Some questions on the Stop Kony video

Everyone’s getting very excited about this ‘Stop Joseph Kony’ video that is going viral right now. But there are some serious questions that are being asked in response to it by many commentators. Having read some of those criticisms, I was unsure what really to make of it all. I really liked the video, and you can’t deny how powerful it was. 37 million views in a couple of days! Even while I was writing this out, its had a few more million hits…Amazing!!!!!!!!!!

So I decided to post some of those links criticising the video’s flaws on my Facebook and see what the response was.  I get a few comments after a while, and one in particular calling me a conspiracy theorist but mainly saying why can’t we appreciate the good its trying to do. A fair comment. Naturally, I decided to respond to this, but my response became a bit long and I decided what the hell, let me just put a post up about this so everyone can see and share their thoughts. So the following is some thoughts and questions I have at the moment about it all…  Feel free to add your own and to correct me.

I will put my hands up from the get go – I don’t completely understand it all either (yet), hence I posted these links encouraging people to question and look deeper, and make up their own minds after doing so. I am glad that you have taken up the time to do that, as most probably won’t. I’ve still to make up my mind on the whole thing, and this was another reason for my post – to see what people think and what their views are.

You are right. I wholly agree that it is great to see everyone coming together, using that power for said good cause and sincerely promoting that cause to raise awareness so that things can change. It is an inspiring thing to see from that perspective, and great to see how many people care. This video has gotten 37 million views in a couple of days and it’s still going. Wow. Be interesting to see how many views it ends up with and it’s great so many people are seeing this. But there are still some things that don’t sit right. So let’s analyse further.

Let me first deal with your main criticism towards me – the ”Kesh is a conspiracy theorist’ line of argument you put across, thereby trying to discredit anything I say or post. Lets assume, that you are right (because you know me so well) and your judgement is completely correct. What does that mean? Being labelled as a conspiracy theorist means I’m someone that after watching some YouTube videos probably believes in things like the illuminati, the NWO, aliens, chemtrails, etc etc. Basically that I’m very paranoid about what goes on around me in the world and base my views on questionable info and sources. How does that take anything away from the sources I posted? I have nothing to do with them, their information, the arguments they present or the sources and information they use. I haven’t added anything to their argument apart from ‘look deeper everyone and decide for yourself’. As I said before, I posted some sources of info and told you to decide for yourself. So that point goes out of the window.

Next up. Why can’t we appreciate the good in it and why do we have to find the flaws? … Erm. As opposed to what exactly? Not questioning anything and swallowing it whole? Because its a ‘good cause’ that ‘raises awareness’ we should turn off our rational thinking faculty? Yes. It is well intentioned and it does raise awareness because of the publicity. But what else does it do and what else DOESN’T it do? Complex issues have complex answers. And the world is not black and white. In the same way, this KONY thing is not as black and white as FIRST SEEMS. So let me summarise for you, the ‘grey areas’ and again, you decide for yourself.

1.) Okay it raises awareness. Then what? You watch the video, share it because you believe in the message and go to the event, plaster posters everywhere saying KONY KONY KONY KONY. And everyone knows about it. You also give some money and buy some of the cool t-shirts and bracelets and make donations.

2.) Now what happens? Don’t you think the problems and solutions presented in the video are a bit easy? We put up posters and bang, a revolution just ‘happens’ in Uganda. Why is the focus of the video on us? As opposed to say, the citizens and people of Uganda? Why can’t they solve their problems themselves? Why do they need us, to swoop in and ‘rescue’ them? Is that how the world works? Is that what happens in your own life? Is it better for someone to learn to swim and not drown and be self sufficient. Or is it better if they become reliant on other people’s aid? Which situation will help them most?

3.) Military intervention. Which is what the video seems to hint at. Let me quote the film (at 14 mins in). “When my friends and I came home, we thought if the government knew, they would do something to stop him. Everyone in washington we talked to said – there is no way the United States will ever get involved in a conflict where our national security or financial interests aren’t at stake”. So lets strip away the rhetoric (another dangerous thing – I suggest you read George Orwell: Politics & The English Language for reasons why) and make clear what he said. The government doesn’t care if children are being abducted, raped, killed, abused in a far off land unless there is a selfish gain for them to achieve from it. I.e Monetary or financial gain or ‘national’ interests. What does ‘national’ interests even mean anyway? Another phrase we hear so much of, that has no real meaning. Again, see the Orwell essay for why.

4.) What else, apart from giving money, putting up posters and sharing a video does this all encourage YOU to do? Does it encourage you to read about the politics and issues affecting Uganda? Does it get you to think about relations between the US and Uganda? Or even the US and the continent of Africa? I think it inspires you, yes. I got goosebumps watching this, and it really does motivate you. But does it inform you? or give you a skewed, unfinished picture of the real stakes at play? Do they want their audience to be well informed, educated citizens who can understand the whole picture or half informed, half educated people who see SOME of the picture?

5.) YES. Kony is a bad guy. But bad guys don’t just pop up and survive and prosper in countries JUST LIKE THAT. How has he managed to evade capture for so long? How has he become powerful enough to do that? How has he got weapons? Where did those weapons come from? Who did he buy them from? They didn’t end up there by accident. And the world isn’t just full of clear cut ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ guys. It’s full of good people that are good some of the time. Or bad people that are bad most of the time and sometimes good. I could go on, but you get my idea. Viewing Kony very simply as a ‘bad’ guy – what does this appeal to? Our humanity or our prejudice? There are no bad and good guys. Just good human beings and better human beings. We’re complex beings, we should keep that in mind. Not at all defending him but just making note of that. Can you categorise your Facebook friends into clear groups of bad and good? If not, then what makes you think you could do that elsewhere?

6.) Meanwhile, our attention is focused right now on this KONY business. But what else is going in the world? Who are the other bad guys? What about DR Congo where more people have died in a war over minerals than in the Second World War say? (the same minerals that made my iPhone, my laptop, etc that I use) Whos the bad guys there? What about what’s happening in Syria, Palestine, Libya, Sudan, Somalia? What about the ‘bad guy’ who we ignored for decades, that we gave weapons to, Mr. Saddam Hussein? What about the bad guys from Fallujah, where babies are so deformed from the nuclear fallout that they have two heads? Where is the awareness for that? If we really care. If we are so passionate, we can’t just focus on one issue and call it a day. Shouldn’t we stop injustice every time it rears its ugly head? Whereever that is, and whenever that is? Shouldn’t we be consistent? What about the bad guys that went to university for free and then tripled the fees for our generation? What about the bad guys that are after Julian Assange for making governments more open? What about Bradley Manning? Alfie Meadows? The bad guys that killed Mark Duggan? Or Smiley Culture?

7.) Kony hasn’t been in Uganda for 5 years. Their govt asked for help decades ago. Why is this becoming focused on and of interest all of a sudden?

8.) How much do you really care? Do you care enough to pick up a book everyday and read about global issues? Or is this just for show, because its current trend and the information was given to you in a 30 minute video, with a cute little boy in it, epic background music and images of revolution and it being cool and fun? Is revolution and change really that easy? Is it really just about having fun? or is it built on years of struggle, perseverance, blood, sweat, tears – years of screaming and shouting? Is anything ever that easy? Was it easy for you to get a degree/GCSE/A-level/whatver? Or did you have to work for it over a period of time? Will people still care in six months time? What about in ten years? Will you all still be making tyrants famous then? Or is your hate being whipped up into a frenzy for some other reason?

Raising awareness doesn’t save countries, sustainable solutions over long periods of time do. Military intervention doesn’t rid the world of evil dictators, education, proper justice systems do. Even if we stop KONY, what makes you think another one won’t appear? What makes you think that his deputies, the rest of his armies, won’t take his place? Prevention is better than cure.

The guy in the video said it himself. We don’t just go to countries because we feel bad and want to help them. So why do we suddenly want to go to Uganda? What’s so special about Uganda? Did we go to Iraq/Afghanistan because we genuinely cared that things were bad? We have to view this in the context of history.

Complex questions have complex answers. I don’t apologise for the epic essay/rant/post whatever you want to call it. I have a lot to say, because I genuinely care – Just like you do. I post a lot of things, because I hate to see things like this happening – Just like you do. There is a lot going on, and frankly, I still don’t get it all – Just like you. I want the world to change and I want it to be so much better. So with that in common, after all the BS, all the hype and the politics and the differences, what can WE do? Right now. What can we do right here, at home in our local communities? Issues and problems are everywhere, and so are solutions. You just have to be passionate and patient enough to find them and see them through. It’s one thing to post a video and proclaim the values it preaches when they are criticised, but quite another to pick up a book and inform yourself on different views. It’s quite another to start trying to implement solutions, especially when you will be criticised and ignored because you’re not doing something ‘cool’ or popular. Its not about what you say or do, its about the choices that you make, everyday of your life.

I hope that my reply does not come across as arrogant or malicious in any way. It’s not meant to be. I just care that much that I spent this long trying to explain my position to you. I’m not a conspiracy theorist mate, I’m a human being. I admire the creativity of the KONY video and campaign. But all that glitters is not gold. The video is not completely wrong, you are right about that. But it is not completely right either, we can’t forget that. That’s why we have to burst this bubble of idealism. As they said themselves, and something they are definitely right about –

“Where you live, shouldn’t determine whether you live. We were committed to stop Kony and rebuild what he had destroyed. And because we couldn’t wait for institutions or governments to step in, we did it ourselves.”

So yes, let’s stop Kony. Let’s do it ourselves. But more importantly, lets stop any and all injustice big or small. Let’s extend their idea and use it first off in our own lives, and then in our own communities and societies.

The hashtag shouldn’t just read Stop Kony, but Stop Injustice. Everywhere, all of the time.

***************************************

Some sources/views on the Stop Kony video and campaign:

http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/03/07/stop-kony-yes-but-dont-stop-asking-questions/

http://ericswanderings.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/invisible-children-and-joseph-kony/

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/136673/mareike-schomerus-tim-allen-and-koen-vlassenroot/obama-takes-on-the-lra?page=2

http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/reality-check-with-polly-curtis/2012/mar/08/kony-2012-what-s-the-story

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-news-blog/2012/mar/07/kony-2012-video-viral-invisible-children?newsfeed=true

http://ilto.wordpress.com/2006/11/02/the-visible-problem-with-invisible-children/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/sep/01/ken-loach-save-the-children

http://innovateafrica.tumblr.com/

http://www.twitpic.com/8t4lgb

http://bitly.com/bundles/o_4mv4lplu8i/4

http://www.johnpilger.com/articles/the-son-of-africa-claims-a-continents-crown-jewels

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/03/07/guest_post_joseph_kony_is_not_in_uganda_and_other_complicated_things

http://endthelie.com/2011/10/22/african-ping-pong-us-plays-both-sides-in-uganda/#axzz1oT3EjZX5

http://i.imgur.com/K3mgn.jpg

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3558063396742&set=o.378965988794659&type=1&ref=nf

http://rt.com/news/koni-viral-video-campaign-133/

And this is what the Occupy movement posted on their FB earlier: ****De-bunking the Kony2012 ‘Invisible Children’ Campaign****

The Kony2012 ‘Invisible Children’ campaign is but another front for a foreign venture into a military campaign that DOES NOT serve the interest of the Ugandan citizens.

Lobbying politicians to militarily intervene is doing the leg work for well paid lobbying groups who do exactly the same! And the arms manufacturers and PMC’s will profit, happily. This campaign is a ploy and even the legitimacy of those involved in Invisible Children has been brought to question – unanswered.

There is a hysteria building around this Invisibly Children campaign don’t fall for it, do your own research; numerous aid workers, activist blogs etc explicitly show the second side to this story. The information in the video is outdated by years and is dangerous propaganda.

Kony is a tyrant, so is Obama, so is Cameron, so is Netanyahu, so is Assad and so is Ahmadinejad.. but Kony is being isolated and scapegoated for the purpose of intervention – and intervention serves the interests of Corporations. This is all about cold, blood drenched money.

The questions we should be asking our politicians are where did these dictators get their weapons and training from in the first place, who put these guys in place? They are General Pinochet’s of yesterday and Mustafa Abdul Jalil’s of tommorow, homegrown dictators, they are, ‘Our bastards!’.

http://www.worldstarhiphop.com/videos/video.php?v=wshhEk16p80re9j8X31h

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/uganda/9131469/Joseph-Kony-2012-growing-outrage-in-Uganda-over-film.html

http://riseresistandrevolt.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/the-problem-with-kony-invisible-children-and-other-charities/

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6 responses to “Some questions on the Stop Kony video

  1. I was half-joking about the conspiracy theorist comment, partly to lighten the mood of my post but also based on stuff you’ve posted in the past. Maybe I should’ve added a smiley face.

    You ask “Why is the focus of the video on us? As opposed to say, the citizens and people of Uganda? Why can’t they solve their problems themselves? Why do they need us, to swoop in and ‘rescue’ them?” — which you answered yourself in point 7 —- “Kony hasn’t been in Uganda for 5 years. Their govt asked for help decades ago.”

    While I don’t usually agree with the US arrogantly interfering with other countries’ problems, if they ask for help surely we have a moral obligation to step in? Secondly I’m assuming Uganda don’t have the money that this charity can provide. If they could solve this problem themselves, would they not have already?

    Your point 3) – the US government have nothing to gain from Uganda, but Obama still sent some troops. Whether or not this is a good thing, it proves that the charity’s efforts made an impact.

    I don’t know where he gets his guns from. Probably the West. If I could help to raise awareness of who is responsible for that and bring him to justice as well I would too, but selling guns unfortunately is not illegal.

    “There are no good or bad guys – only good human beings and better human beings.” – so Kony is which…?

    Yes, our attention right now is focused on this one ‘bad guy’. Everyone knows there are other bad guys out there (although I wouldn’t class Nick Clegg and David Cameron in the same category as Kony and Saddam Hussein, as you have). No one is saying the others are any less bad, but by saying “shouldn’t we be consistent”, are you implying that people should take an all-or-none approach to who they oppose?

    Raising awareness alone doesn’t save countries. But millions of people who didn’t even know this problem existed 2 days ago, are now aware and are able to lobby governments who CAN intervene and bring about change.

    • I know, don’t worry – didn’t take that personally but it was relevant to our discussion so I had to clarify a few things. And my point was – don’t make assumptions. I don’t fit into that box. Be open minded and consider the points I make before you rush to a judgement about how or what I am.

      Onto your first point then. Their government asked for help decades ago, but we didn’t respond. But the situation since has changed. Kony is not even in Uganda, so why would anyone go there to catch him? The point I was making was, the emphasis is placed on us saving them in the video. As many of the links I have posted say, (again I don’t want repeat what you presumably have already read) why not focus on the efforts their own people have been making. If we want to help, I think we can find a better means. I think you will agree with this, as there are other charities that don’t take have so many question marks hanging over their financial activities, their salaries and what percentage of donations actually reach the intended projects and groups.

      Your second point is naive, especially when considered against the context of history and particularly so when it comes to intervention. Has it ever been that simple? We should help, and ideally I would like to put my support behind that but as the video says – Govts only intervene if there is something to gain from it. We all know nothing in this life is free. Same goes here. Hence, we should question why the west is so keen to ‘help’ in Africa. As the reputable journalist John Pilger, and Naomi Klein have both previously stated (the Pilger article again has already been posted). Don’t let the guise of political rhetoric con you. And interesting that this follows after the events taking place in Libya. Be careful, it may be well intentioned on your part, but can we say the same of the politicians? The same one who promised to close Guantanamo on being elected? Let’s not forget what happened there too, under the name of the American people.

      The charities efforts have certainly made an impact. Were those impacts positive/constructive to the cause? And to what extent were they positive/negative? I agree, as I said before, that it is great more people know about Joseph Kony, but don’t you get it. Why is this coming to our attention now? The crucial issue here is what we DO pay attention and what we DON’T. Again, just look through the pages of history to see which tyrants come to the fore when and why. I don’t know how far this goes, but that doesn’t mean I won’t question it. When the legitimacy of the charity is called into question, we must be careful with how much we buy into this whole KONY 2012 thing. Having studied English Lit, and in particular a module on Film narrative for my degree, there are lots of interesting things about how the narrative of this video has been constructed, leading me to question the filmmaker’s choices. They made an impact, but as they said in the video – we cannot rely on these governments. We need to do it ourselves. This is the same government that wants the arrest of a man who tried to make their activities more open. If this is how they treat Bradley Manning – who was put in solitary confinement for 10 months without trial, then how do you think they will treat Joseph Kony? What about the manner in which some of the Iraqi people were treated? Or Afghanistan? Military intervention is a complete no-no in my book for these reasons. We have been fed lies before is what I’m saying. What happened to the weapons of mass destruction that were never found? Have you seen ‘The war you don’t see’ by John Pilger. The media can hardly be relied on either (as we again are seeing with the News of the World/Rupert Murdoch events in recent news)

      Next point. Guns. We give them guns with one hand (this is by no means a conspiracy or anything secret – the UK census was carried out by an arms company who now have access to our details and a £150 million cheque for their services, I could go on…) and by doing so fuel these conflicts knowing where they will end up. These guys aren’t stupid. And on the other we give aid (which has to be paid back with interest), and parade values like freedom and democracy. But only OUR model of these things otherwise, you only need to ask Hugo Chavez of Venezuala or Fidel Castro of Cuba what happens. It’s not illegal, but it is hypocritical and highly immoral. Especially when the guys who run this charity, are posing for a laugh with a gun in each hand.

      Bad guys & human beings – Kony is which you ask? I think you should answer that for yourself. We can demonise him all day, but seeds don’t grow by themselves, they need soil, nurturing, sun, water etc. He is the symptom of a problem, one that needs to be tackled at the root. Kill him, and as I said, another one will just sprout up.

      Well I wasn’t classing Cameron & Clegg (or intending to, but I see how you could have read that in hindsight now) in the same bracket as Saddam and Kony, just pointing out that we are by no means perfect and let’s look a little closer to home before we look at leaders abroad and chastise them. My point is that no one is innocent in this and we all have a role and responsibility to play. Complex issues, complex answers. By saying ‘shouldn’t we be consistent’ I am asking – not saying – whether we should apply this as a maxim to our lives, and not to the whimsical urge manufactured by a youtube video which will be forgotten eventually. By saying ‘shouldn’t we be consistent’ I am asking myself too, if we really are living these high ideals we preach. Because if we really believe in change, if we really believe in justice and freedom, we need to become living embodiments of those things. Be the change, as Gandhi famously said.

      You are right, but only somewhat. Millions of people are aware, but only very slightly. 37 million people can watch a 30 minute youtube video and suddenly we know how to solve Uganda’s problems? Becoming aware is one thing, becoming educated and informed is another. And then putting that knowledge into action is another. What can 37 million do, if they don’t understand the issues?

      I get totally where you’re coming from though and I see why you make the comments you have. I’m sat here criticising and pointing fingers at people who are making a real difference, regardless of the arguments. I know all too well how easy it is for people to stand back and make criticisms, but its so much harder to walk the walk. So let me be constructive and offer a suggestion. Between now and April 20th, everyone who is really serious about this, who is passionate and inspired enough by this, should read 5 books on Uganda and its politics. Then after the event is over, every group in every city should sit down for one or two hours and discuss what is going on there, and what the best thing we can do to help them is. Without the risk of military intervention and political opportunists getting their claws on Uganda’s natural resources or otherwise. And then hand in hand with this, each group should turn their attention to their own communities. What can they do to make them better? What problems do they face?

      Don’t know how good my suggestion is, might be totally rubbish but cursing the darkness never solves anything. We need to become candles.

  2. Pingback: Some questions on the Stop Kony video | ïNtombi·

  3. Thanks for this post. I definitely agree with what you are saying. I have been talking about this subject a lot lately with my mother so hopefully this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!

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