PM5: KONY = PHONY?! :O

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I’ll admit it. I literally found a way to get through the last few months of Kony 2012 talk completely free of  seeing it, hearing it or talking about it. I knew what it was on a basic level, and despite the fact that it seemed like arguments over the movement were popping up everywhere on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc, I managed to avoid it. And the reason I did was because by the time I heard about it, I was also hearing that it was a lie. KONY=PHONY began to flood my Facebook news feed instead, and being in the middle of a million papers and other school related stuff at the time of all of the media coverage, I kept out of it. Sometimes it’s easier and less time consuming to remain ignorant than to have to have an opinion. So I let it slide, accepted that it was a lie, and went on with my life. And now I am watching this video, and wondering, “how is this not real? How can people NOT want to help these kids?”

Then I finished watching the video. I realized that, wait, Kony isn’t even in Uganda anymore (something they DO in fact admit in the video, despite what a lot of the critics are saying – they are just positing it as something that doesn’t matter – “they still need to go protect Uganda!”), and that what Jason Russell seems to be petitioning for is slightly terrifying. To WANT to have an American military force in Uganda seems kind of fishy for someone who claims to be against war. And it’s all very interesting how they say the government was totally against them going in before all of this public out speak, and now they are all “it’s a great idea! let’s get in there!!!” and “look what you guys can do if you demand it!”… haven’t we been demanding and pleading for the troops to leave the Middle East since it began? THAT didn’t seem to call for any public outcry. And upon reading Zuckerman’s blog I realized that what this video is saying about the States being hesitant to get involved is bullshit because they already are, “The United States considers the LRA a terrorist group, and has cooperated with the Ugandan government since at least 2008 in attempting to arrest Kony”!

Ultimately though, my red flag was the commodification of it all. “Buy our Action Pack! Take a bracelet, give one to a friend! If you donate three dollars a month NOW you can get your very own Action Pack free! Yes FREE with any donation of three dollars! That’s a saving of 30 DOLLARS…” you get the picture. It’s like a freaking infomercial. And the sad thing is, people do give in. People do donate, without even turning their heads to the next video that will tell them why this approach is bullshit, and why they should be more careful. And once they do realize it, it’s all a huge public outcry, “how could they do that to us?!”. Well, you did it to yourselves.

In a response to the Kony video by a Ugandan girl, that I have linked here, it was said that we need to be more careful and pay more attention to WHERE these campaigns end up; ie, where our money ends up. People are ignorant, and she urges us to educate ourselves first. It’s all very easy to get wrapped up in what the media is telling us, especially when its posed as good because it’s something that is being spread by the people, for the people, through social media outlets of all kinds (a place where the people are not silenced (yet)). The Invisible Children Organization knows what’s up. They know that there is no better way to reach out to people and to have your information passed along like Wildfire than Social Media. The video itself depicts this perfectly, it’s almost just like the advertisement for the new Facebook Timeline! And by forging a campaign based on human interaction and connectivity, of people all over the world coming together in equality and the way that the internet connects us, the people feel guilty and are sucked in to this stuff.They become very passive consumers.

So yes, I agree that this campaign is ridiculous, and that there are a lot of negative implications to falling for this stuff and not doing your own research. But I think that is where it also benefits us. Although there was a lot of deceit and bad faith surrounding this campaign regarding the amount of money being donated and the amount of money being used for other things, as well as the lack of real and relevant information about what is truly going on (or what has gone on, rather) in Uganda, there are some benefits to this type of incentive. That is, people are talking about it now. Good stuff, and bad stuff, people are talking, and people are stepping up in an effort to educate themselves on this stuff and to make themselves possibly more aware than they would have been otherwise. As well, the turnout of this campaign will hopefully make people a lot more careful about how they use the internet and social media alike. While it has been talked about in our class time and time again that social media has made it so much easier to give people agency and a voice to speak out and share news and information with one another, it is also a place where people can abuse that agency. There is mutual trust between you and your friends, and all it takes is one of your friends to ignorantly trust and advocate for something, and then what do you do? Possibly trust it too! I see an educated girl, really into world issues, posting the Kony video all over Facebook, I’m probably not going to think twice about it’s validity. I mean, I might have taken a look if nobody had questioned it and formed my own opinion, good or bad, but I wouldn’t have gone in skeptical.Until now, that is. Because now I have seen this type of abuse, and even after watching that video, responses to it on Youtube and having read Zuckerman’s blog post, I feel stupid for even being sucked in to the well-edited and well-performed film that Russell’s gang has put out. I still have an issue with thinking that people would really do this kind of thing to make money, and use children like Jacob to their benefit, and then I remember that all snakes are charming. And then I feel less dumb, but still bad for the exploited kids in the film.

Here’s a video that I found helpful in considering the ways in which the government uses our passion for human rights in these types of world issues to their benefit. I’d like to direct your attention though, to the split second at 1:56… I’ll admit I’m still skeptical of “Anonymous”… it’s exactly like this guys says it.. the government needs us to be passionate and to be on board for things together so that they can make radical choices, that are not always in our benefit or resulting in what WE thought was going to be the case… Kony has opened up our eyes to this. I just hope that people aren’t just passively accepting what Anonymous puts out there either, and that people can sense the biases in what they are putting forth. I agree with the girl in the above video, remain educated and don’t accept one “review”.

In any case though, it’s unfortunate for the whole idea of helping these people (which I still believe is important to do, in a fashion that is ethical and trustworthy) is being thrown to the curb now because Jason Russell was arrested for public masterbation and drug use. Like, what is that? Of course its sick and despicable. I mean, all I can think about is the fact that he used his young son in the video, and then we hear this about him, a father. Just gross. But because the campaign has just been thrown to the wayside, just like the Ugandan girl said would happen, because of what he’s done, it just goes to show that people jump on these types of bandwagon not for the cause, but for the image. And since the image for Kony has now been tainted, nobody wants to support it anymore. Consumers, commodity, culture, connections. Thats all the world cares about, isn’t it?

In Zuckerman’s blog post, he is basically pointing out all of the things wrong with the Kony campaign, much of which I have talked about up there and realized before reading it in his post. His discussion of the inevitability of oversimplification in media and campaigns in order to get people on board, and then how that also causes for people to be skeptical is also interesting. However, what I find MOST interesting about his blog are the responses to it. Notably the first, which says:

  1. Erin Says:
    March 8th, 2012 at 11:47 am But… what CAN we do? Much of the appeal of Kony2012 is that it gives us white, American liberals a method to engage and do SOMETHING with our bleeding hearts. I have no doubt of the complexity of the problem, and I appreciate the detailed blog post you’ve written. But you’ve made the same omission as many others who’ve written truthful narratives about Africa: you’ve left us with the impression that there is no solution, because all the players are bad and untrustworthy, so we shrug our shoulders, blame the Africans, and turn away. Give us hope; point us toward a solution; give us something specific and achievable to do! This is what Invisible Children has appreciated about human psychology and has done so effectively.

I am SO intrigued by what Erin is saying here because she’s right. She is pointing out that the reason people accept these types of campaigns so easily is because people want to be involved and help, and Invisible Children knows that. Zuckerman brushes this desire away, inevitably leading people away from helping at all, and then the whole cause is lost entirely. The issues in the Kony campaign are not that Kony ISN’T a bad guy and that he SHOULDN’T be stopped because he is and he should. It’s about not letting yourself get wrapped up in the commodity of it all; the bracelets, the Action Packs, the events. It’s about actually taking a step, an educated step, in the right direction and helping in a way that is right for everyone individually.

I’m done.

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