In the few hours since I posted about Kony 2012 I’ve gotten responses from multiple people criticizing Invisible Children and after reading pro-, anti-, and ‘commentary’, my opinion is this:
The topics I talk about and which exist in this (very complicated) world are complicated and people can argue for and against a course of action and still not be wrong.
Kony should be brought to justice – Right
Spreading information – Right, as long as the information is right?
We should manipulate people to do so – Wrong ish?
Abducting and raping young children – Wrong
Trampling Ugandan agency – Wrong… unless it works…ish? Maybe?
These lines are not clear and we won’t know the harm and hurt caused by Kony 2012 for a long time to come.
For now I know a few things.
The approach of Kony 2012 is not perfect. The information is unclear, outdated and highly oversimplified. Their moving video can be called manipulative and tells young white americans with 30 bucks to spare that they can solve major world problems without leaving their computer screens and also that this is the most pressing social issue on the planet right now.
On the other hand because Kony 2012 simplifies their message enough to reach the lowest common denominator, they reach… everybody.
Sometimes I plan a post about female characters in movies and get upset because I want to say that women shouldn’t be portrayed as wanting only money, but also that they should be portrayed as people with flaws and desires, and then I want to cap it all off with a complete history of the transformation of female characters in film from the complex Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca to the complete caricature of Katherine Heigl in The Ugly Truth while stopping along the way to pay heed to Feminist Frequency’s Tropes V. Women in other forms of media like graphic novels. But if I did all that I wouldn’t really make any points at all and you, dear reader, would probably be left more confused than enlightened. It’s because of this that I understand why Kony 2012 would choose to oversimplify the situation in the hopes of reaching a wider audience.
And if their goal is to spark a conversation then spark a conversation they did. Perhaps the best thing to come out of Kony 2012 will not be the capture of a man hiding in the woods with a dwindling army, perhaps it will be the the dialogue we’re starting right now, a dialogue that results in creative young minds who yesterday didn’t know such horrors existed in this world getting interested and involved and coming up with new and innovative ways to solve the world’s problems.
I guess my biggest problem with the people who criticize Invisible Children is that they don’t have any better suggestions. Yes, Invisible Children has failed to bring Kony home today. Yes, they can be called misleading, uninformed, manipulative and oversimplified. But today you know who Joseph Kony is and yesterday you didn’t so the one thing they can’t be called is ineffective.