Kony 2012: a running commentary from evangelical start, to meltdown finish
On the 16th March co-founder of recently made famous charity Invisible Children, Jason Russell, was arrested for streaking, masturbating and making violent gestures as passers-by on the streets of San Diego, California. The man behind the Kony 2012 viral video is now being detained for further medical inspection under a 5150 order (which allows for a 72 hour detention period to establish an idea of his medical condition). Short videos of the incident, as filmed by pedestrians, are available via the links below.
A few weeks ago Jason Russell’s video, simply entitled KONY 2012, was released via the Internet, quickly becoming a viral phenomenon, attracting over 80 million viewers worldwide. However, it is the multitude of reactions that has shocked me, not the video’s sudden cult status. This article is merely my own commentary on the issue, and I welcome any comments and criticisms, but please keep in mind that it is not my intention to offend anyone by writing it.
Incidentally, the video in question can be viewed below –
I, personally, have very mixed feelings about the Invisible Children (IC) organisation, and their ‘vision’ as a whole. I feel that the ultimate goal to stop the actions of Joseph Kony and the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) is in need of active pursuit, but I am unfortunately completely against IC’s idea of how this should be done. Not only do I oppose the notion of US military intervention, but I also question IC’s reliability and impartiality as a non-profit body with a cause to uphold.
As demonstrated in multiple previous world conflicts, military intervention from the US rarely leads to a positive outcome for the host party – countries like Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and what was formerly known as Yugoslavia, are all still recovering from said militant intervention. And even if this method is proven to be the most immediate and effective cause of action, as many supporters have claimed that it is, I pose the question of why such an immediate action was not deemed necessary back in the early 1990s, when the LRA first gained initial support in Sudan. Simply put, why was this campaign launched in March 2012, and not anytime before then (it’s worth noting that Invisible Children was founded way back in 2005, and their portfolio includes a number of questionable videos).
The senseless shouts for military intervention aside, let’s consider the implications of the IC campaign itself. Jason Russell and his colleagues call for what is essentially a worldwide revolution; they want viewers to ‘stop at nothing’ and to ‘make Kony famous’, all in the hopes of harassing the US social elite and politicians into lobbying Congress for further deployment of US troops into Uganda (President Obama signed the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act 2010, resulting in a deployment of 100 US military advisors to Uganda back in November 2010). Regrettably all efforts of deployment appear pointless, as the Ugandan LRA headquarters were disbanded back in 2006, and the army itself is apparently now dispersed over the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. This revelation shouldn’t be a shocking one; the most basic principle of survival is moving away from that which harms you. It would be stupid to assume that the LRA would choose to stay in an area of high surveillance, where they are the specified target for both the corrupt, local Ugandan troops, and their American ‘advisors’. The fact that lobbying Congress for the rightful capture of ‘ICC wanted man’ Joseph Kony is completely absurd, is a separate matter – it seems that logic is left behind where cinematography is concerned, and the viewer is falsely led to believe that not only is the US a participant in the ICC (the US signed the Rome Statute in 2002, but refused its ratification), but that Congress somehow has a presiding power and influence over it.
Aside from the claims that the charity itself is very poorly run (with only a third of the proceeds going directly to the cause, and the rest being spent on unnecessary bureaucracy and administration), Invisible Children has made the rookie mistake of pledging to fight for a cause bigger than they comprehend, or in layman’s terms – biting off more than they can chew. The struggle with terrorism and violence towards children and other age groups of civilians in Uganda is retold with the help of a five year-old child, the son of the creator, Jason Russell himself. There is no denying that from the get-go the video aims to target a particular demographic; a predominantly white, middle- to upper-class, pious, Western audience. What, would many say, give me the right to complain about this – crudely put – given my own skin colour? Because I don’t have to be of a particular skin colour, or of African decent to know that such over-simplification of the crisis in Central Africa is bordering on offensive – the video fails to portray the actual pain and suffering endured by the victims of the LRA, and spends more time dissecting the daily routine of baby Gavin Russell, rather than presenting the facts and history of the conflict in a comprehensible and neutral light. KONY 2012 states that ‘it’s not about politics and it’s not about the economy’. I would claim that not only is it about precisely that, but also that it’s much more likely ‘to be about politics and the economy’ than it is about wearing T-shirts and wristbands embellished with the face of a man responsible for thousands of deaths across Africa.
Whether their campaign will actually shed any results, and more importantly, whether these results will be positive, is still very much an unanswered question. One thing we do know, is that this video has been sucked into the social media vortex, and has devoured more than enough attention of people across the globe. The phrase ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ is a bittersweet concept for Jason Russell to live by; his breakdown has already sparked interest and is being parodied worldwide. Planking and tebowing have been cast aside to welcome Konying in their midst –
KONY 2012 is viral phenomenon, which has indeed made Joseph Kony famous. I only hope that everyone that has watched the video, has taken it upon themselves to then thoroughly research the issue at hand on their own, as Invisible Children fails to provide an accurate insight into the severity and complexity of this ongoing struggle.