In the past 24 hours, the name Joseph Kony has become the biggest meme in the world. It’s everywhere. The hashtag is trending worldwide on Twitter. As this post is getting written, over 1.2 million people “Like” Invisible Children on Facebook. For those who haven’t seen the Kony 2012 video posted all over Facebook and Twitter, you’re probably sleeping, at work, or don’t pay attention.
A video released two days ago calls on the youth of the world to use the one thing at their fingertips that doesn’t cost money to spread a message – the Internet. The video already has over 7 million views. Mission accomplished.
The message is this: Joseph Kony is the leader of African rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, that for 26 years has abducted upwards of 30,000 children, and either forced them into service as child soliders (which general entails murdering your own parents and other horrific assignments) or sex slaves. Kony and the LRA have escaped the notice of the US government and the ICC for a significant amount of time because, as the video puts it, it was a waste of time because neither our national security nor financial interests were involved.
But for Invisibile Children, the non-profit organization behind the video, “Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.” It’s a great idea that’s making a long-overdue human rights issue very visibile to this generation.
Invisible Children aims to create a worldwide movement that in the next 10 months would convince governments to capture and arrest Kony and put an end to the violence in Africa. The movement, obviously, will be spread on the web, like so many other movements this year.
But there’s a catch.
How much does it do to sign a petition and repost a video? It can do a lot – sure. But real activism involves getting off the computer, informing yourself fully and getting into the streets. Relying on Gen Y to pass the message along isn’t enough. The action needs to be more than that, and here’s why:
Invisible Children’s crusade to arrest and disarm Kony includes a plan that also uses violence – American troops, your tax dollars – as well as the Ugandan army and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army… another incredibly violent African militia.
A website called Visible Children makes it plain by posting a blog post about the Kony 2012 campaign.
“Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.”
This site is very clear that the aim of the Kony 2012 campaing is true – Kony is a bad guy. But we don’t need to all jump on one charity’s band wagon because they make an awesome video (it really is very well-made). There are other ways to get rid of Kony and end the exploitation of children in Africa that don’t include violence or the American military. We shouldn’t always fight violence with violence.
It’s worth thinking about that before you repost the video and tell all your friends to get behind this one particular organization.