How I feel about the campaign to raise awareness about Joseph Kony, and why I won’t simply call this post “Kony 2012”

I know people thought I’d be all over this the second I became aware of it, but I needed to think about it for awhile. Something in my heart doesn’t sit right about “making Joseph Kony famous.”

If you’re reading this, then you obviously have the internet, and have therefore come across some reference to Invisible Children’s campaign to raise awareness about Joseph Kony and the LRA. If you’ve just seen “Kony 2012” in a comment on some unrelated YouTube video, and don’t actually know what it’s about – a charity has started a campaign to raise as much awareness as possible about a man named Joseph Kony, who has lead the Lord’s Resistance Army and commited unspeakable crimes against men, women and children for 25-odd years (this is going off solely what I already knew about him, as I can’t Google it without 10 pages about this campaign coming up). The theory is that if heaps of people know about him, something will be done to stop him.

When I first saw a reference to this campaign come through my news feed on Facebook (or whatever the heck it’s called now), I honestly was just a little bit suprised that there were people who didn’t know about Kony and the LRA. I see a lot of people acting like it’s something that we’ve not known about until now, a lot of comments about how good it is that we have so much communication technology because now we can act to stop stuff like this. It’s been 25 years, guys, and it hasn’t been a secret. Ever seen Casino Royale? The music video for Fall Out Boy’s I’m Like a Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off? The episode of Law and Order:SVU entitled Hell? I know we all reach a stage in life where we become aware of issues like this, and I know that if you’ve never been exposed to something then you can’t really be expected to know about it. But at some point, you’ve got to realise that the world outside of ourselves is huge, and you’ve got to educate yourself about that world. If this is your first exposure to international politics, then please, don’t be one of those people who just jumps on the bandwagon of every sensationalist campaign and thinks that, therefore, they’re educated and political. Yes, it’s good that communication technology is now of such a standard that we can so easily find out about issues such as this, but 25 years is far, far too long. If we don’t start taking responsibility for the world around us of our own accord – and not just because a celebrity tells us to on Twitter – we can never expect change to happen as quickly as it should.

This whole thing kind of reminds me of that status that comes up all the time on Facebook, saying something like “Cancer is awful. If you know someone who has fought cancer, repost this to raise awareness. If you don’t repost it, it shows that you like cancer.” It just seems like something to repost because it shows that you care about stuff. Like typing “Kony 2012” every chance you get on the internet makes you seem really with-it and involved. On the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of my friends who wouldn’t usually get involved with issues such as this educate themselves about it, and that’s a really good thing. However…

I just feel that this campaign is somewhat insensitive to those who have suffered at the hands of the LRA. Yes, it is good that awareness has been raised. But I feel that the sensationalism and intentional marketing that is happening cheapens what has been done. The best way I can think of to describe it is to invite Americans to imagine, shortly after 9/11, a campaign coming out that involved t-shirts, bracelets, status updates, etc declaring “Bin Laden 2001” and “Make Bin Laden Famous.” Offended because I made reference to an extremely painful part of American history and cheapened it with sensationalism? Then I got my point across. Suffering should not be used as a marketing campaign.

I’m also concerned that making Kony famous perhaps isn’t going to have the positive effect people are expecting it to have. In fact, I think that it will probably cause more suffering. It’s as if people actually think that Kony is going to go “Oh, now everyone knows about me, I guess I’d better stop it,” or that the American government is just going to go and arrest him and execute him and that will be it. This isn’t a schoolyard bully and you just need to tell the teacher on him. I don’t know for certain, but I’d hazard a guess that if I knew about Kony and the LRA prior to this campaign, then Obama probably did too. And I’m fairly sure that the world governments know a little bit more about how to deal with this kind of stuff then we plebs do. The consequences of this campaign could potentially be quite… negative, I guess.

It’s so hard, because I agree with raising awareness, but not necessarily with how it was done in this case.

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2 thoughts on “How I feel about the campaign to raise awareness about Joseph Kony, and why I won’t simply call this post “Kony 2012”

  1. I agree with you Courtney. When the video started rolling around the internet, I was sad that there were people who had never heard of the suffering over in Uganda, it blew my mind. So yes maybe it did raise some awareness but with things like this I always tend to wonder what exactly will be accomplished? Which may sound harsh as some may argue at least they are doing something. I don’t know I just have also felt uncomfortable about this whole thing and have often wondered, what about the people he has directly affected, how would they feel about a campaign that “makes kony famous?”…. Anyways good blog!

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