Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

Human Interest: Helping or Hurting the Search for Kony?

Kony 2012 Film Goes Viral Drawing Awareness and Criticism

On 5 March 2012, Invisible Children, Inc. released a short film entitled Kony 2012, which subsequently went viral. During the first two weeks, the film received more than 104 million views online.

The film’s director and narrator, Jason Russell, tells of a young boy, Jacob, he met 10 years ago in a Ugandan camp. Just before Russell met Jacob, the boy had been running from the LRA. For 26 years, the LRA rebels have been abducting children from their homes, churches, and schools for use as child soldiers and sex slaves. If the children run or resist, they are killed. The abducted children are forced to kill their own parents and mutilate people’s faces and other body parts as a terror tactic to ensure the children submit to his power. The director said the intention behind the film is to make the world aware of Joseph Kony’s crimes and help bring him to justice.

Since the release of the film, many have criticized production of the film and the motives of the Kony 2012 Cover the Night campaign, along with the spending practices of the Invisible Children organization. A Huffington Post article also outlines the criticism for the group’s military action support:

“Invisible Children’s support for military action also has come under fire. Chris Blattman, assistant professor of political science and economics at Yale University, warned of the dangers of such advocacy. ‘The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming. The saving attitude pervades too many aid failures, not to mention military interventions. The list is long.'”

Foreign Affairs also points out US-based advocacy groups’ exaggeration of Joseph Kony as a uniquely evil figure. ‘They rarely refer to the Ugandan atrocities or those of Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army, such as attacks against civilians or looting of civilian homes and businesses, or the complicated regional politics fueling the conflict. (…) Nonetheless, it underlines the point that a superficial focus on the activities of one man and a few of his commanders largely sidesteps the point. Kony and his colleagues lead a dreadful but relatively small organization that punches above its weight. If achieving stability and relative prosperity in this blighted region of Africa is the real objective, devoting the month of November to the LRA will obviously not be anything like enough.”

Sources: Huffington Post, Foreign Affairs, Invisible Children, Vimeo, ABC News

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