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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Kony 2012 downplays facts, caters to Western audience

    Congratulations — by paying $30, plus shipping and handling, for an “action kit” of wristbands and stickers, you are absolved of responsibility.

    You’ve seen this video. It’s received more than 84 million views on YouTube, it’s been all over your Facebook, and it reminds you that the world is cruel, but Americans can change it.

    Through the power of social media, you can tell Congress to fetch Joseph Kony, the man behind the Lord’s Resistance Army, which spirits African children away and forces them to act as child soldiers or sex slaves.

    You were probably also invited to an event called Cover the Night. On April 20, you’re invited to cover Tucson with posters and stickers with Kony’s name on it, in an effort to make him infamous.

    Clicking “Share” on this video is the equivalent of clicking a button that says “Stop global atrocities.”

    Never mind that the video is pushed by Invisible Children, a media advocacy group that spent $1,184,935 of $8,894,630 in 2011 on a “national tour” (or filmmaking and promotion). Invisible Children’s total expenses also include $850,050 (nearly 10 percent) for the creation of “awareness products” like T-shirts and bracelets. These numbers come directly from Invisible Children, in response to criticism surrounding the group’s shoddy record of transparency.

    But its finances are less a concern than its mindset. Invisible Children is a well-intentioned and well-oiled marketing machine. It is good fighting evil, and it is proof of how contagious online activism can be. But it strives to make people “aware” without offering a full picture, and suggests the Western perspective knows what’s best for the rest of the world.

    The Kony 2012 video is the 11th film produced by Invisible Children since the group was founded in 2005. The video glosses over the specifics — such as the Lord’s Resistance Army’s withdrawal from Uganda or the consequences of U.S. military intervention — and focuses more on you.

    But the truth is that shiny, plucky college students who know about things won’t save Africa.

    Shortly after the Kony 2012 video went viral, Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi took to Twitter with the hashtag #KonyisntinUganda.

    In fact, the Lord’s Resistance Army’s presence in Uganda subsided around 2006. Its ranks remain active in neighboring countries, but number in the hundreds by some estimates. Additionally, the Kony 2012 video uses animation and re-enactment, including a photo of a handful of children manipulated to appear as a huge crowd.

    It’s hard not to question what “awareness” is now.

    The problem with Kony 2012 is that it oversimplifies a complicated region, one that faces conflict over land and resources, is working to secure stability in health and education, is battling a seizure-like condition in children called “nodding disease” and is concerned with much more than Kony. Its complexities will last long after April 20.

    Film creator Jason Russell and Invisible Children have defended the video as a Western audience’s primer with a message that was simplified to get the point across more clearly. But in its simplification, it focuses the video on a Western audience, and it minimizes who the video is actually about. The narcissism of the Kony 2012 campaign serves only to shift power away from the people it pretends to help.

    No — shiny, plucky college students won’t save Africa. What they can do is empower Africans to save Africa by striving to truly learn all they can about Uganda and its neighbors from more than a 30-minute video.

    — Kristina Bui is the copy chief. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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