You may have seen the KONY 2012 video circulating the webernette last week. You may have spent 30 minutes of your day watching said video. If you did, you now know that Kony is a “bad guy” who “takes children from their parents and gives them a gun and makes them shoot other people,” according to Jason Russell, an original founder of the Invisible Children nonprofit organization. Their website states, “Invisible Children uses film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA- affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity.”
In the video, Russell explains the tragedy in the simple terms stated above to his son, who is featured throughout the video. His son is employed as a means to describe the situation in language that is boiled down for the rest of us. You know, Americans who can’t handle such complicated and horrific situations as those that are going on in Africa. And while he is oversimplifying a surely complex political problem, we are not sure what that will do to help it.
This video seems like another trendy cause that, while valid, is also spreading some deceptive ideas. For instance, the idea that we can “like” something on Facebook and change the world. We agree that spreading awareness of serious humanitarian issues such as this is a good use of social media sites.But, how is it aiding in bringing people to action? By encouraging them to purchase an “action kit”? This packaged, ordered online type of activism does not lead to individual thinking. This collection of bracelets, stickers, and posters are delivered right to your door with the instructions to “blanket every street in every city,” on April 20. We understand organized action, but this seems more like following a set of prescribed orders. This “action kit” is literally commodifying political action, how much more disconnected can we get? Activism is about personal thought, not private interest.
Invisible Children, Inc. is a private interest, interested in paying off their large production costs rather than helping Ugandan children.
In response to this, the backlash seems valid. No nonprofit organization should be spending more money on their own artistic projects than helping the cause they say they’re fighting for. Couldn’t a video with half the budget still make an impact?
Russell, a graduate of USC Production Film School surely found this project more than just a representation of the Ugandan children, but also an artistic representation of himself, spotlighting his family.
While the intentions seem sincere, the organization’s priorities seem to be out of order. Spending less funds on their image and more on their cause is what activism is about.