There is no question that Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, is an evil man. There is no question that he deserves the title of beast—if beasts could conjure up such horrors.
The real question lies in the validity of the KONY 2012 campaign by the human rights advocacy group Invisible Children. Should we support it? Should we discredit it?
To be honest, I don’t know.
I cannot pretend to be an expert on African politics, nor have I familiarized myself intimately with the financials of Invisible Children. Like many, the first I heard of the situation in Uganda was when I watched the incredibly powerful video, directed by Jason Russell, in which he uses the innocent perspective of his son as a lens through which the Kony issue is viewed.
And, like many, I was moved. I spread it on every form of social media I had available: Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, carrier pigeon.
I didn’t stop at any point to question the facts presented in the video, or the fact that most of their “evidence” was anecdotal. As a journalist, both of those things should have been on my mind. But as a human being, all I could think of were the cries of Jacob as he recounted what he would say to his brother, who was killed by the LRA in front of him.
But without enough background knowledge, how can I form an opinion?
Without any understanding of the history of the Ugandan government or the conflicts in Central Africa, or of the reputation and mission of Invisible Children themselves, how can I judge the right course of action?
The truth is that I cannot, but the video doesn’t give viewers that option. In it the issue is clear: to stop Kony, we have to capture him. To capture him, the world has to know him. To show the world, we have to make him famous.
What a simple solution to an issue that denies simplicity.
The takeaway from this campaign is not that Joseph Kony must be stopped. It’s not that the Internet is a big place with a lot of people and when you present an argument in a way that simplifies it almost beyond recognition, that these people will get behind it by the millions.
It’s that we must begin to question everything.
We must questions motives, facts and testimonies. We cannot simply believe what we see, presented before us in such a beautiful package that we will throw not only our attention at it, but also our credit card numbers.
Nothing, especially on the Internet, is what it seems. Remember that every time you see a KONY 2012 poster, sticker or sign.
Nothing is what it seems.