In just 24 hours, one video made the rounds on Facebook, Twitter and various other social media sites and isn’t slowing down. There are no cute cats or people risking life and limb for questionable reasons. This video calls for social activism, to bring down the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony. The video, created by Invisible Children, wants to make Kony famous, so that everyone in the world can recognize him and make him responsible for his crimes against humanity.
In theory, IC is doing commendable work. Allowing a known criminal and violator of basic human rights to go free is unacceptable. But the way they are going about it is not. IC wants to make Kony famous, to have his face and deeds plastered across every major city in the United States so the United States will “advise” and “help” the army of Uganda. IC is directing the video at our generation, the people who can’t go a single day with-out checking their Facebook account. IC believes that by getting the video to go viral, the sheer number of people who know about its mission will cause them to succeed.
The thing is, our generation is not the most socially conscious, even something as critical as children being forced into armies in Africa rates about the same to us as some guy burping Shakespeare. Countless people watched IC’s video and immediately jumped on the “Find and stop Kony” bandwagon. Most, if not all, of them did little to no research about what actually is going on.
Are we so easily swayed that all it takes is a video done by a single group with an agenda to cause us all to take to the streets and plaster a man’s face on every available surface?
In no way should this be taken as a pro-Kony opinion. He is a horrible man and has committed atrocities that should not go unpunished. What people need to realize is that there always are two sides to every story and the lines between “good guys” and “bad guys” are not as clear as we’d like to believe they are.
Take, for instance, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, the man IC wants to help by getting rid of Kony. He is not a “good guy.” He also used child soldiers when he took control of Uganda in 1986. IC wants the United States to intervene and send advisers to Uganda, but if history has anything to teach us, it is this: When the United States goes to “help” one army over another, there really is very little helping. Let’s not even get into the whole Iraq, Afghanistan conflict. But consider the attempts of the U.S. to stop the spread of communism in Latin America in the late 1950s and 1960s. Or when the United States tried to protect its interests in Latin America, dating all the way back to the Monroe Doctrine. Those countries still are trying to fix their governments after the U.S. “helped” the governments of the era.
IC itself also is not being completely honest with its supporters. There have been claims about how much of the money they raise really is going to help the people their organization is trying to help. In 2011 IC raised $8.9 million, of which 31 percent went to Uganda. Let us be practical; we all know that in Third World countries, those at the top take their cut before any relief or money trickles down to the masses.
We all want to be part of something that changes the world. At the same time, we all want to continue to live our cozy, sheltered lives. Sharing a video on Facebook makes us feel better about our lives. We feel like we are making a difference and that there’s no need for us to really do anything strenuous.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to do good deeds, but there is no clear black and white in this issue; there are shades of gray that permeate every aspect of it. Before deciding who is right and who is wrong, take a moment and educate yourself. Jumping on a bandwagon is not the same thing as actually helping a cause. Spreading only half of a story about an issue does more harm than good.