The internet has exploded with the new campaign from Invisible Children: Kony 2012.
The new campaign wants to see Joseph Kony, the LRA leader, made ‘famous’ – or rather, infamous.
Invisible Children want to make Kony a household name to raise awareness of his crimes.
The main aim is to put pressure on the US government to keep up its pursuit of the LRA leader.
Few could argue that they have succeeded in making Kony famous – the video has been viewed millions of times since its release around 48 hours ago.
Amid the publicity however, has been some stark criticism of Invisible Children.
How Matters criticise the group for portraying the conflict as ‘good guys’ versus ‘bad guys’ in the filmmaker’s explanation of the situation to his 3-year-old son.
Eric Ritskes complains that the film promotes a narrative of the White Man coming to save Africa.
Most of the people who have a problem with the Kony 2012 film say that it over-simplifies the situation.
But some have focused on the running of the organisation itself – pointing out that only 31% of the money raised has gone to projects on the ground in Africa.
Good Guys versus Bad Guys
If Joseph Kony isn’t a bad guy, then who is?
And if young people in the developed world genuinely want to help make a change for the better then who are they but good guys?
Invisible Children have sparked real change – with the anti-LRA bill they helped promote and by supporting a network of radio towers in the region.
Some have criticised the organisation’s name itself – saying that these children are very visible to their families and communities.
This is true of course, but it overlooks the point that those with the resources to stop Kony didn’t know about it beforehand.
Kony 2012: Too Simple?
In a word, yes.
The geopolitical reality of the situation on the ground is far too complicated to realistically boil down to a 30 minute film of good vs evil.
But when you are trying to rally millions to a cause, that’s what you need to do.
While I studied the LRA’s conflict in great detail, it took me months, and you can’t expect everyone to do the same.
Kony 2012 has brought new enthusiasm for the efforts to stop Kony, and that can only be good.
White Men Saving Africa
I can see why people criticise the filmmaker for saying he’s going to stop the war personally.
But the reality is that the conflict has been going on for well over two decades.
African-only situations have failed up to this point.
What the campaign promotes is cooperation between the ‘white men’ – the US military – and Africans – the regional forces.
It is not a white man dropping in just to take out Kony and then disappearing, in the ridiculous way of the Machine Gun Preacher.
Yes, they need to spend more of their money on the ground in the affected region.
But their campaign is also about advocacy in the US.
Yes, it was foolish of the founders to pose with weapons.
But they are/were young men who get easily excited by these things (I know, I’m a young man too.)
And yes, they should be open to more scrutiny.
Ask yourself where this conflict would be without the attention of Invisible Children.
On the front pages, or in the shadows?
Now people know about Kony – the will is there to make sure he is stopped.
At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters – that he and the LRA are stopped from killing, mutilating, abducting and raping.
The end will justify the means.
*Update*: Invisible Children have now posted a thorough official response to the claims being made by critics.