by: JoAnna Gunnufsen
A new generation of activism
On March 5, the world was first introduced to the KONY 2012 campaign through a 30-minute video on YouTube. Since that first upload, the video has had more than 100 million views and has sparked controversy on all types of social media.
If you haven’t seen it already, the video, which was created by the non-profit organization Invisible Children, describes the acts of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. For the past 30 years, Kony has been kidnapping children and turning them into sex-slaves and soldiers for the Lord’s Resistance Army, or the LRA. Since 1986, Kony and the LRA have abducted more than 30,000 children in northern Uganda.
Kony’s actions were not gone unnoticed. In 2005 the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and the other leaders of the LRA. The video urges viewers to “make Kony famous” by telling others about the violence he has caused in Africa and asking policymakers and celebrities to show their support of the effort.
When I first watched the video, I was skeptical. The film was well-made and obviously designed to stir up sentimental emotions in its viewers. In one of the scenes, Russell, creator of the film, tells his young, blonde-haired, bright-eyed son about what Kony is doing in Africa. His son seems surprised that someone as harmful as Kony could not be captured. Certainly, if a cute kid knows that Kony is doing wrong, we should try to put a stop to it. Don’t get me wrong; Kony’s actions are undoubtedly wrong. However, this kind of emotional appeal is deceptive and makes the cause seem less credible.
I decided that if I was going to support the KONY 2012 campaign, I needed to do my fair share of research. Apparently, the video distorted a few key facts about Joseph Kony and the LRA. The video failed to mention that Kony was no longer in Uganda. While Kony has not been captured, the LRA left Uganda for good at the start of 2006. The LRA has dwindled in numbers and strength, but they now carry out their attacks in the regions of northeastern Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. The LRA reached its peak in 1999, with over 4,000 active troops in Uganda. However, the Ugandan government estimates that there are now only around 400 LRA fighters left.
The video portrays Joseph Kony as a new villain among the world’s most dangerous war criminals. The video begins with this sentence printed across the screen: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” If Kony has been working with the LRA for almost 30 years, why hasn’t Invisible Children been trying to stop him before now? Certainly, this video should have been released years ago.
On April 4, a second video was released by the same organization who created KONY 2012. “KONY 2012: Part II – Beyond Famous” has received a little over a million views, which is a mere one-tenth of the views of the original video. It’s not posted all over your Facebook newsfeed, and it has received little media attention. However, this video changed my entire perspective on the KONY 2012 campaign, and I ask that you watch it. The second video explains, with more depth, how Invisible Children is working to stop Kony and the LRA. It relies less on emotion and more on the true facts. Instead of looking at the campaign with criticism, I saw it for what it was. Invisible Children is not trying to find a single solution to a complex problem. They are simply trying to remind others of the inhumane violence that still occurs in the world. Whether it be in our own country or the heart of Africa, this kind of ruthless violence should not be tolerated.
Why don’t we admire this effort? It shows the capacity of our generation to fight for justice and equality. We are a new generation, willing to look past social and racial barriers to create positive change. However, the initial criticism of the campaign also shows our ability to research, investigate, and decide our own opinions about important issues.
On April 20, you have the choice to participate in KONY 2012’s “Cover the Night” event. Take a stance for something you believe in, and act on it.
STUDENTS SOUND OFF
“I’m glad that Invisible Children is making an effort to stop Joseph Kony.” - Lucy Robinson, 10th grade
“There are more important issues to focus on, and we should have been trying to stop Kony a few years ago.” - Ashton Beightol, 11th grade
“I think the Youtube video is really cool, and I like that it shows awareness about what’s going on in other places besides our hometown.” - Lace Clark, 12th grade
“I hope to make a difference by getting a group of friends together to put up flyers on April 20th.” - Rohini Malkani, 11th grade
“The government has been trying to stop Kony for years. Americans are just now getting involved.” – Dylan Carpenter, 12th grade