Kony2012 – Who Cares?

Invisible Children released a new video on October 25th as part of their on-going Kony 2012 campaign, which encouraged everyone to engage in Kony’s game of hide and seek in order to catch him and bring him to justice. Most of the 31 minutes was less Kony focused and more a PR piece to explain Jason Russell’s arrest for indecent exposure and do some serious damage limitation on his psychotic breakdown. However, the video (at the time of writing) is shy of the 15,000 mark for views on YouTube. Contrasted to its previous record as the most viral video in history, it begs the question- does anyone care about Kony anymore?

Image courtesy of JoelAnthonyValdez, © 2012, some rights reserved.

Kony2012 has lost its way. Their initial idea was interesting, if not unworkable. Make Joseph Kony famous and exert pressure upon world leaders to bring him to justice was a novel approach.

Unfortunately the reality of finding Kony proved more difficult. If entire regiments of the Ugandan army hadn’t succeeded then it was highly unlikely a public campaign to pressure governments to find him would bear fruition. The simple matter remains that in the global climate world leaders prioritise issues such as territorial and economic security over hunting down a war criminal, who, for many, is on a far removed continent. Sadly the Kony2012 campaign failed to grasp the realpolitik of the international system. It is unclear quite how they expect to find a man who has successfully evaded capture for years. Perhaps they were hoping in the ‘media age’ he tag himself on Facebook.

The message in the first video has been met with increasing scepticism surrounding the charity’s finances and other issues. It smacked of the ‘white man’s burden’, misrepresented Kony’s location in Uganda and encouraged ‘slacktivism’. The linchpin of the movement ‘Cover the Night’ was not organised by the charity. Instead, they tweeted that ‘people act locally with friends and family in their neighbours’. Shockingly the turnout was lower than expected. Perhaps people thought they had already done their part in making Kony a star by clicking ‘like’ on Facebook. However, at that point the campaign didn’t slide into obscurity. Today’s current lack of interest, signified by the pathetically low viewing figures, suggest that either people no longer care or they are no longer interested in what ‘Jason, Ben and Noelle ‘ have to say.

Ignoring the first videos’ obvious and crass use of two year old Gavin as a tool in which ‘complex’ issues, such as ‘who are the bad guys?’ were explained to the viewer, the new video has less and less focus on Kony and more on the charity itself and the people behind the campaign. Gavin no longer features. Bizarrely, neither do the children that ‘Invisible Children’ are supposedly making visible. Instead it focuses mainly on Jason’s breakdown. It was tragic in itself that a man was driven by a huge amount of stress to run naked and around the streets of San Diego (including a bizarre interchange with a postman; “Do you believe in world peace?” Russell asked. “Yes,” the mailman replied, “but put on your underwear first.”).  This tragedy has been added to the fact that the movement is now almost completely discredited and defunct.

Aside from the fact that the idea of ‘moving’ on Washington to bring Kony2012 to the newly elected president’s attention is a pretty dire, implausible and unimaginative idea, the message itself has become lost. Perhaps this was in the dedication of the first two minutes to an incredibly irritating slinky motif and analogy. Or being patronised that we as ‘Millennials’ can change the world in spite of how we’re viewed by society and the portrayal of the media generation at the beginning of ‘Move’ as being bored fame seekers. Furthermore, the message behind the charity is increasingly confused- are we trying to make Kony famous by marching against him? Do we wear t-shirts with his face on it a-la Che Guevara? Where is the line between famous and celebratory? Why aren’t we rehabilitating child soldiers again? The message of the latest video is to wrap Jason in bubble wrap and seemingly to make him as famous as Kony.

It wasn’t public pressure and a vigilante search and find mission that brought Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadžić to trial. Similarly we’re not being encouraged to pressure our governments to find and prosecute Félicien Kabuga or Bosco Ntaganda (accused of directly bankrolling genocide and war crimes respectively). No one is disputing that Joseph Kony is a disgusting example of humanity and that the world would be a better place without him massacring thousands. The dispute is with ‘Invisible Children’ who have seemingly lost sight of their message and instead have resorted to a crass PR stunt to attempt to regain credibility and integrity. The very fact that the first five minutes of ‘Move’ featured Jason Russell rather than ‘invisible’ children highlights this. It is deeply saddening to see how a movement’s egoism is directly obstructing their message and leading society towards indifference.

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