Digests | March 12, 2012

Critical Reactions to “Kony 2012”


Adam Branch, a Senior Research Fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research, Uganda, has posted a critique of the recent viral video “Kony 2012” on the UC Irvine-based blog “Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa.” Here’s a brief excerpt:

My frustration with the group has largely reflected the concerns expressed so convincingly by those on-line critics who have been willing to bring the fury of Invisible Children’s true believers down upon themselves. They have pointed out what is wrong with the group’s approach: the warmongering, the narcissism, the commercialization, the reductive and one-sided story they tell, their portrayal of Africans as helpless children in need of rescue by white Americans. As a result of Invisible Children’s irresponsible advocacy, civilians in Uganda and central Africa may have to pay a steep price in their own lives so that a lot of young Americans can feel good about themselves, and a few can make good money. This, of course, is sickening, and I think that Kony 2012 is a case of Invisible Children having finally gone too far. They are now facing a backlash from people of conscience who refuse to abandon their capacity to think for themselves.

But, as I said, I wouldn’t have known about Kony 2012 if it hadn’t been for the flood of emails I received from the US. And that, I think, is telling. Kony 2012 and the debate around it are not about Uganda, but about America. Uganda is largely just the stage for a debate over the meaning of political activism in the US today. Likewise, in my view, the Kony 2012 campaign itself is basically irrelevant here in Uganda, and perhaps the best approach might be to just ignore it. This is for a couple reasons. . .

Read the full post on the CIHA blog here.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera English aired a 25-minute segment on Friday investigating “Kony 2012 and the future of activism,” featuring Jolly Okot, the Uganda country director for Invisible Children, Mareike Schomerus, the research consortium director of the Justice and Security Research Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Jillian York, the director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Excerpt from Mareike Schomerus below:

This implies that by clicking on a link and forwarding something you have done your share. If this is the future of activism, I’m really quite worried. . . For activism giving this idea that ‘yes, you too can do something’ by simply clicking on something that’s quite worrying. . . I think it’s irresponsible, to say the least, to give a deadline, an expiration date to solving a very complex political problem. . . The long-term consequences are completely hidden in this campaign.

Full video here.

Finally, Alex De Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, writes a post on the organization’s blog warning “Don’t Elevate Kony” (excerpt below).

Millions of young Americans are being told about a bizarre and murderous African cult. They are also being told that for 25 years Africa has been waiting for America to solve this problem, which can be done by capturing Africa’s crazed evildoer and handing him over to international justice. And they are led to believe that what has stopped this from happening is that American leaders don’t care enough. The apologists for Invisible Children call this “raising awareness.” I call it peddling dangerous and patronizing falsehoods.

Full article here.

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