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The Internet is capable of such great things, isn’t it? Invisible Children have been spreading the word about Joseph Kony and his twisted army of children for years now. But, it wasn’t until Monday night that everyone finally started to care.
Credit must be given where it is earned, and it must be said that Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole are promotional geniuses. Their ability to take only one day to make the Lord’s Resistance Army part of pop culture, after over 20 years of its existence, is a phenomenon to be sure. But, there are several larger problems with this advent that must be looked at if we are to actually be informed, active citizens.
The moment that I saw everyone beginning to post this 30-minute video about Kony, I knew something felt off. I had never heard of the man before and I was sure no one else had either, but everyone was frantically reposting the video as if Kony had been spotted downtown and needed to be tazered and arrested immediately. My Internet was cutting out at the time so I was only able to get 10 minutes into the video before I decided to do some research of my own. The 10 minutes that I saw however were extremely disconcerting, but it wasn’t because of Kony’s army of children.
Kony 2012 is one of the most manipulative pieces of film I have ever seen. Everything about it screams propaganda, from the ludicrous amount of baby footage to the sequences where the director literally puts words into the mouth of the child that he befriends on his quest for social justice. Everything down to the length feels calculated to a tee: the 30-minute runtime is just long enough to act like they’re taking a chunk of your time, not to mention giving one a sense of moral superiority for watching the whole thing, but in the end it’s only the length of a TV episode. If Kony 2012 was 40-minutes long it never would’ve succeeded in the way that it did.
Now obviously I’m not saying Kony isn’t evil, that isn’t the other side of the issue that I’m advocating; no one in their right mind actually sympathizes with Kony besides Kony and his legion, if even that.
The issue that we need to take notice of is the lack of a critical eye when it comes to content like this. If you are presented with a piece of footage — especially one regarding a topic you have no previous knowledge of — that moves you beyond the normal UNICEF ad on TV to the point where posting a link on Facebook is something you feel you have to do, take a step back for a second. The blind confidence you have in “doing the right thing” is a result of biased information.
You can do this with pretty much any topic, but in this instance especially if you type “Kony 2012” into Google and add “criticism” at the end you can immediately be presented with another side of the issue. Again, the main problem with this campaign isn’t its message that Kony is a terrible human being, but upon further research, it’s about problems with Invisible Children Inc.
For instance, only 32 percent of their expenses actually go towards on-the-ground programs in Africa. The rest are allocated towards making extremely well-produced films aimed towards college kids. Or what about, Invisible Children’s reliance on the Ugandan military for action when the army has been shown time and time again to engage in inhumane acts of violence and sexual abuse towards citizens? It’s these kinds of facts that might make one reconsider jumping to their Facebook to update their status.
Spreading awareness is great, but only if the information you’re presenting others with is objective and balanced on all sides. It’s a step in the right direction that everyone feels obligated to spread the word about a cause that seems like the right thing to do, but unfortunately the world is not black and white. We must have a critical eye when approaching these issues, and make sure that we are well informed about the causes we support. We’re extremely privileged to live in a time and place where we literally have a world of information waiting to be discovered in the top right corner of our browser, but as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at Samuel.Goldner@colorado.edu.