A (Late) Review of the Kony 2012 Campaign
The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am by the Kony campaign. It’s not because I’m a cold, hateful cynic who hates children. It’s because the video wouldn’t be nearly as viral as it is if people had thought past the initial “Oh my god this man is a subhuman aberration who clearly deserves to be slaughtered in the most slow and painful way possible oh my god how do people even become that horrible oh my god.” And that should be your gut reaction, assuming you aren’t a cold hateful child-hating cynic. Now if you’re rational and logical as well, Step 2 is asking yourself whether you agree with the campaign. I don’t. Yo, America, remember the last time the entire country suddenly flipped an outraged shit over going to catch a bad guy hiding halfway around the world? It’s okay if you don’t -- the target audience for Kony’s video was twelve at the time. Whether or not you support the war in the Middle East today, you know that it had widespread support at the time. Nobody likes people who kill people, unless their names are Dexter or Katniss. Let’s put on our 10-year-hindsight hats.
First of all: does anyone have a post-Kony-killing plan? Because once Kony’s out of the picture, we will have (according to the video) an army of armed, brainwashed, possibly orphaned trained killers. What, pray tell, do we do with them? Yeah, we can return them home -- those of them that haven’t killed their parents. But it’s not like we can let ‘em off at the nearest bus stop and pat ourselves on the back -- the kids are all fucked up, and kicking their leader out of the picture is not going to save them. If they’ve been brainwashed to think Kony’s the next Messiah, they’re clearly not going to take to a bunch of assholes with a Superman complex trying to save them.
But don’t worry, nobody's planning on “putting Americans into combat.” If our troops happen to get attacked, we can just tell the Kony Killer Kids that we weren’t actually planning on fighting them. Just stopping them. Problem solved.
As for the campaign itself: It’s been said before, but I’m cynical about the power of middle-class American college students’ Facebook status fads changing the world.* The problem with “awareness” is that it reaches a set point: right now, everyone who’s gonna know about Occupy knows about Occupy. And everyone who’s gonna know about breast cancer knows about breast cancer. At that point, you’re either doing something about the issue or not. Kony 2012 will reach that point.
But, what if “awareness turns into action.” I’m totally on board with them there. So long as you define “action” as letter-writing, calling Congressmen, and pretty much endorsing the message. But if you’re anything like me, you can be aware that you’re an out-of-shape lump of hot cookie bar who couldn’t run 20 minutes anymore let alone 20 miles, make a hearty New Year’s Resolution, plan to multitask on the treadmill with your reading -- and still find yourself at Shepard Munchies stress-eating your finals via homemade baked goods and cocoa product. Awareness turns into intention, which sometimes turns into action.
Philanthropy’s easy when all you have to do is type some words on the Interwebz. But as any former philanthropy chair/DM 60-hour-clubber/Camp Kesem counselor can tell you, and as you probably already know, it’s really goddamn difficult to regularly squeeze money and time out of broke overinvolved college kids.** People will forget/“forget” to donate their time, money, and empathy around the same time the Keg starts forgetting/“forgetting” to notice again that your ID belongs to a 5’2” 115 lb Asian.
I’m also annoyed with certain vague, majestic proclamations regarding Ugandan child guerrillas. Prime example: “It’s bad for the world.” First of all, Jason Russell, this isn’t the persuasive essay you shat out at 3:00 AM your junior year because your coffee machine was broken and Starbucks was closed and you couldn’t stay awake any longer. Support your goddamn generalizations or it’s propaganda. Because, second of all, is it really, truly bad for the entire world? Honestly -- somebodyisgoingtohatemeforsayingthis -- no. It’s really, really bad. But this half of the world is personally affected by things other than Kony. And y’know, that’s why the Invisible Children sentiment is admirable – most anti-Kony campaigners have nothing to gain. Unlike the satisfaction of getting in shape, or taking vengeance on Osama, or having the kids for whom you raised $1.1 million high-five you onstage after 28 hours of anguished feet, the US and its inhabitants don’t gain anything from killing Kony (another reason our government is hesitant to help). Diehard Ko-pponents have their hearts in the right place. It’s the heads I’m worried about.
One thing I’m unclear about, and I ask this because I truly don’t know: why this plan of action? Our narrator gives us a step-by-step tutorial of how we’re going to stop Kony. But why aren’t there alternatives? They need technology and training – why doesn’t IC ask us to send money to the Supply The Ugandan Army With Necessary Shit Fund, instead of having ten middlemen? Is deploying American advisers overseas really our only option, or can’t we bring people here to train them? Who decided on this plan, and why don’t we have a say?
Sidenote: There’s an imaginary New York Times newspaper at about 22:25 in the Kony 2012 video, with the headline “KONY CAPTURED.” But I’m LOLing a little at the second article’s title: “The world agrees, Kony is the ‘Worst’.” I’m not entirely sure why this is amusing, but it might have to do with the ironic fact that the most vile adjective we can think of to label Kony with is “The Worst.” Was “ruthless sack of diarrhea” inappropriate somehow? And Flipside, could you pleaseplease take this and run with it?
I do admire the campaign for its great methods, and I’m not preparing for sarcasm here. Having only 20 “culture makers” and 12 policy makers = 32 public voices is a really, really good way to approach it. You might wonder why they don’t involve more, but what this strategy does is keep responsibility on a few committed individuals, rather than letting the campaign diffuse.*** The committed public’s gonna focus on pressuring those people to continue advocating. But, on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if our lawmakers are just waiting for the initial outrage to blow over.
The sentiment is nice. Watching it for the first time without feeling the total emotional rush that I know others felt made me wish I could be less of a cynic and believe with all my heart in happy endings and butterflies and peace. I said the same thing after watching The Notebook.**** But that’s not how humans work. And if we aren’t at least slightly more cautious about running in headfirst without a plan for the lasting repercussions after an intervention is over, we haven’t learned a damn thing.
That said, Kony deserves every profanity in the English language and I hope he dies slowly and painfully.
—————————————————————————————————————————— *Black with hot pink polka dots and a lacy bow by the clasp which is in the front not the back because I enjoy experiencing my boyfriend’s momentary bewilderment. **Although for some reason, people in Bienen are the best cookie consumers. Sometimes I feel guilty because I should really tell them to save their money for when they’re starving artists and I’m relying on my non-music degree. But it’s all for the kids… right? ***Sherman Ave’s all about the psych terms. Right, Brother Jürgen? **** You’re not a bird. Neither of you are birds. Get out of the middle of the road. Stop that nonsense. You’re both neurotic and your sex scene was weird. Shave and move on. Where in this movie am I supposed to be crying? Oh, now you have to go and die together. Does that even happen? You suck.