Thoughts on ‘Kony 2012’ Viral video

True to form, I first heard of Kony, LRA, and Invisible Children through the 30-minute video that I watched from start to finish after the fourth person on Facebook posted it within the 10-minute period I was on Facebook.  I was stunned, informed, and I “shared” it along with a quote that I thought was appropriate.  

Then over the next week, I watched as different responses poured in.  There was outrage on all levels.  From (1) lamenting how sad it is that it takes hype/celebrity voices to get people to pay attention to (2) raging that this is yet another “White Man’s Burden” venture to (3) warning that this is a thinly veiled attempt to popularize American militarization into other countries, many resulting concerns have also popped up into the web stream.  (4) Pictures  of Kony 2012 campaigners posing with weapons also drew public condemnation and today, I read (5) how one of the founders was arrested for sexual gestures in public.  (I read all these articles through Facebook, by the way.) **

So, obviously, this movement is far from perfect, and there are parts that are very disconcerting to me too.  But (6) protesting that the video is focused too much on the videomaker’s son or saying that this is (7) giving America an excuse to loot lands for natural resources seems like a stretch.  To relate to people, pathos is a huge necessity.  This video is not simply an informational watch, it is a call to some sort of action. There are many sources of information, I know.  But, because they were simply “sources of information,” they didn’t get very far.  The populace remained unmoved.  As “sad” as it is, people respond to things that grab their attention, and usually in order to do so, you need to relate to them.  Perhaps the “white-centric” nature has to do with the fact that the audience that needs to be reached is a more mainstream audience.  Furthermore, the narrator’s personal connection between him and his son and what Kony is doing when he kidnaps children adds not only a pathos angle, but draws on the power of human empathy as well.  Numbers rarely do the job. Anecdotes do.

Also, now that this video is out there and people have a limited understanding, the rest of the protests/issues/responses make sense.  If these people tried to post something earlier, it would have been swallowed up and lost amongst everything else.  How do I know this?  Well, Joseph Kony has been around for a long time, and I’ve never really heard of him – have you?  But now, after watching that video, I had some sort of basis to draw my opinions; the rest of the articles made sense.  I know I’m not the best basis for a generalization, but I think you understand my point.

Lastly, others bring up the issue that this campaign has weakened US efforts to capture Joseph Kony.  But I don’t believe that’s true at all.  There was a point when President Obama and others commended the group for their efforts.   If the US were truly on the verge of doing something, then why would the President support the campaign?  Let’s not blameshift.

Anyway, I’m not really on the Kony bandwagon.  I just think it’s unfair that every time someone tries to do something, people jump on EVERYTHING.  Can we get rid of conspiracy theories and give people the benefit of the doubt and add a healthy dose of compassion, please?  The infighting gets old/pretentious real quick.

Other interesting reads that shaped my thoughts:

  • Backlash aside, charities see lessons in a web video [NYT]
  • Kony 2012: A lesson in critical thinking [Forbes]
  • What Kony 2012 can teach us about ourselves [Forbes]

**EDIT:  Concerning issue #5 above, I just read this article from The Atlantic.  Jason Russell wasn’t being lewd in public, he’s suffering from a brain disease.  Don’t we all just looooove our media outlets?  If anything, it does show that we need to watch ourselves, lest we turn into lemmings!

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