Is Kony 2012 Worth Your Time?


I heard about the Kony 2012 video campaign launched by Invisible Children yesterday through Twitter. A significant number of the people I follow were tweeting links to this video and urging people to take notice. I didn’t get a chance to watch the 30-minute video until today and in a sense, I’m glad I waited.

As a skeptic, I always try to approach everything with a certain amount of caution. As an emotional person, sometimes that caution goes out the window without my noticing it. It’s difficult to remain rational when faced with atrocities committed against children. It tugs at the heart-strings and sometimes skepticism takes a back seat. It’s in moments like these that it’s important to remain skeptical and rational nonetheless.

I watched Invisible Children’s video today after seeing some of the criticism of it. It’s a testament to the filmmaker’s talent that I was moved by it, even knowing the problems with it. The video has resonated with people because it makes the problem and solution seem simple. Joseph Kony is a bad man and he’s hurting people and we should stop him. Simple right? Unfortunately, it hardly ever is that simple. It’s naive to think that you could explain a complicated situation as well as a solution for it in a 30-minute video. You can’t. If this could be solved in 30 minutes, it would have been solved by now. It’s hardly ever as simple as just removing one man, because that man doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Other social, economic, and political issues all have an effect on the situation in Uganda and it’s not simple. Just ask the Egyptians. It wasn’t as simple as just removing Mubarak.

At this point, I think it’s important to mention that I do think that Joseph Kony is despicable pond scum. That might actually be an insult to pond scum. I agree he should be stopped. I just think that Invisible Children might be conveniently ignoring realities that don’t fit their narrative. There are many problems with the way the information is presented in the video and also all the information they ignore. There also seems to be a problem with Invisible Children themselves.

I will put links to some great posts about these issues below. For the tl;dr crowd, here are the highlights:

  • Invisible Children spends only about 32% of their money on direct services.
  • They fail to mention the political climate, and people, that have allowed Kony to go on for about 25 years.
  • The fail to talk about the Ugandans that are working and making progress on the ground.
  • The seem to think military intervention is the only way to go.

I’m hardly an expert on Africa. I had never heard of Joseph Kony until yesterday. Hopefully, these posts will help shed some light if you feel inclined to learn more about this.

Musa Okwonga brings an important Uganda perspective on the issue as well as sheds light on why the Ugandan leadership is also a problem.

Mark Kersten has an insightful post on all this as does Daniel Solomon at Securing Rights.

There’s also a Tumblr about some of the issues surrounding Invisible Children.

You should read them all. They were an education about the importance of critical thinking in situations where we might be tempted to lead blindly with our hearts. The reality is complicated. We need to treat it as such.


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