Recently, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been bombarded with statuses, updates, support, and disagreement from around the world regarding (the now) infamous Joseph Kony. Just a few years ago – for many, even just a few months – this man and the insidious actions to which he has inflicted on the innocent lives of the Ugandan people was completely unknown. However, the original work of three filmmakers, and now the continuous support of millions of people from around the world, have changed that.
Joseph Kony is leader of an oppressive force in Uganda called the Lord’s Resistance Movement, or the LRA. This group was originally the Holy Spirit Movement, led by Alice Lakwena, whose purpose was to end the government oppression prevalent in northern Uganda. However, when she was exiled, Kony claimed leadership and the LRA was created. Since gaining power the LRA has abducted over 30,000 children throughout Uganda; the males being used as child soldiers and the females often sold as sex slaves. At the peak of these terrors the children were forced to commute by night to the city centers in order to avoid abduction. Despite his ever-increasing violence and infliction of terror over the last 20 years, only recently has his name become recognizable.
In his line of original films supporting the Invisible Children Inc., Jason Russell, amateur filmmaker and humanitarian, emphasizes our generation’s ability to win the war for peace through its global, borderless communication methods. Human compassion has taken a trans-oceanic, trans-continental, multi-faceted approach to creating one of the largest campaigning networks for peace. Through “likes”, hash tags, blogs, and commentary, individuals of all ages are discussing engaging in political, economic, and humanitarian discussion online in order to discover where they lie on this debate concerning the monetary purposes of Invisible Children Inc. Various people are questioning the way that Invisible Children Inc.’s profits from merchandise are actually being spent. Russell’s “action packs,” sold on the organization’s website, include a KONY 2012 bracelet, a T-shirt, an action guide, stickers, a button, and posters all donning the KONY 2012 campaign design for $30. Individual merchandise is also sold on their website declaring that the profits go to helping the abused children under Kony’s wrath. Worries of how the Ugandan government is spending U.S government funds are also under attack. Large portions of the profits are being used for staff salaries, transport, travel, and film. Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony – a brutal man, to be sure – as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” Authors of blogs and articles against the IC organization all agree that Kony is an evil man, but disagree with the tactics of the organization.
Who do we have to thank? Not the big name media corporations, Anderson Cooper nor the U.S government as a whole. It began with three ordinary young adults looking for a story with a camera in tow. And it, very well, may end with the help of the 300 million plus people on Facebook recognizing the incredible ability of this social networking site to not only connect people from various backgrounds, but to inspire compassion for a common cause. Strangers are joining together to create events in their local cities in support of raising awareness of Joseph Kony.
I believe what is really astounding is that citizens have taken the initiative to decide for themselves whether they agree with Invisible Children Inc.’s handling of Kony and the LRA. For all of the recognizable support of IC Inc., one must be aware of the counter arguments, as well. All around the world, people are researching the IC’s use of funds, the Ugandan military tactics of capture, and most of all, where the money being sent through PayPal is actually going. This initiative is very different from the past when privileged individuals, especially in such a country as the United States, have been known to see an upsetting infomercial on abused animals or YouTube video about ill children and unquestionably donate to the cause without thinking about the organization behind bloodied photo frames.
This is a new age- an age where the blog post of a well versed college undergrad may have the same effect on your judgment of international affairs as an article on the same topic by a journalist at CNN or the New York Times. The days of top-down journalism, the hypodermic needle and wide-eyed ingestion of any news story thrown through your television set are over.
Most importantly, the increase of bottom-up journalism marks an end to political discussions and international news dominated solely by big business media and the beginning of a knowledgeable global exchange conducted by, well, us!