I found out who Joseph Kony was last night. The more I watched it, the angrier I got. Anger at this living embodiment of evil, anger at the fact that he was allowed to run rampant for 20 years, anger that I never heard about this before.
The film is intensely personal in nature, and it makes no apologies for that. It is the nature of projects like these to be driven by passion first, and you notice it right from the beginning when the director talks about himself and his motivations for starting this project.
Against my better judgement, I quickly got on board the KONY2012 bandwagon, sharing the video with an enthusiastic fervour. Then the cold hard truth started to slowly come in, and the enthusiasm slowly turned to that old familiar feeling of cynicism.
What I should’ve done after watching the film was to do my own research and find out more about this campaign. Thing is, if I did, I wouldn’t be thinking long and hard about the campaign, the agenda behind it and the methods being used to achieve its goal. It would’ve been just another point I would’ve deconstructed, trolled, made fun of and pushed aside at the end of the day.
In the end, it’s good that it happened that way it happened.
Stopping Joseph Kony is more than just a well-produced film or a global campaign. It’s something that must be done, plain and simple. For me personally, the film did what it set out to do: it informed me. It made me learn something new. At the end of the day, that is the fundamental goal of KONY2012: to inform.
I guess, in a way I felt slightly cheated because I was completely taken over by the theatrics of it all. The message is potent enough as it is, and I would’ve liked the facts to be given to me straight up. Then again, I understand why the video was made in such a way. I wasn’t exactly the target demographic to begin with.
People need the slick editing and the chants and the inspiring music. It’s not so much a film as it is a call to action. The people need to feel the rush, that urge to slam your fist on the table, stand up and say “This shit ends NOW!”
In that sense, the film (and the campaign, to a larger extent) succeeds tremendously.
For most of us, all we know how to do is talk. We debate and question and critique, but at the end of the day all we do is talk (or type, but you get the idea). Jason Russell decided to stop talking and do something about what he sees as a crime against humanity. For that alone, I hope he achieves what he sets out to do. The path he’s set out may not be as smooth as he want it to be, but it’s a path nonetheless. The cynics and the skeptics will deconstruct KONY2012 and go over each detail, which is what should be done for the sake of accountability and transparency. But it’s also a known fact that spending so much time in the details keeps you away from seeing the big picture.
The founders of KONY2012 are using social media and the mob mentality for an amazing cause. It’s not a fool-proof plan, it might not be a solid one, but it’s a plan that pulls the people together for one common goal. Right now, that’s as good as it gets.
I may not fully support KONY2012, but I unequivocally support the end-goal: Joseph Kony must be stopped. He must be captured and tried. He must be made to answer for his sins. The film is an important piece in educating people about Kony, but it shouldn’t be the only one. You need the points AND the counter-points to truly understand the scope of what’s at stake here.
In the end, we must form our own conclusions. I saw a comment somewhere in Kotaku earlier today: “the Internet is a cold, cold place.” It is, if we truly want to be. We must question, we must debate. But sometimes, we must also remember to take a step (or two, or even three) back, and look at the whole journey.
Neil Gaiman (yes, THE Neil Gaiman) has compiled a set of links that paints a bigger picture of Joseph Kony, LRA and Uganda.
Justice in Conflict has provided another perspective behind the KONY2012 video and campaign.
Invisible Children, the controversial organization behind KONY2012, has released an official statement that addresses many of the legitimate concerns raised in the above write-ups.
…and these reads should be a good starting point.