By Corrie Hulse
It is safe to say that only those who have been living under a rock the past four days have not heard or read the name Kony. On Monday, the non-profit Invisible Children (IC) launched their new campaign: KONY 2012.The purpose of this campaign is to make the name Joseph Kony known to the world. Their argument is that if more people know who he is and what crimes he has committed, he is more likely to be brought to justice.
Already wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Kony has thus far avoided arrest. While this is not IC's first campaign to bring an end to Kony's reign, it will surely go down as perhaps their most successful. In fact, this campaign has accomplished a great deal beyond what its creators probably intended.
Below, I have compiled a list of four accomplishments I believe this campaign has achieved; some intended, some not.
1. Made Kony Famous
If their aim here was simply to make Kony famous, I do believe that has been accomplished. With #STOPKONY, #LRA and #Uganda all trending worldwide on Twitter this week, as well as the video going so viral it found its way to the homepage of nearly every major news site, success here is hard to deny. Kony has become infamous even among those who last week had no clue who he was.
2. Educated and Inspired
We all have friends in our social networks, whether on Facebook, Twitter or Google+, who are constantly posting about politics and the cause of the day. We expect them to flood our news feed with links to petitions and "must read" articles. They are our "politically active" friends. (I am admittedly one of them on occasion.) The Kony video is something you would expect them to post. (I posted it on all three of my sites.) Here's the thing though, this time they had company. I stopped keeping track of how many times this video showed up in my news feed. From those familiar with the organization to those who had never heard of IC and the LRA before, everyone was moved and upset by this video.
This video has educated people, not only about the atrocities committed by the LRA and Joseph Kony, but also about the international community's efforts to bring him to justice. These people have been inspired to share the video, educate themselves further, and get involved with the cause. From the high school student who is seeing the world outside their community for the first time, to the seasoned cynic who has to admit it's hard to argue against bringing such a violent man to justice, millions have been moved and inspired by this campaign.
3. Angered and Annoyed
Alongside all of those inspired folks has been quite the contingent of detractors. There are most definitely those who are less than impressed with this campaign and the organization behind it. Some of the negative responses are infuriating and fueled by misinformation and cynicism about western involvement in Africa. I have little time for those who denounce this movement simply because it is led by hipsters from California. Human rights activists come in all shapes and sizes. That said, there are also those who do make some valid points.
One of the major complaints has been in relation to the finances of IC. Many are seeing the numbers and feeling as though they do not quite add up. I understand their frustration if one is looking at IC as a charity. If their ultimate aim was to distribute money and resources to the people of Uganda, then yes, arguably they should be sending along a larger portion of their income. If your aim as a donor is to send money to the people of Uganda, I might suggest another organization.
However, I would not consider IC a charity in the traditional sense. They are an advocacy organization. Their aim is to spread awareness and push for governments to take action against the LRA. This being the case, one cannot expect 100% of their donation to the organization to go to the people of Uganda directly. Those who donate to this organization should do so knowing that their money not only goes to the people of Uganda, but also covers the costs accrued in the process of building and supporting an activist network.
Another major complaint has been that this campaign has oversimplified and exaggerated the situation at hand. There are those who feel the founders of IC are not educated enough about the situation, have overstated the current danger in order to tug on people's heart strings, and have not told the whole story. This complaint has merit in the sense that I do believe this campaign itself does simplify the situation. The video does not spend a great deal of time delving into the intricacies of the historical context or the less than stellar track record of the Ugandan government itself.
Sometimes I take for granted information I have about a situation, wrongly assuming it is common knowledge. This was the case when I first watched the video. I didn't notice any missing information because I simply filled in the blanks myself. Here is the thing though, my desire for knowledge of this situation was sparked by this video.
4. Sparked an Important Discourse
This, I find to be the most important accomplishment of them all. It is for this reason I am perhaps prematurely considering the KONY 2012 campaign a success. The world is perpetually learning how to live as a community. We are, as Immanuel Kant reminded us, unavoidably side by side. Thus, figuring out how to peacefully live side by side is necessary.
Part of the process of learning how to be a community is figuring out how to deal with international criminals. This is a discussion that is too often only had by a select few, and would benefit from a broadening of the contributors. While I disagree with many, I am so happy to see the number of people chiming in on this campaign. One should not underestimate the importance of good discourse.
Ultimately it comes down to this...are you the type of person who sees the potential in an imperfect plan, or the type of person who only sees where it went wrong?
Follow Corrie on Twitter @corrie_hulse