BHS students support, question Kony 2012 campaign

Rachel Riley

A 27-minute video, recently gone viral, might just be the World Wide Web’s biggest hit since Rebecca Black’s infamous “Friday”. “Kony 2012,” a video created by the nonprofit organization Invisible Children, has exploded into internet fame in past weeks. The video introduces a campaign created to capture African warlord Joseph Kony by the end of this year. Aside from appearing all over Twitter Feeds and Facebook Timelines, the slogan “Kony 2012” has become a popular topic of conversation amongst Bearden students. “I knew about Invisible Children before this video but not specifically Joseph Kony,” said senior Kelsey Moldrup, an advocate of the campaign. While garnering over 100 million views on the internet, “Kony 2012” has received both criticism and praise, including the mixed opinions of those around the globe and here at BHS. The Mission The humanitarian film created by Invisible Children founder Jason Russell tells the horror story of one of the world’s most wanted. Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army or LRA, has kidnapped over 30,000 children in northern Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and southern Sudan for over 20 years. Turning the girls into “sex slaves” and the boys into “child soldiers,” Kony has built an army of innocent youth to maintain power. Supporters of Kony 2012 and Invisible Children will “cover the night,” or spend dusk until dawn blanketing every corner of the U.S. with Kony 2012 posters, on April 20. IC hopes to make the issue virtually impossible for the American public – and consequently, the American government – to ignore. “On April 20 th , I plan on participating in the ‘cover the night’ extravaganza by putting up signs, tweeting, and above all, praying,” Moldrup said. Founder of Equitas philanthropic organization and father of Bearden senior Luke Robinson, Mr. Lance Robinson has also voiced support for the mission. “Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 video has a targeted message and specific purpose to inform and raise awareness within a mainstream medium in order to put global attention on Joseph Kony and keep pressure on the international community (including but not limited to the U.S.) to stop him,” Mr. Robinson said. Concerns of the Masses However, IC has received a fair amount of criticism for the video. Is making Kony “famous” and foreign military intervention really what is best for Uganda and surrounding countries? “The tactics are at the very least questionable,” senior Ben Ramsey said. “Will it be effective in bringing one evil man to justice? Maybe, but killing one man will not solve the much larger problems that Uganda faces like famine and unclean water.” Some accuse IC of misuse of funds. As parody blog Visible Children points out, tax audits of the organization indicate that of the $8,676,614 spent by the organization, only 32% was spent on actual service work. Staff salaries, transportation, production of films, and other costs accounted for the remaining 68%. Critics have also argued that the video oversimplifies and the war in Central Africa and underlying issues. “You can’t blame them for having to simplify the matter for the many people out there who would not clearly understand the urgency or impact as well as making the video interesting enough to keep the attention of millions of people for 30 whole minutes,” Moldrup said. “I believe that though there may be some bumps in the campaign, the overall goal is admirable and gravely needed to save the lives of many African children that would not have a voice to cry for help without The Invisible Children.” Mr. Robinson agrees, commending Russell’s strategy to set an agenda for the greater good. “In my estimation, Jason Russell did a very good job in telling this story within the time frame allotted,” he said. “It may not be an all-encompassing look, but again, in my opinion, a targeted and adequate one.” Humanitarian Issues on the World Wide Web Though there is much disagreement about “Kony 2012,” no one can deny that it serves as yet another reminder of technology and social media’s increasing role in the spread of information. “The fact that some material may end up being more emotionally charged due to the way people share things is only a minor inconvenience [compared] to how wonderful the free flow of information is,” Ramsey said. But with the advent of new tools in communication comes responsibility. “The hunch is that a well-honed social media campaign that goes viral must be simplistic at best or deceptive at worst,” Mr. Robinson said. “We have to be careful and watch for distortions and organizations that promise too much. However, there are good organizations that use social media effectively and ethically.” At the very least, Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” raises awareness for a seemingly noble cause and asks more of the American public than simply “Which seat should I take?” Rachel Riley is the news editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.