Because I know you’ve been waiting for them…
…here are my thoughts on KONY 2012. (Here’s the video if you haven’t watched it yet. It’s interesting from a sociological standpoint, so I’d recommend watching it even if you know about Kony already or are totally against the video because of Facebook saturation.) And before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge that probably nothing I say here hasn’t already been said somewhere on the internet this week. But I’m going to say it anyway.
I had a number of problems with the video, the same as a lot of other people. I think what bothered me the most were the scenes with the narrator’s little boy. It felt like manipulation, both of the child and the audience. And I don’t think a little boy needs to hear about what Kony’s done.
What probably should have bothered me the most is what some are calling the oversimplification of the issue, which Invisible Children addresses here (along with a lot of other criticisms they’ve been hearing). Invisible Children says they couldn’t go into much detail regarding Kony and the LRA because they didn’t have time, and they just wanted to present the issue in the hopes that people would feel compelled to do more research on their own. I think Invisible Children had to know that most people who watched the video were going to be 18 year olds who saw it on Facebook and who would be extremely unlikely to do any independent reading (no offense to 18 year olds).
Maybe the worst part of the oversimplification is that the video calls for the arrest of Kony, but doesn’t even touch on what happens when Kony is arrested. People watch this video may think stopping Kony will end all of his atrocities, but what about the people who’ve been with him for 20 years? They aren’t going to stop their killing and raping because he’s gone. And what will happen to the child soldiers who were with Kony at the time of his arrest? The video shows a young boy walking back to his parents, implying he’s a child soldier returning home. It’s completely unreasonable to think that the child soldiers will just return home and, even if they do decide to go home and are lucky enough to find their families, that they will be able to easily reintegrate with their families and live anything close to a normal life. Invisible Children does have programs to help former child soldiers, but I think they needed to discuss some of that in the video. The video makes it all seem so easy – catch Kony, everything’s better!
I’d read some criticisms of the video before I watched it, and after watching I agreed with some of them. I agree that Invisible Children could’ve been more responsible in choosing what information to share and highlight, and they could’ve dialed down the manipulation quite a bit. But after the video I was mostly sad that it takes that kind of slick marketing material to get people to care about a war that’s lasted over 20 years. It’s not Invisible Children’s fault that Americans, particularly young ones, need videos like this one (and its accompanying bracelets) to get involved with a cause.
Now’s the part where I defend Invisible Children. I’ve given money to them over the years and still feel good about that. A lot of people were criticizing the way they spend their money, but they’re honest when it comes to their goals and how they need to spend money to reach those goals. They also do more than make pretty videos about evil men. They’ve built a rehabilitation center for former child soldiers, work with schools in Uganda to build and rehabilitate existing facilities and invest in teachers, and created Mend, a program that allows former abductees to make a living producing purses and other bags (of which I’ve bought two, and they’re awesome). I think I’m going to continue to support Invisible Children’s work through Mend and their schools program, but I’m not comfortable yet giving money directly to the Stop Kony campaign, particularly as it calls for cooperation with Uganda’s apparently corrupt president and military. I honestly hate Kony and want to see him stopped, but I just don’t know what I think is the best way to do that yet.
I didn’t even touch on the “white man saves the black man” stuff because, seriously, that’s some complicated stuff that I don’t know how to responsibly discuss on my little blog. But I think it should be discussed by smarter people in other areas of the internet, and I’m glad people are talking about it.
So what did all of you think of the video? What did I totally mess up in this post, or what did I forget to mention?