KONY 2012: WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
Posted on March 30, 2012 by OneEightKevin
Okay, so the Invisible Children guy aka Jason Russell was found touching his weiner in public. But was this the only reason behind the campaign falling flaccid?
You watched it. I watched it. Every man and his dog watched it. The Kony 2012 video from Invisible Children found it’s way onto most computer screens in early March, exposing the crimes of African warlord Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Reports have crowned it the most viral video of all time, gaining a staggering 100 million views in just six days. It even edged out videos from Susan Boyle and Lady Gaga, so you know that shit’s getting real.
The Kony 2012 video is incredibly well made, so kudos for that. The dramatic quotes in capital letters, the motivational rhetoric chanted by hundreds of wide-eyed kids, Russell having cute conversations with his young son – all of it was crafted with expertise to trigger an emotional response. And it worked. I nearly cried to this shit man. Last time I cried in a movie was when 50 Cent got shot in Get Rich Or Die Tryin‘.
Furthermore, the Kony 2012 video also gave specific instructions to it’s viewers when it concluded. They asked you to sign a petition, throw a few dollars their way or even buy a funky bracelet. With such a colossal problem presented in the video, this segment made viewers feel like they could actually make a difference by starting small.
Many videos of this ilk don’t possess the same sense of urgency, empowerment and direct assertiveness. If you’ve viewed other humanitarian videos, you might be left wondering “okay, so what now?” After sitting for a few minutes in a lukewarm mix of fiery passion and confusion, you’re probably going to continue your regular eBay lurking while the video lingers in the back of your mind. By the time you walk down to the corner store for a couple of smokes and a Chupa Chup, you’ve forgotten all about those starving leper children, or dying pandas, or whatever the fuck that charity movie thing was even talking about. The Kony 2012 video avoided this. For a movie which didn’t involve any police car chases, it held my attention with immense force.
Of course, the danger in being swept up in this sea of emotion is that you may lose sight of the issue at hand. In other words, you’re so busy feeling sorry for Joseph Kony’s victims that you oversimplify the situation, and pledge an undying allegiance to Invisible Children. After I watched this video, Invisible Children were on some Captain Planet type shit in my mind. Like they were actually going to capture Kony and put him on display in Madison Square Garden, and then party with Obama and all the other freedom-lovers under a wonderful rainbow of red, white and blue confetti.
However, this unbridled praise for Invisible Children was cast into doubt after several events came to light, some of which are discussed thoroughly in this article from VICE. The article states that Invisible Children recieve funding from the National Christian Foundation. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with the vast majority of people who get down with J.C. and the Ten Commandments, but this organisation has also funded pushes for Ugandan legislation making homosexuality punishable by death. Other right-wing organisations are also throwing cash money at Invisible Children.
Furthermore, VICE tells us that the interviews with George Clooney and Shepard Fairey were taken from existing footage, and not filmed by Invisible Children. Not only that, but their comments in the video are referring to completely different situations all together, and have been cut and pasted to suit the Ugandan conflict. Dodgy to say the least.
And when I use the term “Ugandan conflict,” some sources say that this in itself is even inaccurate. The Washington Post quoted Fred Opolot, a government spokesperson who said that “misinterpretations of media content may lead some people to believe that the LRA is currently active in Uganda… they are a diminished and weakened group with numbers not exceeding 300.” Additionally, Uganda’s Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said that the video is misleading as it “fails to make one crucial point clear: Joseph Kony is not in Uganda.” This has been supported by footage of many Ugandans who were unhappy with the video’s portrayl of the situation after a screening in the nation’s north. With this being said, I’m also unsure of the Ugandan government’s credibility in this matter.
This has led to many sceptics and conspiracy theorists having a field day with the Kony 2012 campaign. Rapper and activist Immortal Technique stated in a video that he believes economic and political motives are at play, and that Invisible Children are acting in the interests of a higher power. In the same video, he goes on to suggest that aliens may be microscopic, or even possess the physical appearance of whales. Fair enough. An interesting report from Vigilant Citizen labels the campaign “an opportunity to create a movement that can be fully trackable, quantifiable and manageable through social media whose culmination is a U.S. military intervention in Uganda.”
On top of all this, the campaign hasn’t been helped by widespread footage of Russell losing his marbles and getting completely kitless in public.
Now I don’t have a major in global politics or international relations or any of that stuffs. In fact, I know fuck all about these topics and I probably couldn’t point out Uganda on a map to save my own skin. But this puts me in the same boat as most of the people who watched and shared the Kony 2012 video. Sure, Joseph Kony needs to be dealt with, and it’s wonderfully encouraging to see so many people who care about the welfare of third world youths. But these sorts of issues are not so two-dimensional, and it seems that Invisible Children may have a few skeletons in the closet. Unfortunately, real life conflicts don’t play out like the simplistic good vs. evil narratives we find in comic books. The issues presented in the Kony 2012 video involve a complex web of factors that people with low attention-spans and moderate levels of comprehension (like me) should probably stay away from.
Russell himself responded to criticisms of the video’s simplicity, stating that “no one wants a boring documentary on Africa. Maybe we have to make it pop, and we have to make it cool… we view ourself as the Pixar of human rights stories.” Make of this quote what you will.
The Kony 2012 campaign is set to crystallise on April 20, the day when his face is to be plastered in cities across the world. With the video’s initial surge in popularity now reeling from a scathing backlash, only time will tell if Joseph Kony will be made more famous than he already is.