The 30 minute viral video that the producers called a social media experiment got huge response, and huge backlash.
Max Fisher calls out "The Soft Bigotry of Kony 2012" is his Atlantic Article:
The viral video campaign reinforces a dangerous, centuries-old idea that Africans are helpless and that idealistic Westerners must save them.
The backlash against Kony 2012, a super-popular social media campaign to raise awareness about deranged warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army, has mostly focused on two things. First, the group behind it, Invisible Children, has a poor track record and shady finances; and, second, the campaign's uninformed and almost infantilizing over-simplifications are probably going to do very little beyond raise lots of money and publicity for Invisible Children. But campaigns like this one, and this one especially, can end up doing more harm than good.
Kony 2012 is so seductive for precisely the same reasons that make it so dangerous. The half-hour video, now viewed 40 million times, sets viewers up for a message so gratifying and fulfilling that it is almost impossible to resist: there is a terrible problem in the world, you are the solution, and all you have to do is pass along this video. Unless you're already well-enough informed on Central Africa to see the video's many flaws -- and the vast majority of people, very understandably, are not -- only the most guarded skeptic is going to be able to resist. There's a certain tragedy to that because, as with the sad revelations that Greg Mortenson's book about saving Afghanistan by building schools turned out to be a fabrication, it teaches people to be cynical about activism.
But the damage of Kony 2012 is probably already done, and that damage is real. First, it's likely to actually decrease the amount of help that goes into Central Africa. The video is a joy to watch and spread because it tells Americans that by simply watching a video, and at most maybe buying a $30 "action kit" of wristbands and stickers, they have done all that's necessary; they are absolved of responsibility. How much money has Invisible Children soaked up that could have gone to actually effective campaigns or more experienced NGOs? How many people might have put their energy, which after all is finite, toward something more constructive? As Amanda Taub and Kate Cronin-Furman write, "Campaigns that focus on bracelets and social media absorb resources that could go toward more effective advocacy, and take up rhetorical space that could be used to develop more effective advocacy."
Visible Children Tumblr:
KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m not alone.
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.
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Jessie at Racism Review Writes:
The Kony 2012 video’s binarism is, in the broadest sense, racist but not in the narrower sense of operating within a notion of intrinsic, unalterable, biological differences between groups of people (Dyer 1988:51). There is also a strong theme of evolutionism in the video as well, that the, good, liberal whites portrayed in the video are charting a path of progress that is potentially open to all. The video takes pains to draw a distinction between the “bad African,” Joseph Kony, to save the “good African,” Jacob Acaye, who we learn aspires to be a lawyer. Jacob, unlike Joseph Kony, is portrayed as reasonable, rational, humane, and liberal. White viewers are invited to root for (if not identify with) Jacob Acaye, and in so doing, the film positions itself as ‘white savior’ of this young man and the other children he represents.
Kony 2012 is, then, an endorsement of the moral superiority of white values of reason, order, and now social media against the supposed chaos and violence of Africa.
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