A Very Modern Revolution - Kony 2012

09 March 2012
Courtesy of al-Jazeera

In the last few days, the Kony2012 campaign, and the backlash, have exploded across the internet. It began with a video posted on You Tube, detailing the crimes of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army, in particular the use of child soldiers and sex slaves. As the world responded to the highly emotive video, the backlash began, with as many posts questioning the claims in the video and the motives of the group, Invisible Children, behind it, as there were supporting the campaign. It's the most modern of revolutions, encompassing viral marketing, citizen journalism, social media and celebrity power, and it should force us all to take a hard look at global geopolitics and our rights and responsibilities as global citizens.

The Kony2012 campaign aims to "make Kony famous", with the eventual goal of having him captured and brought to justice for war crimes. They've achieved the famous part anyway. The video is a fairly polished piece of marketing; I was in tears at times, although some of my tears were watching the birth and childhood of the filmaker's son Gavin, a birth very similar to my own experience with BabyG. Indeed a huge chunk of the film is about Gavin, rather than Uganda. Us parents need to remember that no one gives a shit about this stuff as much as we do. There's then a take on the situation in Uganda, followed by lots of uplifting ideas on "how you can get involved" - the use of Facebook, plastering posters across town, joyous dancing. My generation and the ones that follow have been criticised for our apathy, and this buys right into the stereotype, making the world's problems seem easy and fun to solve. You are a good person, the message runs, you just need to click "like" on Facebook to be a compassionate member of the global community!

There have been many criticisms of the Kony2012 campaign, some based on the facts - Joseph Kony apparently has not been in Uganda for many years, his army has greatly dwindled down to a few hundred members, the Ugandan army he is fighting are complicit in war crimes themselves - and others on the notion of just what is appropriate here; wealthy, mostly white people in safe developed nations thinking they have a right to affect the complicated affairs in nations they'd been barely aware of hours prior. There have been mutterings of Kony2012 being an AstroTurf neocon front for military intervention in Uganda. What right has the West to go intervening in yet another poor nation deemed to need our help? And whilst it is very noble to bring a war criminal to justice, would it not be a better use of resources to aid people in Africa suffering now?

Within hours of Kony2012 going viral, so had the backlash. Links refuting the claims in video were posted, some by people who hadn't seen the original film. There was an element of "look how smart I am - I saw straight through Kony2012!" about some of the nay saying. Does it really matter what small percentage of money achieved from fundraising Invisible Children actually spends in Africa? Their mission was to make Kony famous, they've done it, and in that sense this could be seen as one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever. Isn't it better that rich white teenagers sitting in their bedrooms are at least aware of some of the problems outside their privileged bubbles, than not?

I guess what makes this the most modern of revolutions is all the doubt. Normally I have a firm stance on the issues I post about. But for this...I don't know.


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