Friday, March 9, 2012

"Kony 2012" - Do Your Research



There is no question that Joseph Kony is a terrible human being. There is no question that bringing Kony to justice would serve to benefit the greater good of the world, and there is no question that infamizing this man is the right thing to do. People should be educated about atrocities throughout the world, but not just because they don't won't to be left out of the loop during a social media campaign that's gained enough momentum to become water cooler talk.

The majority of the people latching onto this cause are young. High school students are posting the Invisible Children's video on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It's fantastic to see a good cause get so much positive attention. The fact that so many young people are jumping on board a bandwagon without knowing where it's going or what it's doing is a scary thought though. Without doing a little digging, it's easy to get led down a deceptive path. Remember how many people thought "The Blaire Witch Project" was actually a documentary? Video can be a powerful tool, especially when viewed by someone not concerned with forming their own opinion.

How many of your Facebook friends do you think actually researched Joseph Kony or Invisible Children any further than watching the 30 minute video? How many do you think can point to Uganda on a map? Until this story came to social media, I'm not sure I could give you more than a general idea.

If you want me to share this video, which I have, that's great. If you want to feel like you're a part of something bigger than yourself, that's awesome. If you want to talk to me about how the American government needs to do more to stop Joseph Kony and the terror he is bestowing on the people of Uganda...use Google first.

The movie is about the northern Uganda conflict that began in the early 80s. That war ended twelve years ago. By all accounts, Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army have not been in Uganda for the last six years.  CNN's Christiane Amanpour attributes this to Kony being well known for his crimes by the people of Uganda, not because of raised awareness in the United States.

Amanpour said, "His crimes against these children were committed largely in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and because people have been going after him he's actually considered to be much more of a threat now in the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Kony's army of tens of thousands of children mentioned in the Invisible Children film actually consists of less than 300 soldiers according to Reuters. As rebel terrorist leaders go, he seems pretty convinced he's wrongly accused and just misunderstood. Fortunately that's not the way the rest of the world views him. Here's the first and last known interview with Kony conducted by freelance journalist Sam Farmar in 2006.

The "Kony 2012" video has been viewed over 15 million times. To put it in perspective, the actual interview with Joseph Kony I posted above has only been viewed a little over 215,000 times.

Invisible Children is getting a lot of flack about how they spend the money donated to them, but I think that's unfair. Roughly a third of what they receive goes to Uganda. The rest allows them to spread their message to people around the world. If you've watched the "Kony 2012" video, then you know the organization offers kits to help you spread their message too. Posters, T-shirts bracelets, "action books," etc. That all costs money. Without the support they have received, the eyes of the world would not be where they are this week and where that is is a positive and powerful thing.

If you want to help the people of Uganda, then do it. The country is doing a great job of rebuilding after years of civil war, but Africa as a whole is suffering in more ways than at the hand of vicious killers like Kony.

The people of Africa are starving. AIDS has decimated the population. Severe droughts have caused crops to fail and livestock to die. Want to be moved by a video? This three minute video will break your heart and it won't take your whole lunch break to watch it.

If you want to help these people, there are plenty of things you can do. Here's a list of charities working on the ground in Africa to rebuild schools, develop education, provide food and medical care to orphans. They probably have videos too.

I know it may sound like I'm trying to condemn people, but I'm not condemning anyone. It's amazing to me that a 30 minute film can call millions of people to action. I love that there are organizations like Invisible Children that work to raise awareness about the plight of people in need in a place that might otherwise seem so far away. Invisible Children deserves your support, but so do so many other organizations that put far more of your donations to actual use on the ground in Africa.

There's no reason not to support "Kony 2012," but becoming educated beyond the impassioned plea of the filmmaker is also important. It's important to research where your support is going. Do you want a bracelet or do you want to be part of a cause? What cause do you want to help and who is doing the most to further that cause? Find them, help them.

Watching so many young people snap into civic awareness through social media is truly awesome, but show me an example of social media dictating or even having an affect on foreign policy or military action in the U.S. It simply doesn't and can't happen. It won't happen. "O Brother Where Art Thou?" was hilarious, but George Clooney has little to do the the decisions and actions of the United States military. I bet he's aware of what he supports though.

Find your cause. Research it. Support it. Raise awareness, but don't just click "share." Educate yourself. That's all I'm saying.


13 comments:

  1. THANK YOU! This is why we're friends.

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  2. Isn't this all abt the sky is falling? Sure is alot of chicken littles out there! Sure glad you're not one of them! Tnx Alex!

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  3. what is your point here....are you saying that this Doc is worthless. so what if people are just finding out what happened 10 years ago? so what!!! the point is that we know now what happened 10 years ago and we're passing it along ..... Uganga has it's problems, china has it's problems, burma angola i could go on... you're making it sound like everyone should know about uganda... yeah perhaps// but we don't.... do you know the issues that go on in the inner cities of US. probably not.. but i bet you'd feel compansionate if i show u a doc about it and ask you to pass it along you will....listen the bottom line is the producers came out with a clever way of catching this guy...

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  4. Thank you for this awesome entry! You've just articulated my exact thoughts.

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  5. A Concerned BLACK American WomanMarch 9, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Thank you bowathebull, I believe we all would have reacted and shared and posted videos of any organization campaigning to aid suffering children. The bottom line is if children are suffering and the people become aware of it and move to help them, no one should have anything negative to say. My questions are; if Uganda or any other country in Africa can take care of it's own problems, why are people suffering so much! I am a BLACK American woman and I am outraged at the condition of some of the children in Africa!!! If this work by the "Invisible Children" organization or the issue they raise about the suffering of children in Uganda is bogus then let's put our efforts to expose and campaign about that. But, if what they say is true and children really are suffering in this terrible way then let's shut up and put up! If the Ugandan Government and it's Bloggers say they can handle their own problems then why do the problems exist in the first place! In my BLACK American Community if one of us has food then we ALL have food! We practice the example of taking three fish and a loaf of bread to feed the multitude. How dare one human being tell another human being to mind their business and let other helpless human children suffer for the sake of their patriotic pride in their country/government. HELLOOOOOOO!!!! The babies are hungry and if the Ugandan government or any other government of any other country in Africa can solve this problem without the help of Americans or any other more cultivated and civilized country then DO IT AND DO IT NOW!!! We are tired of crying over the children you are in charge of. We are so tired that we take injections to protect ourselves against the diseases we may be exposed to in your country and get on airplanes and use our resources to bring food and methods of growing food, medicine to heal the sick and supplies to build structures to benefit the whole well being of your people and all you can do is criticize us. Who are you really and who do you really represent? If children in Uganda and any other country in Africa are starving then DON'T BITE THE HAND THAT IS TRYING TO FEED THEM!

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  6. Mmhmm...

    "Oil Discoveries in Uganda: A Blessing or Curse?"

    http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0518_uganda_oil_suruma.aspx

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  7. I was basically with you until the end when you said, "show me an example of social media dictating or even having an affect on foreign policy or military action in the U.S. It simply doesn't and can't happen. It won't happen."

    This is demonstrably false. Social media is simply an outgrowth of the people. The people have a large effect on foreign policy and military action. Our involvement in Vietnam ended partially because the people turned against it. The same goes for Iraq. Afghanistan is winding down for the same reason. To say that social media can't affect foreign policy is to say that the American people have no say in what our government does, and this is completely false.

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    1. Social pressures, along with the massive weight of expenses, ended the war in Vietnam.

      Iraq was an ill-conceived experiment in empire building, and while these things helped turn the tide it took a change of administration to initiate a relatively clean exit.

      Afghanistan remains to be seen, although the primary goal of getting OBL has been achieved so there is not much reason for the powers that be to stay there.

      Social Media, per se, has not had a demonstrable effect on these wars. I think it does have an influence, to a degree - but then again, the nature of social media currents are short-term. Causes ebb and flow - it was not long ago that it was all about OWS, but now that's quieted way down; little if anything substantial has been done as a result of OWS; and the real impact came from people actually protesting in the street, not from tweeting.

      Social Media is an effective tool for action, but as an action itself it does not wield as much influence over policy as it does over the media and the masses.

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  8. A Concerned BLACK American Woman ...What she says..

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  9. I think a few people need to go back and re-read the post. If I understand correctly, Alex is supporting awareness and even the documentary, but also researching the facts, and investing in substantial action beyond clicking "Share" on a video.

    Alex is 100% correct, IMHO.

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  10. good video and point, we should always research a cause before we get behind it. I do not agree however that the people cannot change policy through social pressure. This is the beauty of the KONY2012 campaign in my opinion. There are millions of suffering people in this world, there are so many videos like this that could be made about these issues. I think the real value here is that we can use social media to spread awareness, to motivate people into action! Action that creates the social pressure to demand policy change. We need to use what we have and keep the momentum going until what we envision becomes reality. There will always be critiques and that is fine, but I don't think they see the potential here. For the first time in history, we live in a global community. I am my brothers keeper is not limited to my neighbor. When I look out into the world and see atrocities and injustice my heart bleeds. They are my children, my parents, my brothers and sisters. When we rise up, when we use what we know to help in any way, well I do believe it is a worthy cause, and I hope to see efforts like these to grow in numbers. We waste a lot of time in this country especially wrapped up in our own meaningless little dramas. If we instead spent our energy and resources supporting a cause that touches our hearts, then maybe we will see less of what we don't want, and more of what we do!

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  11. Yes, reread the blog if you didn't understand that I am pushing for awareness. I am in no way saying this documentary was a waste of time or money or effort. It's a good thing, but not the end all on which to base your opinion. Secondly, social media has never had an effect on foreign policy or military action in this country. Not once. It serves as a tool to raise awareness and unite the like minded. "Liking" a page or post on Facebook will never spark military action.

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