KONY 2012 gives a false sense of accomplishment

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Thanks to the immense success of the Kony 2012 viral video, it is likely that you do not have to be told about who Joseph Kony is. In the span of just a few days, this documentary piece by the charitable organization Invisible Children has gone viral to an unprecedented extent.

The film has made us all aware that Joseph Kony is in fact one of the world’s worst war criminals, that we all demand he be brought to justice and that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) should be no more.

These are all noble and moral pursuits that everyone aware of the Kony 2012 campaign can agree upon. However, several criticisms can be levied against both Invisible Children and the movement itself, in terms of its capacity for real success in achieving these goals.

A motto for the Kony 2012 campaign has been recurrent online wherever discussions of this issue have taken place; supporters want to “make him famous.” It is clear that the main purpose of the Kony 2012 campaign is to simply raise awareness of Kony’s various crimes against humanity, culminating in a massive demonstration to take place on Apr. 20.

One criticism raised against Invisible Children is the fact that the majority of donations it receives are allocated to resources for “raising awareness” while only about 30 per cent actually goes directly to Uganda. Although it is impossible to deny the success they have enjoyed most recently, this makes pouring more money into the cause appear redundant.

When awareness is the admitted goal, and awareness has already been achieved, charitable donations will be wasted on posters when they could be spent on more practical resources that directly improve the situation in Africa.

One of the greatest reasons for caution in directly supporting Invisible Children is their advocacy for direct military intervention in the capture of Joseph Kony. Many people are instantly skeptical of this option, especially when considering the track record of the United States military in foreign interventions.

Perhaps the most troubling factor is the reality of the LRA’s use of child soldiers and the likelihood that many of these children could die. The dilemma that we are faced with is the fact that Invisible Children is likely correct in their reasoning; there is no other way to capture Kony.

Also, if we suppose that he will be captured soon, it is very likely that there are a host of opportunistic warlords ready to take his place. We are faced with a situation that is staggering in its complexity, one that amounts to literally a century of commitment to improving the political and military infrastructure of numerous African nations so that even the possibility of warlords like Kony existing becomes a thing of the past. That worthy cause will not ultimately be accomplished by sharing a video to your friends on Facebook.

My greatest worry with the Kony 2012 phenomenon is that it might have the ability to allow for widespread “slacktivism” on humanitarian aid in general. The worst thing that could possibly result from our reliance on social media is that it might lull people into a false sense of accomplishment by doing nothing more than raising awareness.

You can talk all you want about Kony, but this on its own does little to make a difference in the lives of the people directly impacted by this man’s cruelty.

The Kony 2012 video has inspired a new generation to become more vocal about issues, but this passion should not be allowed to stagnate into apathy when the final demonstration ends.

Perhaps the most positive thing to be said for the Kony 2012 phenomenon is that it serves as a testament to the effectiveness of social media. The level of awareness that we now enjoy has made it morally indefensible for any of us to remain apathetic to the suffering of innocent human beings.

If you truly care about making a tangible difference towards this end, then make an educated decision rather than an emotional one. Let this not just be the year where a lot of people talked about Kony 2012 for a few weeks until they once again became bored or apathetic towards it all.

Instead we should strive to truly make an example of this generation; to let this era become known and honoured by future generations as a time when human solidarity and compassion truly began to prevail in the world.

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