KONY 2012: Skeptics versus Supporters

BY: SOFIA YASSINE

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It’s a social media trending fad, a moral scapegoat for first-world “slacktivists,” and a golden opportunity for smug cynics to ridicule bandwagoners.  Others believe it may actually help improve the lives of some of the world’s most disparaged populations through increased awareness.  Whatever your opinion on nonprofit Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 campaign, there is no denying that it’s quickly transformed from a popular Facebook topic to a media frenzy that deserves further consideration from all of us. While the warlord Joseph Kony began controlling Uganda with his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in 1986, his crimes have recently been placed in the Western world’s limelight thanks to the spread of a well-produced viral video.  Invisible Children released the 30-minute clip in early March in hopes that establishing Kony’s infamy could be the push that leads to his long-awaited capture and prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Officially indicted by the ICC in 2005, Kony is responsible for the abduction of over 30,000 children and the displacement of over 2 million people throughout Uganda, Sudan, the Congo, and the Central African Republic.  Kony’s regime is notorious for forcing abducted children into becoming sex slaves or soldiers, often making them murder their parents for their own continued survival.  Justifying his actions as direct orders from God, this supposed “saint” has eluded capture not just from the Ugandan military, but from combat-equipped U.S. troops sent by Obama in 2011 as well.

While the volatile situation in Africa continues, Invisible Children’s attempt to garner awareness of this third-world issue has been obscured by the raging debate between KONY 2012 supporters and KONY 2012 skeptics.  New and old supporters of halting the Kony regime have become affected enough by the video to participate in sharing and spreading it across the Internet.  Those that are anti-KONY have tirelessly researched ways to undermine this “social activist fad”, scrutinizing Invisible Children’s employee salaries, high-budget tactics and use of celebrity endorsements, as well as the naivety and effectiveness that the click of a mouse will have on capturing a powerful warlord.

Although Invisible Children’s critics have some merits in their skepticism towards the organization and its surrounding controversies, the nonprofit deserves recognition for its groundbreaking approach to stopping Kony’s longtime reign.  To those wary of unfair distribution of IC’s funds, the expenses of the organization’s three-fold mission are detailed on their website and open to the public as a requirement of a being tax-exempt organization.  While their employee salaries may be higher than the average nonprofit, they have followed all annual required procedures to distinguish them as an NPO since their inception in 2005.  To those who feel KONY 2012’s efforts are naïve, at the very least it has gotten people talking about the issue in a way that hasn’t previously been accomplished.  As members of a global technological society that relies primarily on spreading information through the web, how is it wrong to use social media to shed some light on a situation that’s largely overlooked?

The fact that people are more concerned with making satirical memes about the KONY 2012 campaign and Invisible Children rather than letting themselves support the cause, is a reflection upon where our own selfish interests tend to fall in this first-world society.  It doesn’t matter if you just learned of Kony and the LRA, if you feel you have always known about Africa’s misfortunes and its your duty to call out those who didn’t, or if you have been a longtime supporter of Invisible Children and its efforts.  What matters most is remembering the intent behind KONY 2012’s production.

In the same amount of time it takes to watch TMZ’s footage of Jason Russell’s drunken antics and Tweet about it, you can just as quickly draft a letter to Congress asking for increased U.S. military presence in Central Africa. There is the possibility that KONY 2012 may be unsuccessful.  Regardless, it’s important to consider the bigger picture painted through this campaign.  We live in a globalized world that’s bridging people together in entirely new ways, and the least we can do as productive members of society is to take a hint from KONY 2012 and stay informed of issues that span outside the comforts of our own social bubbles.