Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yet Another #StopKONY Post...

In case you've been living under a rock for the past two weeks, a video profiling Joseph Kony - a rebel warlord from Uganda who's been on a murderous rampage for the last 20 years - has become the single most viral video in the history of cyberspace.

Here it is...

The first stage of the viral process was characterized by legions of social media users, inspired by the video, sharing links and posting statuses to raise general awareness about Kony.

The second stage was a traditional media critique of the video, reporting on the inaccuracies of some of the video's details and highlighting the journalistic flaws and financial interests of its creators. Others began arguing that the video was promoting slacktivism - the idea that tweeting or sharing on social networks will somehow solve the problem, sucking away people's motivation from doing more.

Finally, a third stage has most recently arisen whereby another wave of social media users is expressing its cynicism about the entire issue. As one Twitter user put it, "One more week and everyone will forget about kony2012". Some have even wondered aloud if KONY 2012 was a scam.

I'm going to take this opportunity, for once, to NOT play devil's advocate. Why the need for such cynicism?

Dan Pallotta from the Harvard Business Review hit the nail on the head with his critique of the critics. It's absurd that the organization that produced the video, Invisible Children, is being criticized for 1) not also highlighting more bad guys in Uganda, 2) not injecting the fact that Kony's forces are rather weakened at the moment in Congo, 3) spending too much money raising awareness about Kony instead of diverting it towards other things, and 4) making it harder to capture Kony by spotlighting him.

Let's get a few things straight. No one - not a single voice on the planet right now - is actually questioning whether the actions the video attributes to Joseph Kony are true. They are, and that's indisputable. Also, the criticisms being thrown at Invisible Children are akin to giving someone who just donated to charity a hard time because they should have written a bigger check. Or criticizing someone who just helped an old lady cross the street for not moving fast enough. It's ludicrous. Invisible Children made it their mission to raise awareness about a still-active war criminal, and they've wildly succeeded. Good for them. We should all be so fortunate in our lifetimes to do something as meaningful.

And being an armchair critic doesn't qualify.


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