If you haven’t yet watched the Kony 2012 video by now, or at the very least, seen that name splashed all over your Twitter and Facebook you probably haven’t been on the internet in the past three days. In the same way the “Internet” united, outraged, over SOPA and PIPA, or equally fervently to Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” Kony 2012 is one of those moments when we all feel the connection to one another via our digital lives with an intensity usually reserved for ridiculous memes or outrageous youtube vieos.
Kony 2012 first appeared in the form of an email to me from a year 10 student at 9pm on Tuesday night. She, like many others, watched the documentary and eagerly urged,
. . . but I just can’t not do anything about this and imagine how much NIST could help this program out! I understand that we have a lot of CAS activities going around, but this is too powerful too ignore!
I was in the middle of watching the video when another student called,
Ms Teresa, have you seen this Kony 2012 stuff? It’s blowing up. We have to do something about it. Can we put up posters at school tomorrow?
I watched as the Kony 2012 Night Sweep BKK group gained over 400 members in two hours, mostly international school students around Bangkok. Many of these were students who had recently attended the first annual Bangkok ServICE Conference hosted at NIST, which aimed to bring together student service leaders from 12 international schools to collaborate and take action. As of writing, the group now has well over 3000 members.
I was thrilled. Still high on the energy of the three-day conference that left all of us, teachers and students, buzzing with the excitement of what we can do together, this seemed to me like the perfect example of students using social networking for good; finally collaborating across schools to do something bigger, better, more meaningful, and with more impact in Bangkok.
I had no idea how big Kony 2012 would become. By the next morning, Kony 2012 was splashed all over my news feed from friends all over the world, the Bangkok Facebook group was reaching 600 members, and the video had gone completely viral. And with it, the criticisms.
It makes me exceedingly proud and hopeful that it was the same year 10 student who originally emailed me about Kony 2012 who first shared these criticisms with me, a day after the campaign had gone viral,
I honestly think Kony 2012 is a scam. Just look into it, I’ve been vising sites for the past few minutes and so many of them raise good points about Joseph Kony and about the Invisible Children foundation themselves. Although this is unfortunate, I really think Kony 2012 is a great idea because it raises awareness of Human Trafficking. I don’t want to bring the entire group in before you agree with me that these might be a scam. I don’t want to be the one breaking down all these brilliant ideas we had today.
First here: http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/post/18890947431/we-got-trouble
Just a site with people’s opinions: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120306231805AAppFMO
BUT THIS SITE IS THE MOST EFFICENT IN INFORMATION: http://ilto.wordpress.com/2006/11/02/the-visible-problem-with-invisible-children/ – especially the third paragraph.
I honestly don’t know what to believe because it is a lot of information to take in. So yeah, just check it out and tell me about what you think.
I had a sneaking suspicion that the Kony 2012 campaign was a bit too slick for its own good – but I’d brushed it all aside, caught up in the excitement of student action and feel-good nature of watching the world rally around a good cause. I am so proud of this student for being intelligent enough to follow up and investigate deeper. Since then, I”ve been reading up on various other articles, most relevantly this one from the“Visible Children” tumblr blog quoting various influential experts and their anti-Kony 2012 sentiments.
But here’s the thing: When the world, especially youth, rally around important issues such as child soldiers and human trafficking, it is important to direct their energies and excitement in a meaningful way without deflating their hope and optimism. They are not trying to be “the great white hope” or arm a questionable army. They want to save children and stop a bad man.
And who doesn’t?
So how do they do it? How do we do it?
It is moments like this that define a person’s belief in humanity and the ability of us collectively, and as individuals, to make an impact. To do good. And if the message we send back is, “Hey, actually, Uganda is old news, Kony is uncatchable, and your campaign posters just make you look naive,” then they will believe, like so many of us, that the world is broken and there is nothing we can do about it.
So what do we do?
I’ve looked more into Invisible Children. Yes, it is an organization with questionable finances. Yes, it lacks transparency. No, the majority of its money does not go to rehabilitate the very children around whom its campaigns rally.
However, what Invisible Children and Kony 2012 has done, which no one else has been able to do, is put the name of Joseph Kony out into the public. They’ve accomplished what they set out to, which is to bring infamy to this man, make him as famous as Lady Gaga or George Clooney, so that we will not stand idly by. Is, perhaps, he an old issue? Yes. Would this film, perhaps, been more relevant ten years ago? Yes. But the fact remains that now millions of people are at least aware of an issue that they weren’t before. And we should not take credit away from the significance of that.
And what to do with this excitement? This perhaps currently misdirected spirit of good-doing?
Here’s what I propose, for my Bangkok community:
- Capitalize on Kony 2012. Continue to put up posters and campaign. Make Kony known.
- Learn more, individually, about the issues. Read the counter-arguments against Kony 2012. Learn more about the LRA and what’s going on in Uganda. Decide where you personally stand.
- Use the fervor. On April 20th, let’s Cover the Night as planned. On April 21st, we will flashmob.
- Don’t buy their press kits. By all account, Invisible Children isn’t the organization we want to support financially; rather it’s the organization we want to support publically because they have the attention now.
- Produce our own Kony paraphernalia. Charity Palette, Bangkok’s own student-run organization, will design Kony t-shirts specific for Bangkok. Students are already busy designing bracelets and other posters.
- Use the money we raise to support an organization that work on this issue by more directly supporting the children rather than supporting awareness-raising. Awareness has been raised. Invisible children no longer needs our money. Based on very brief research, below are some possibilities that are ranked higher by Charity Navigator. Suggestions welcome, we still have over a month to research and decide on a good place to funnel donate our money:
It’s hard to do a good thing. This world is complicated, filled with different people’s own self-interests. We have to be wary so that our kind hearts are not taken for naivete, and yet we have to remain optimistic and believe in the power of the collective to do something good.
So, I thank the Kony 2012 campaign for giving us this collective feeling of wanting to make this world a better place. Quit making sarcastic comments about the MTV and youtube generations being naively caught up in wanting to do good, and help us actually do it.