Viral phenomena 'Kony 2012' not a total waste
Despite criticism, the Invisible Children film has raised significant funds and awareness
Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
A 30-minute YouTube video produced by the Invisible Children foundation has been seen by a staggering 100 million people over the past several weeks. The viral world has been strategically hit by the awareness of an unfortunately devastating fight to find the warlord in hiding, Joseph Kony.
“The video is a good idea, but I did my research after I watched it,” said DePaul freshman Gabrielle LaHue. “It definitely dumbs down the conflict. People watch it and repost and think they're an activist, but they're not doing anything.”
With the onset of social media, it just so happens that Kony 2012 is just one out of what could easily be dozens of videos aiming to achieve any type of reaction. The questions are will the awareness achieve anything positive, and are we accurately informed about what is going on?
“It has good intentions, but what people don't see is that the problem isn't that simple,” said Tiffany Palermo, a senior at the University of Illinois Chicago. “People are learning about the conflict in a social media kind of way, not in a realistic way.”
Despite the way in which people have learned about the Kony conflict, the first couple weeks of the video's release saw more than 3.5 million people sign the pledge committed to bringing Kony to justice. Furthermore, action kits priced at $30 filled with signs, posters, and bracelets have been bought by more than 500,000 people.
Since the release of the video, the Invisible Children organization has been amply criticized.
Issues include oversimplifying a complex issue, questionable spending practices, and a general misrepresentation of the actual situation.
“Honestly, if more of the money went to actually helping the people in Africa, it would be a little different, but that's not what is happening,” said Palermo.
Invisible Children organizers admit that yes, around 37 percent of their earnings are going to African-related problems, and around 63 percent to salaries, overhead and awareness programs, which includes air fares for the transport of more than 150 people and the costs of making the video. Furthermore, Invisible Children has also clarified that they are not an aid organization; they are an advocacy and awareness organization.
“It's good that people are aware,” said LaHue. “But I doubt any real action will result. There's no economic interest for the U.S. to get involved, we're not going to spend money to send troops there to find this guy.”
Surprisingly enough, politicians have been responding. Obama recently deployed 100 military advisers to Uganda and surrounding areas, and other political and well-known figures like Oprah Winfrey have been speaking out. Though the issue is not simple, organizers behind the Invisible Children campaign insist that Kony 2012 is not in any sense a 'slacktivist' organization. But, they also are not an organization that claims to be delivering food and shoes, like many people have criticized them for.
While the Invisible Children organization is by no means an example of nonprofit perfection, as the organization’s co-founder Jason Russell has so amply demonstrated, the fact is that more people than ever are now aware of some sort of problem going on Africa. Does everyone who reposted “Kony 2012” know the intricate details of an extremely complex war that has been going on for years? No. But isn’t some awareness better than none? And even the video’s critics cannot deny that some action has resulted from the film’s broadcast.
Critique where criticism is due, but it’s also important to give credit where credit is due.