By Demarcus Robinson (Slightly Factual)
Over the past 24 hours my social media timelines have exploded with one common theme, Joseph Kony. I’m sure many of you are now aware of who this man is by now, due to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. I see friends and strangers posting their support of the Invisible Children movement by sharing its video of Kony, or simply stating “Kony 2012“.
For those of you not yet familiar, Kony is a warlord in the African country of Uganda. He has operated there and in other places such as the Congo while kidnapping children, and enlisting them into his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). I won’t go through everything that his army does, but it includes creating child soldiers, murder, rape and mutilation. Sorry, but I’m not writing this to hold hands, so you’ll have to do some research on your own. Kony has been lending leadership to such actions for over 20 years. Also, Kony isn’t the only one who has done these things in parts of Africa, but for many he’s the face of such ghastly deeds.
Sadly though, the same people who now have a face to put to the atrocities are the same people who had no idea such things occurred. They knew that “bad things” happened in various parts of Africa, but that was the extent of their knowledge for the most part. I’m not saying that I am plugged into all of the world’s ills from sunup to sundown. I’m not an encyclopedic authority on every nightmare situation. What I am though, is someone who opens his eyes to what goes on around us. I am receptive of the bad just as I am to the good. I have friends who are this way too, and I also have friends who pay no attention to the world around them. It sounds harsh to depict some of them that way, but I know that current events and global issues don’t interest them much.
The good news is that Invisible Children has made many people who were unaware of what is happening in Africa, aware. The more people educated in any capacity about such gruesome activity is great. When enough people make noise it’s likely the people with power will begin to move toward action. Those are the good things.
Now for the bad, or at least what I perceive as the bad in context to this column. “Kony 2012” is just a fad. What I mean is the movement for a large group of people is a fad. Will they care or appear to care a week from now? Most likely the visible Facebook and Twitter displays will fall by the wayside. It’s the way our society works, and it’s undeniable. A long running issue is raised, and people latch on. Many times people truly do feel saddened or angered by what they see, but there’s always something else around the corner ready to occupy their focus. Some movements are able to burn an image into people’s minds for a longer period of time, but most can’t. This is my actual central focus and not Kony. It bothers me that it took a 30 minute YouTube video from Invisible Children to bring about fleeting concern. It’s reminiscent of the attention brought to Africa after “Blood Diamond” was released in 2006. These are things that have been documented and reported on before, but lacked the flashy roll-out to sustain conversation. While the examples presented both take place in Africa, the problem applies to both domestic and global issues.
Another concern I struggled whether or not to address is how the Invisible Children video and movement comes off. It feels like a “White Man’s Burden” type of thing at times. Now I don’t doubt for a second that the people who are involved at the core of the organization want to do good. I believe they have anchored these issues to their hearts, and are doing what they believe is best. The negative connotation is not present from start to finish of the video, but it’s sprinkled throughout. There’s a sense of “we’re here to save THESE people”, on top of a look at me now type attitude. This is something that comes up in other advocacy type situations. Regardless of how that plays out to each person, they’re still seeking to do something they feel passionate about.
In the end I just want people to be more receptive to what happens around them. I know some people don’t like what’s reported in the news, but tuning it out doesn’t stop it. Don’t wait until it’s shoved in your face through a different medium to take notice. Also, don’t make proclamations about what you’re going to swear off after some of these things come to your attention. Sometimes those statements are a slap in the face of the true issue.
Also, for those who are aware of individuals or groups that are raising other concerns with Invisible Children, I too am aware. One such group is Visible Children. I just wanted to focus on something else other than what falsities may or may not be connected to the Invisible Children. Feel free to read up about those correctly placed concerns and counterclaims as well.
I agree with a lot of what your wrote. I do think that sadly, within a week or two most people will either go back to not caring about what goes on beyond their little bubble, or they’ll move on to something else.
I’m reminded of the outpouring of donations and volunteer work after the disaster at Haiti, and then in the ensuing disaster at Japan, it wasn’t nearly the same. The media said people were “all donated-out”, basically a simple way of say they didn’t have the care or attention span to worry about two disasters back to back.
I personally haven’t seen the documentary yet, and probably won’t. I’ve read about Joseph Kony and the LRA so I feel that’s enough. Besides, the doc wasn’t made for people like me, it was made to awaken or stir influential people into action, and here’s hoping it works. And here’s hoping other atrocities committed across the world will be noticed as well.
Thanks for tackling this from a sensible perspective. I’ve seen way too many social media arguments over people choosing to support or choosing not to support, whatever their reasons may be. What’s happening over there is awful and it happens all over the world.
Sadly though, the same people adamantly supporting Kony 2012 are the ones giving it a bad name too. I’ve already faced attacks for posing an informational piece on Invisible Children. The Catch 22 of being a journalist is that when you inform people they still dig for a bias. Not every cause or charity is “good” and legit but I’ll bet most of the people giving money and raising awareness are, in fact, not aware of IC’s ties and connections.
I have no issue with people jumping on these causes for whatever their reasons may be, but don’t pour guilt on people or charge them with not caring or trying to fix the world for not. It makes Kony supporters look equally as ignorant and stupid as those saying the cause is idiotic. It isn’t, but I’d personally rather fix the problems in Chicago before I try for Uganda.
I digress though. Thank you, Demarcus, for having a level-headed view on this as any truly good journalist should.
Yeah, people are really touchy about this. Glad you liked it though.