem impossible. By telling people they have to simply pass on a video, spread awareness and get the government involved, two benefits result. One, it reaches the ears of everyone and results in discussion like this, which gives government officials incentive to intervene, analyze the situation and find a suitable course of action. Second, if something actually happens in a situation that has been ignored, the benefits of Kony being indicted certainly outweigh the harms. Can’t partial justice be better than none?


A: There are some potential harms in simplifying a complicated situation such as this. Firstly, it is actually counterproductive to make youth believe we have all the answers. Youth are better off being taught the real complexities and truths surrounding political issues such as this. Invisible Children is trying to make the war that Kony has started known to youth, and oversimplifying it may not be the right way. The recent energy brought out in youth will be a waste, and a great opportunity will be lost if it is not directed toward a real solution. When youth see that they are not making a real difference, won’t they be discouraged? Perhaps Stop Kony is a campaign with good intentions, but is not very well thought-out.

K: I will agree that the Stop Kony campaign does not provide a comprehensive solution to the issue at hand. However, that is simply not the point. The campaign does not expect youth around the world to come up with a well-developed political strategy to end civil dispute in Central Africa. The point is to inspire awareness; how viewers choose to define their involvement is another concern. Stop Kony is a chance to truly dedicate oneself to an issue, rather than just acknowledge it and walk away. Many catastrophes reach the news and become forgotten once they are out of the headlines, becoming an “out of sight, out of mind” situation. The difference is that this video inspires action and involvement. Non-profit organizations like Free the Children show that when emotion is channelled into action in a manageable way, it makes a difference. Building schools, donating a few dollars, these things don’t make nations educated, they don’t end poverty. However, they do build on situations that need repairing, just like Invisible Children’s campaign is using the power of awareness to build involvement that did not exist otherwise.


A: The Stop Kony campaign has brought extensive awareness to the situation, and there is value in what the campaign has done thus far. However, only time can tell if this campaign will actually bring change, and what value this campaign has for the actual victims we are trying to help – the people of Uganda.


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