Chances are, in the past day and a half, you’ve seen something about Kony 2012 or Invisible Children splashed across your Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest news feed. I know I first came across it yesterday afternoon while perusing Facebook – a couple of friends had posted this link, imploring myself and their other Facebook pals to watch this video, so, having nothing better to do at the time, I did.
For those of you who either reside beneath the proverbial rock or are currently Lenting from social networking (I can’t think of any other way it could have escaped your notice!), Kony 2012 is the newest campaign from the non-profit group Invisible Children, which is aimed at halting the abduction of children by Joseph Kony and his rebel group the LRA in Africa, and turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves. In a nutshell, this particular campaign is aimed at bringing awareness to the world – to “make Kony famous” – in order to motivate the masses to lobby for aid and manpower to be sent to locate and arrest Kony for his crimes – this year.
So, I watched the half-hour Kony 2012 video last afternoon, and by the time I checked back into Facebook later that evening, almost every other post in my news feed was a link to this same video. This thing has gone viral – in fact, as I type this, the version of it posted on YouTube has over 19.5 million* views!
Of course, it didn’t take long for the critics to chime in either.
“Do your research first! Heard bad things about this!” one friend wrote in response to the clip, and I noticed this was echoed a few times as down I scrolled.
As I was following my friend’s advice and doing my research, criticisms abounded: from the way funding is divvied up (only 32% goes to direct services), to their somewhat shoddy rating on Charity Navigator (2/4 stars), to the fact that they are not aimed at the root of the child soldier problem (would the LRA really just give up if Kony did get arrested?), apparently Invisible Children just has got everything wrong!
Sure, some of these criticisms are valid. But as I compared the criticisms with what Invisible Children’s mandate is for Kony 2012, I think it is also valid to say: so what? Of all of the bandwagons to scoff at, why choose one that actually gets us comfy North Americans thinking and caring about something outside of our cushy little comfort zones? This is not Bieber Fever here, folks!
I am interested in how one could view a project such as this – built upon rallying people together on behalf of others – in a negative light. No fund allocation stats or Charity Navigator ratings can refute the positive effect of this. Invisible Children isn’t campaigning through their video solely (or even primarily) to raise funds, they are motivating the individual to pick up the phone, send an email, to actively join in on their cause.
(Though in reference to the Kony 2012 definition of “actively join”, I did read such colourful descriptions such as “slactivism” and “buy-tivism”, along with a poke or two at how lame and pointless raising awareness for a cause is, and a whole bunch of slams on people who wear TOMS.)
The truth is, there is no really solid reason not to join in. Invisible Children is doing, and encouaging others to do, something good! And it’s just a bit shameful at how quick some can be to leap on the opposing bandwagon and immediately launch into a crazy game of chicken. I find it kind of insane how somebody can, say, publicly admit they are on the Beiber Fever bandwagon (don’t get me wrong here, folks. Justin Beiber is adorable in his cute little boy way, but that’s as far is it should ever, ever go!), and all it will elicit are a few joking comments and a couple of “likes”, but share the Kony 2012 video, and you are suddenly assaulted with comments, blogs, and articles galore about how you have been fooled into buying into the trendy “charity meme du jour”.
Yes, do your research and if you decide Kony 2012 is not your bandwagon, fine, okay. But quite frankly I found it refreshing to log into Facebook, and instead of being bombarded with links to videos of other people doing idiotic things on camera, finding people actually caring enough about something outside of themselves to hit the “share” button.
So come on, folks. Find another bandwagon to play chicken with.
To see the Kony 2012 video, click here.
To read an anti-Kony 2012 article, click here.
*I wrote the first part of this blog last night. When I checked this morning, Kony 2012 had been viewed over 32.5 million times.