Kony 2012: Is It Worth to Make It Viral?

March 10th, 2012 at 8:53 am

You probably have seen it in your Facebook wall, posted by your friends who in turn was posted by their friends. A 30-minute video posted on YouTube by Invisible Children–a non-profit group based in San Diego, California–aims to make notorious African warlord Joseph Kony famous enough to keep alive the US-supported manhunt for the murderous rebel leader who has abducted thousands of children to turn them into sex slaves and child soldiers. Invisible Children hopes, with the popularity of their viral video, that Kony would be captured this year.

But as soon as the video began circulating widely into social media channels and into the mainstream media, a cloud of doubt begins to hang to this noble cause. First off, critics pointed out the discrepancies stated in the video compared to actual reports. Invisible Children claims that Kony’s group–Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)–fights without a cause, but a quick look at its Wikipedia page (complete with references) shows that LRA aims to establish a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and customs of the Acholi people. The video did not even mention the full name of the LRA, perhaps fearing that the “Lord’s” part of the name would give people the wrong impression.

Critics also assail how the video oversimplified the complicated regional politics, overstating current Kony’s threat, and focusing the campaign more on the manhunt instead of more fruitful solutions.

“(The new media) are undeniably faster, but they are also undeniably less reliable,” said communications professor Barbie Zelizer, a fellow with the Stanford Center for Advanced Study who studies news images in the world’s crisis regions. “It’s great when things go fast and they are correct. It’s not great when they go fast and they are not correct.”

Even people from Uganda, a country in Africa where the video says LRA is now based, are frustrated over the video. Maria Burnett, a research for Human Rights Watch, said in an interview with Associated Press that while she hoped the video would bring pressure on key leaders, protect civilians, and apprehend LRA leadership, she faulted the video for oversimplifying the challenges in northern Uganda. Burnett urged support of other groups working to provide help to former child soldiers as well as displaced civilians.

A YouTube member who goes by the username “slubogo,” an American whose both parents are Ugandan, contradicted the details stated in the Kony 2012 video. She claimed that it is now common knowledge among Ugandans that Kony is dead or no longer in the country since 2006 and that the LRA is no longer a grave threat to them. Instead, it is the threat from Al Qaeda they are more wary about.

There is also suspicion about donating to Invisible Children or purchasing its Kony 2012 merchandise to further its cause. Looking at its audit, it is eyebrow-raising how the leaders of a non-profit group–including Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children and director of the Kony 2012 video–earn as much as $89,000 a year. Charity Navigator, a charity watch group, rated IC “four of four stars financially and two stars for the category of accountability and transparency.”

Conspiracy theories even began to abound, claiming that President Barack Obama did not send 100 special forces soldiers to Uganda in order to assist in capturing Kony, but that the United States could be targeting that country’s oil deposits, which remain untapped.

Jedediah Jenkins, Invisible Children’s “director of idea development” scoffed off the criticisms, calling the doubters “myopic” and that the campaign was a “tipping point” that “got young people to care about an issue on the other side of the planet that doesn’t affect them.”

Photo credit: Stuart Price, Associated Press


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