By Contributor Daryl Geffken
Editor’s Note: Geffken first wrote about Kony 2012 on Wednesday. He wrote this as a follow-up in response to reader’s comments.
It has been interesting to see three waves of iteration on this campaign/viral/whatever hit over the last 24 hours.
Wave 1: Emotionally charged excitement and the desire to do something. Getting on board. It is interesting to note that the video went viral during about a six-hour window a few days after its release.
Wave 2: Kickback from those challenging the movement in some way or another. This has taken the form of Internet updates linking to a few blogs/posts/articles that criticize Invisible Children (IC) as a non-government organization (NGO) fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Points include: IC’s lack of transparency, lack of support from the Better Business Bureau, poor management of funds — specifically that roughly 39 percent of its budget ends up in “Africa” (more on that later). The more poignant form of challenge comes from those who argue the methodology employed by Invisible Children. Specifically, supporting official (and corrupt) authority in Uganda and supporting a violent resolution to the issue by “stopping Kony.” I greatly appreciate those who have articulated this. In my opinion, as a person that has worked with and in proximity to Invisible Children for a while, a high percentage of the counterpunch blogs I have researched lack substantive content, providing a form of insight that is misleading. Ironic, in a way, because that is the very thing IC is accused of doing. Perhaps more importantly to me, many of the people utilizing these links are justifying their stance on one or two pieces of documentation found by an Internet search — eerily similar to the very phenomenon they are critiquing as an emotionally based response that relies on a single manipulative source.
Wave 3: Counter response. This has taken the form of reminding people from either extreme that many people will pursue information and assess their activity, seeking out the legitimacy of critique, or mere frustration. I can understand the third, but can only support the first two. For me, it is important to see what Invisible Children has done in response to the critique. They have provided an explanation for many of the topics of critique issued against them. This is commendable and verifiable. This satisfies me regarding many of the issues. It may not satisfy you.
I see the challenge that some are issuing regarding the methodology of Invisible Children. Perhaps the three strongest arguments are the suggestion that this is a form of “white savior complex,” the need to challenge the use of violent tactics to remove Joseph Kony, and the complexity of bringing transformation to a region where opposing combatants are literally family members (How do you sort through the issues of stopping an army composed of your own sons?). These are deeper issues that form the true complexity of how to bring peace to this region as well as establish a more egalitarian global community.
That being said, IC is about as close to the situation as anyone else (even though academics have studied it with a niche expertise). I think that its proximity and its ability to bring up the issue can force others to weigh in and bring nuanced complexity and wisdom to the issue — others, such as academics who would have had very little voice otherwise. Working on a college campus, I have a hard time criticizing a movement that effectually started this many conversations, real conversations about what to do next. Some peripheral mudslinging is going on, yes. And there are some real idiots voicing up. But sincere effort is being made to advance the conversation. In the previous 24 hours, I have had deep conversations with people from nine different campuses in the northwest. Half of them I met for the first time today. That would not have happened at this rate without IC. So challenge the cause and its methodology, but don’t dismiss it or justify a lack of activity.
What do you think?