Mar 9 2012

Why I think the Kony 2012 Campaign Is Wrong

Stop this

I think the Kony12 campaign is wrong. It is wrong in content, tactics, strategy, ethics and politics. The Invisible Children organisation may well be doing some good work in East Africa, but this media effort is wrong. And it’s not just the wrong means to a good end, it’s a negative in itself. They should stop it or change it.

[UPDATE: I am writing a much longer research paper on the future of the public sphere that cites Kony2012 as a case study - you can read an extract here]

The one good thing to come out of it is a healthy debate about humanitarian communications, something that Polis and my Department have been researching and discussing with NGOs and academics for years.

I won’t go through all the detailed arguments which other people have made much better than me. I trust these people’s views  more than an American film-maker. They can be boiled down to these main charges (please click on the links for details arguments):

1. The campaign misrepresents reality – in other words, it distorts the truth for its own ends. Kony is not in Uganda. The issue is much more complicated and the use of American force may make it worse.

2. The campaign reinforces the idea that ‘the West’ (or just America really) must ‘save’ Africa where people are helpless victims of Evil Men

3. It is misguided – this is not a good target – there are worse current human rights offenders and he is a spent force

4. It will distract from real problems and disappoint people who have signed up. If it fails will people trust human rights campaigns in the future?

5. It shows how social media makes bad messages more effective. (The response from the StopKony camapaign shows how social media can also have a very good corrective function)

What intrigues me is how very intelligent, compassionate people respond to these criticisms by defending the campaign, despite its faults. Yes, they say, it does misrepresent and it probably is wrong-headed, but wow! Look at all that awareness being raised! Even my five year old daughter knows about Kony now!

Likewise, journalists who have been covering the story for years respond with a mixture of despair and envy at the ability of this campaign to take the issue to a mass audience.

This is bizarre. The means do not justify the ends. Bad means can actually make things worse. Here’s why.

Firstly, it’s wrong to lie. I expect that Invisible Children does good work in Africa and that Russell honestly wants to promote human rights. I don’t think this campaign is just about raising money for him, although statements like this do indicate a massive ego and a meglomaniacal personality:

“I am going to help end the longest running war in Africa, get Joseph Kony arrested & redefine international justice. Then I am going to direct a Hollywood musical. Then I am going to study theology & literature in Oxford, England, and then move to New York to start “The Academy” – which will be a school where the best creative young minds in the world attend.”

But it is wrong to ignore inconvenient facts. A degree of simplification is vital, but to reduce human rights to a man-hunt is to turn the truth into something else.

Compassion is not finite. People will still care about other issues, even if this campaign does not deliver. (And I am pretty sure it won’t succeed except in its own terms of raising money and ‘awareness’) But there is a deeper damage done by disappointment revealed by the research done by my LSE colleagues. Alongside the generosity of many, cynicism is growing about the constant demands of NGOs and campaigners and their use of slick marketing. The price will be paid in the future as real engagement suffers.

The damage done by reinforcing stereotypes of Africa will have an impact beyond this campaign. It will perpetuate the myth that Africans can’t sort their own problems out and that they don’t really share political ideas such as human rights.

The damage done by pretending that solutions are simple means that the public won’t give the long-term backing for the legal and political policies that produce sustainable rights.

The damage done to the idea of collaborative campaigning.  This is clictavism at its worst.   Pay $30 for a campaigning kit – buy the bracelet and the t-shirt! No commitment there really. And the original film encourages the narcissistic idea that this campaign is about how You feel, about how euphoric you will be when you join this campaign, how clever and compassionate your little boy is. This isn’t empathy, this is self-indulgence.

So I am very grumpy about this. I believe in marketing. I realise that complex issues have to be told in accessible ways (I have spent a whole journalistic career doing precisely that). But there comes a point where you distort things too much and reinforce negative feelings and ideas.

Will it bring some people to more awareness and activism? Possibly, but it will also waste a lot of time and effort. Yes, it’s a very effective piece of marketing. But so what? If you want to engage people in sustainable activism and real change you have to be honest with them.  Every NGO wants to reach a mass audience for its issue, but it’s impossible for everyone to care about everything all the time.

I think it’s better to target fewer people with realistic messages that have viable and progressive outcomes. Social media is  a brilliant way to do that. The mixture of personalisation, peer recommendation, and participation on social networks is a great way to connect people to issues. Social media is wonderful at helping us to find people who are most likely to want to engage and then to give them the information and channels to act. But if the messages are wrong, then the medium won’t work. Just because the power of media means it’s possible to make people aware of something, with a wrong message, doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

For a different point of view and a defence of the campaign click here

Other good articles critiquing the campaign:

African Reactions To Kony12

Why The Kong 2012 Video Could Be Damaging For Uganda (quotes LSE Uganda Expert)

If you really want to know researched facts and analysis about Kony and the Lords Resistance Army and Uganda check out the work of Tim Allen and Mareike Schomerus and especially their book The Lord’s Resistance Army: Myth and Reality

Here is an excellent feature on the issue by the BBC Radio 4 World Tonight

Lots of links to other articles on this issue at @_ariaana’s blog

Here is film-maker Jason Russell in his own words

Here is a critique of the campaign by another NGO that works with children in conflict

And a funny video that sums up my criticism.

One interesting academic aspect is how the Kony 2012 campaign fits into what my colleague Prof Lilie Chouliaraki calls ‘post-humanitarian communications.’ By that she means the kind of campaign marketing that uses clever new media techniques to stress the role of the supporter rather than the cause. Instead of showing you the victim or talking about the issues, it focuses in on how you feel about being ‘engaged’ or ‘active’. You can read Prof Lilie’s Chouliaraki’s Post Humanitarian Communications paper here.

If you are interested in keeping in touch about these issues and want to get information about the events and research by Polis, then email us at and ask to be put on our email newsletter.

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40 Responses to Why I think the Kony 2012 Campaign Is Wrong

  1. Francesco Ambrogetti says:

    I agree, sinmplification is not a solution so is not reinforcing stereotypes. So waht to do? Academic debates in the blogs and in the UN?Having spent my caree in and working for Africa I know the soklution is IN AFRICA. However, they achieved what others havent and this makes people jealous. We cannot change the world with a campaign on facebook or buying a bracelet. I think congresses, newspapers, academia, media should be more careful and aware on whats goinf on outside.

  2. lee marshall says:

    This is a ridiculous theoretical standpoint, it does not undermine people’s perceptions of African nations or civilians it just offers a chance to help. The children that are encountering this torture and torment are not characters within a novel but real human beings and if your own arrogance can not let you see this then I feel sorry for you, this is not about the potential knock on effect for the future but the realities of right now. Stop wasting time critiquing this work and start helping to stop this horrendous excuse for a man. Human rights has made its entry into the social media embrace it and lets get more work of this nature brought forward.

    • Fiachra O'Maolcraoibhe says:

      You (Lee Marshall) seem to have missed the point. This article has taken a slightly less than impartial look at the Kony2012 campaign but there is no denying that certain grey spots have been identified. I myself am a member of a charitable organisation that works in and out of Africa and I see this type of mass marketing campaign as damaging to the real hard work that actually happens on the ground yet is ignored or not known about by the many millions of people who have started to trend this campaign on social media websites etc. No one questions that Joseph Kony is an evil man and that he should be brought to justice but over simplification is a dangerous tactic. This campaign plays upon the emotions of people especially young middle-class, white kids who normally would know nothing at all about the state of play in a country like Uganda yet this campaign appeals to the ‘better half’ of these people. It is a form of mass manipulation. Everything about the campaign is outrageous and to a cynic it causes much despair. The Joseph Kony story is an old one and is well documented by many top class journalists.

      However aside from that the one thing I really dislike about this campaign is the way in which it has become an intricate part of pop-culture. The action pack is more like a piece of merchandise. Re-tweets are represented as a direct course of action but we all know that that isn’t true. If you re-tweet something like #stopraining is it really going to happen?

      My concluding point is this. Please stop undermining the hard work that goes on already in Africa and stop over simplifying issues that are extremely complex and dangerous once they become so.

      • lee marshall says:

        I don’t for a second dispute there is a plethora of important work undertaken by NGO’s and similar organisations through-out Africa and the rest of the wider world that goes unnoticed. I also agree that the complexities of these issues are not capable of being condensed into a 30 minute film but that was not the point I was trying to make. The general public seem to have a very poor grasp on human rights and this becomes even more distorted with the negative rhetoric espoused by politicians and media sources (in the UK that would be the Daily Mail etc). Even though the Kony appeal may not have been done in the best way it has galvanized people around a serious human rights issue and we should try to use this support to try and direct people into a sustainable mass trans boarder support for human rights in general. I do not think that this will be easy to achieve but this video does exist now and people want to help so surely giving them direction is of more importance than critiquing this appeal.

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  4. Anna Nolan says:

    Thanks for this great piece – summarises a lot of my thoughts.

    I have been deeply concerned and disappointed the reaction of campaigning staff. On one level which Charlie touches upon is the suggestion that we can compare like with like on this video with our communications. A lot of the tactics that make this successful aren’t things we would employ due to long standing beliefs around ethical communication and theories of change. So I see this as marketing – in the same way a Barclays or NIke advert can be admired as a piece of communication but not set alongside as a comparison for the work I do (I work for a large INGO).

    However, the debate I think this video has hit upon is much deeper – does the current way social media and media are set up allow us to affect the change we want to see in a long term way. Whilst the use of celebs has been a long standing debate, the development of them as publishers has greatly exaggerated their influence. How many brainstorms have we all been in when ‘Can we get Stephen Fry to tweet it?’ has come up? Ten years ago his endorsement might have been a bonus but no the key to reaching millions.

    A large part of this video success was the pretty basic fact that global superstars from Rhianna to Justin Bieber tweeted it. (I haven’t seen background on how this endorsement was secured) but if we are at the point that a slick video and endorsement from pop stars can push something to the top of the global agenda this is hugely problematic. And once we start to create products for this purpose, and not to do with the telling the narrative and providing the real engagement we need we’re on shaky ground at best. I recognise that these two are not mutually exclusive but I think this video raises serious challenges on how we engage with the public online in effective and independent ways.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Anna,

      ‘A lot of the tactics that make this successful aren’t things we would employ due to long standing beliefs around ethical communication and theories of change.’

      Are you serious?

      Perhaps you could explain how the current Save The Children advert is founded on ‘long standing beliefs around ethical communication ‘.

      They are afterall one of the UK’s biggest charities.

      I’m all for examining Invisible Children but it has to be done in ther context of a wider problem with the way very many charities present simplistic solutions to complex problems with scant regard for the truth.

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  7. Amy Wilsch says:

    Don’t worry. In 2 days someone famous will die/do something stupid and it’ll all be forgotten…… this is the flip side of social media – quick reaction, even quicker forgetting about whatever cause/message/etc.

  8. Roland says:

    1. People should oppose evil men whether they are in uganda or not.
    2. What is wrong with the Americans wanting to help Africans? Or should they instead spend their time watching reality shows?
    3. How evil must one be or how powerful that evil before you would oppose it. Maybe your opposition to good people opposing a
    Llesser evil is misguided.
    4. Your attack on invisible children distracts from real problems. Is kony not a real problem just because he isn’t the biggest problem?
    5. If you think you can do a better job then do it yourself. Don’t waste your time opposing good people with good hearts who are trying to help or show support even when they stumble. Evil should be fought wherever it is fouund regardless of how good a fighter you are and regardless of the level of that evil.

    • Seola says:

      1. People should oppose evil men whether they are in uganda or not. ~ True, but opposition to evil doesn’t mean that anything happens when you do so. Kony is the tiniest pebble under the house of corruption. The Ugandan forces are racking up more atrocities in a shorter amount of time. Supporting them for ANY reason would be absurd. So it’s all or nothing – you must support this Kony farce or you love ALL evil people?

      2. What is wrong with the Americans wanting to help Africans? Or should they instead spend their time watching reality shows? ~ So you are basically saying, if we ever care about anything, we must care about the farce and money grab of one horribly mismanaged (and overly self-paying) “charity” or we don’t care about anything at all? Guilt trip at it’s finest.

      3. How evil must one be or how powerful that evil before you would oppose it. Maybe your opposition to good people opposing a
      Llesser evil is misguided. ~ I guess I don’t understand half of this. So either we must say that all evil people are equal or they are all good? Well, yes – there are degrees of urgency with all evil people. Kony is no degree of worry at this point compared with say… the Ugandan President. Bin Laden, Gaddafi, Saddam were all evil – they were dealt with because they were in active, mass scale murders. Kony is small potatoes and if you TRULY care about helping Uganda, you will deal with issues directly relating to them now. Not faux outrage over something long gone, just so you can feel good about YOURSELF (which this whole campaign is… about selfishness) while the people of Uganda themselves are begging this to all end because it does more damage and brings more DANGER rather than do anything for them.

      4. Your attack on invisible children distracts from real problems. Is kony not a real problem just because he isn’t the biggest problem? ~ So you are seriously saying we shouldn’t have any concerns over the group that brought the message of lies? Do you believe he’s a problem from this video? Because Ugandans don’t think he’s a problem at all right now. YOU are allowing yourself to be convinced by this video for your viewpoints, so it’s now sacred? Even if it’s message is wrong and they reasons you defend it don’t even exist?

      5. If you think you can do a better job then do it yourself. Don’t waste your time opposing good people with good hearts who are trying to help or show support even when they stumble. Evil should be fought wherever it is fouund regardless of how good a fighter you are and regardless of the level of that evil. ~ There are dozens of charities that ARE doing something and many people have donated to them. This video got so big because it follows the standard “tug on their heartstrings, make them think they are doing something by buying a bracelet that lines IC’s pockets, so you can look “cool” with your bracelet and say “see, I did something”.

      You also fail on one major point – “evil must be fought”. No. It must not be. When you have a man like Kony, not active, not doing anything inside the country, whittled away to a couple hundred and there are several MAJOR terrorist threats within the country – bringing MORE war for someone who is no longer a threat ends up with MORE people dead than when we started. You may be fine with starting MORE war in a country just now rebuilding themselves after all the war they’ve seen, but demanding they go to war when they don’t want to, because you pretend to know what’s “best” for them is not only selfish and wrong, it’s RUDE and imposing yourself when they are begging you not to bring fighting so they can just get on with LIVING… just so you can say “I supported the cause that brought down Kony, yay!! So what if 15 towns were leveled, 1,000 children were killed and the country isn’t fit for habitation… we got him!”

    • Bob Ong says:

      The problem is KONY 2012 is already out there. Right or wrong, it’s already out there. Instead of wasting effort, time, and money on talking and just being against it, I think the most productive thing critics can do is to take advantage of the world’s attention right now on humanitarian efforts and grab the chance to offer a better understanding of the issue and perhaps better ways of helping and getting involved. Condemning the KONY media effort, discrediting the IC, and getting upset with the overzealous and misguided people on social networks is hardly effective in stopping the ‘misinformation’. Come up with the right material, offer sites or literature however boring, direct people to information about conflicts in the region that isn’t necessarily about debunking the annoying and manipulative KONY 2012 viral video–that is how you get people to understand the complexity of the issue.

      You cannot tell people to stop being effective at what they do, you can only try to outdo them.

  9. Mama D says:

    There are 2 sides to every story and here we have Charlie Beckett posing his view point. However I disagree with his blog on a number of levels. Charlie Beckett poses a number of factual inaccuracies; the film doesnot distort reality: in the film they clearly state, Kony is no longer in Uganda, That he is in the DRC. Beckett says there are risks that the campaign may make the situation worse, but doesn’t offer any evidence as to why or how: its easy to look for and find reasons to not do anything. Beckett fails to acknowledge that those children who were victims of Kony’s violence in Uganda will never be free until he is caught and dealt with. They will continue to live in fear and remain as imprisoned as when he was in Uganda. What has it to do with the west bailing out Africa? It is about people wanting to and being empowered to do something, to begin to effect change within the wider community and seeing themselves as a part of a collective whole who can respond to help their fellow human and brethren. What is so wrong with white middle class or otherwise young people having their awareness raised and responding to an issue as part of a global community? Such bigotry masquerading as objectivity is disturbing.
    It is not about the west saving Africa it is about people being made aware of an issue and wanting to act, without idealism how would any progress be made. Yes issues of any continent are multifarious and complex that is a given, but to suggest that that is a reason for people not to respond and act is ridiculous, some of the most potentially dangerous acts by individuals have been the most humane, would the El Salvadorian government have sanctioned the work of José Arturo Castellanos, or the German government the actions of Oscar Schindler, If these individuals had waited for diplomatic measures to save members of the jewish community in ww2 then the death toll would have been even higher than the atrocious level it reached. Taking the moral high ground awaiting diplomatic responses is one route to follow and all the people working for INGO’s are entitled to there opinions, but who are they to say that people putting pressure on their government to act is wrong, not one of the people above has provided any evidence of how or why this campaign is damaging to Africa. The talk of Africa as if it is a homogeneous place is particularly disturbing. In conclusion I will say, there will always be more than one way to reach an end goal and instead of denigrating the efforts of others with a headline grabbing blog which badly feigns accuracy, just recognise that the more people are made aware of things beyond the facile world of celebrity, the greater our chance of creating a more caring and close knit global community.

    • Seola says:

      You see, that is a direct problem with the video. He doesn’t have “thousands of children in captivity” who can’t be free. He doesn’t have any children at all. His “army” is a couple hundred. That’s part of the inaccuracies of the video.

      If the point is that he isn’t in Uganda – why are they interviewing Ugandans and asking for millions upon millions of dollars in US taxpayers money to wage war in Uganda? Either they think he is there and want to kill him, or they want to start an unnecessary war, in an already war-torn country then… which is it?

  10. john ramsden says:

    I agree with lee, Roland and Mama D.
    You mention that you’ve been discussing humanitarian communications with Polis, your dept, and NGOs and academics for years. So, instead of just feeling grumpy about Kony2012′s success, can you take this opportunity to do a follow up post in which you talk about what you’ve learned, the issues you think should be tackled, in what order, and what you are going to do about it.
    Maybe then we can – having learned from Kony2012′s success – organise another campaign which tackles the issues people ‘on the ground’ have identified.

  11. vanessa says:

    Charlie — I think self-efficacy is as valid a motivator as any in the real world, and probably one of the most prominent.

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  13. Jason Hall says:

    Excellent piece that encapsulates a lot of the issues with this campaign. Point 4 about disappointing a lot of people who sign up and “if it fails will people trust human rights campaigns in the future?” raises a lot of interesting questions, though …

    1) Failure is encoded in the message from the start. “This is an experiment” is the filmmaker’s Get Out Of Jail Free card. And remember : “for this to work you have to pay attention”. So there’s already a subtle implication in the message that if it doesn’t work it’s our fault.

    2) There are multiple measures of success here. All that awareness being raised, (done), making Kony famous (done), the big experiment of mobilising millions of young people worldwide on “cover the night” and – a little more cynically – raising funds and securing the long-term future of Invisible Children and it’s self-publicising frontman. Although it’s probably entirely coincidental that the video will “expire” at the end of 2012, (why?), when – according to Invisible Children’s most recent financial report – the organisation’s long-term rent commitments for its $400,0000-a-year offices expires in Jan 2013. And all of these varying measures of success are, of course, part of the problem. As Charlie’s blog intimates, stopping Kony becomes almost incidental.

    Having said all of that, I am deeply uncomfortable with the general point you seem to be making here that fear of failure is a reason not to do something. Focusing on the problems of the campaign and its proposed solutions as a reason why it fails is one thing. But this is something different and it doesn’t sit comfortably to confuse the two.

  14. duckrabbit says:

    First off I hate the film (like the majority of the 60 plus million I gave up after a couple of minutes and I’m still wiping the vomit off my computer).

    Secondly, its a clearly brilliant strategy and marks a watershed moment in advocacy. There is before and after Kony. We should all be able to agree on that.

    Thirdly there is a massive contradiction at the heart of much of the critique of this film. On the one hand people are saying what possible point is there in mobilising a bunch of American kids to a complex problem in East Africa. Probably no point. On the other hand people are claiming the film is dangerous. If it can’t affect change how can it be dangerous?

    If it can affect change (for the sake of argument) GREAT. Invisible Children have proven that on-line video can be used brilliantly. Instead of moaning about the film other NGO’s and advocacy groups have to learn from this campaign, seriously up their game and harness the same tools to deliver more pertinant messages. If that can be done then the Kony film, however misguided, will be seen as the start of a new age of advocacy.

    Finally can somebody explain to me why Save The Children can produce this advert that is being played all over our UK TV screens (90 seconds of starving babies all of whom can be saved by £2 a month), on which they very likely have spent more money on then the Kony film, and yet totally seem to escape the same critique?

    I’m reminded of a song by Morrisey ‘We hate it when our friends become successful’.

  15. Charlie Beckett says:

    Thanks for all the comments. I will just reply to the last two, which both make interesting points.
    Jason’s point about fear of failure is good. I agree one shouldn’t criticise anyone trying to do something ‘good’ or innovative. That wasn’t my intention. I meant more that we shouldn’t treat engagement too casually. If you offer someone a way to commit to something but then don’t deliver some kind of positive effect you risk creating future apathy/cynicism. Normally in politics that is a risk worth taking – but I think this campaign has not thought through its end goals and is obsessed with mobilisation, not change. Of course, Jason Russell would disagree with me, it’s just my opinion (and a lot of other people’s!).
    To Duckrabbit (and I heartily recommend that you check out their work – Google them) I would only point out that it’s my job to critique media – it might be a stupid job, but hell it pays well and I think it’s interesting. As it happens we do a lot of work with NGOs which I think does lead directly to improved communications – so in that sense both Polis and the NGOs are doing much more than ‘moaning’. As I said in the article, somewhat tongue in cheek, I do feel ‘grumpy’ about this issue. I recognise that criticism might look sneering and negative when it is directed at someone trying to ‘do good’ but I think that debate is healthy and if we really want to ‘do good’ then we should be prepared to discuss and learn about the best ways to do it. Jason Russell seems to think he is wiser than anyone else and unaccountable to mere mortals.
    As for the Save The Children advert – I have slagged it off repeatedly – including to Save staff.
    I’m reminded of a song by Morrisey ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ :)
    Keep the comments coming and thanks for the attention given by you all to this article and this issue.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Charlie,

      thanks for your response.

      I certainly wasn’t writing about you as a ‘moaner’ because I don’t think of POLIS an an NGO or advocacy org and the critiques and debate that POLIS generates are vital, as well as the support POLIS offers to thinkers. Indeed a very real part of what I think is good about this film is the superb level of debate it has generated, as seen here and elsewhere.

      Not surprised you slagged the SAVE advert off. I think if enough people used social media to do that then SAVE would have to stop doing such cynical adverts because as I said in a pitch to a large NGO we are currently producing a TV advert for if you go that way you’re just engaged ‘in a race to the bottom’.

  16. Druss says:

    It is absurd how critics will say two contradictory complaints under the same whining breath:
    1. “How dare a small group of white American kids be stupid enough to presume that they can be of any help to people in Africa!!!”
    2. “That same group shouldn’t be going after Kony when there are MORE EVIL and MORE POWERFUL warlords to go after! After all, Kony’s army numbers in the hundreds – not thousands (anymore), he may not even be in Uganda now, and he has been committing much less mass murder, kidnappings and other atrocities these days – he’s become a has-been!!”

    Call me and arrogant, ignorant fool, but I say this:
    Never violate a woman, nor harm a child.
    Do not lie, cheat or steal. These are things for lesser men.
    Protect the weak against the evil strong.
    And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil.
    Never back away from an enemy. Either fight or surrender.
    It is not enough to say I will not be evil. Evil must be fought wherever it is found.”

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  18. Whaddup says:

    Clever media tactics, African stereotypes, slick marketing. Phony. So easy to hijack people’s emotions.

    Mr. Russell thinks he’s Clark Kent. He looks like him too.

    I’m glad Africans in general can see past Russell’s lies.

  19. Luigi PIGOLI says:

    Listen I gave 10$, maybe you are right, maybe I was stupid and this campaign is pointless, I come from a country (Italy) where the most honest member of our parliament would not hesitate a nano second to sell his mother for 100€, so I do not give money easily to rhose kind of organisations. Why I gave it? Because I thought that this is far more important of this Kony, I thought this is an axample that shows how powerful the net is, in a world where the media (especially in my country) work so hard to make the human being more stupid than what it is already, filling up the brains with stupid informations and raluty shows…one can make the difference to lodge this important question to the public: is this correct that we allow this to happen? Well my answer is no, we shouldnt, and the effort I did was: wasting 29 minutes of a sunday morning watching the clip, 1 minute to reshare it on my facebook account and 10$…was it pointless? May be. Was it stupid to support this campaign? I do not know, I’ve read your argimentations, I’m not sure. But only one thing I am sure of: is a trillion times more stupid investing all the time, the money and the effort you did to oppose to this campaign, is one of the stupidest things I’ve seen in my life ans I firmly believe that you deserve the italian citizenship.

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  24. sam Nzaba says:

    Youths disrupt screening of Kony 2012 film

    The arrogance of movie makers is beyond my imagination. They think that real life is an act! How dare them go thinking that they have something to teach the very victims of the atrocities of war how bad war is, by playing their very images on the screen and expecting a big clap and praise for their show! Those youths would rather watch the Wild West Cowboy movies.

    They expected a clap, they got clobbered instead.

    • sam Nzaba says:

      When a shooting takes place on school compound in USA and I guess Britain as well, most of the time it is caught on Surveillance/security Cameras. Clinical Counsellors & Psychologists are brought into the school not only to help the students, but their parents as well, get over the trauma.

      I have never heard of anybody replaying the scene of the shooting incident that was caught on the security cameras to the students as a way to teach them that shooting is bad!

      When it comes to donations accountability, most of these NGOs show you what is invisible (nothing). So they figured they may just as well call it “Charity for the invisible children”.

      With nothing either materially or physiologically to rehabilitate those poor youths, they came with a 30 minute movie to awaken their Post-traumatic stress disorders and expected a Clap, they got clobbered instead.

      They should have filmed that so that they could sale it as a REAL “Reality Show” on TV. I would watch it.

  25. Steve Eyre says:

    I agree totally with the view held here – the video is more about self grandisation rather than the true facts.
    The African problem is huge and has been going on since time immorial.
    A far different strategy is needed and that is one of forcing countries to care for their sick and poor without western countries throwing money at them and sadly charitable do gooders are a part of this ever perpetuating cycle instead of getting to the root cause.

  26. Graeme says:

    I really despair when I see the enormous amount of energy being dissapated with articles like this. If instead of criticising the Kony 2012 campaign- mainly on the basis that its a US-based initiative-which is frankly what 99% of the droning relates to- and the same ranked masses of informed commentators had been busy keeping the story up the media agenda then perhaps Kony would have been imprisoned some time ago. But no- instead we see the western liberal elite stirred into action by the prospect of those nasty Americans doing something again. This is messenger shooting of the worst kind- dressed up with the most useless type of intellectual masturbation like “simplification makes things worse”. That line- apparently based upon the notion that Kony is no longer in Uganda- which in itself is a completely untested assertion by the government of Uganda- a nation who borders are about as porous as its possible to get in the west- is so throwaway and nonsensical as to expose the author of this piece as someone who’s knowledge of the largely ungoverned spaces of W Uganda, the E of DRC and much of Rwanda is probably zero. The utter tosh spoken about this film- the alleged manipulative nature of which I have no problem with if it means monsters of Kony’s ilk end up behind bars or dead-is truly shameful. All done in the name of the worst kind of knee jerk anti americanism. The simple fact of the matter is that Mouseveni and his fellow regional leaders failed to deal with Kony for over a decade- for a variety of complex reasons based largely on fear and self interest. Plus the Ugandan military really isnt very good. If some US SF- there at the invitation of the Ugandan government, can bring an end to Kony so be it. Shame on the apologists- and make no mistake- this article IS apologising- in the most patronising white middle class manner possible.

  27. Charlie Beckett says:

    Dear Graeme,
    Thanks for your comment. I am replying to you, but your point was made by others, so it’s not meant personally!
    I disagree with you and I think you are being offensive to all those in the ‘liberal media’ and elsewhere who have in fact been working hard for decades to cover this story and many others like it. As it happens I was part of a team that spent a week reporting from Uganda for Channel 4 News in 2006 – including a long film looking at the LRA issue. The idea that this is a ‘hidden’ problem and only Jason Russell cares is complete tosh. You are also wrong about knee-jerk anti Americanism. A lot of people, including myself, have supported interventions elsewhere. Although it has to said that looking at Somalia (let alone Iraq) the USA hasn’t got a great record in good outcomes when it does what Invisible Children want.
    As for the ‘apologist’ remark – well that is beneath contempt – I dare you to go up to my colleagues in the media and in development organisations who have given their careers and sometimes risked their lives to support anti-conflict processes and development in places like Uganda. You sound like just another keyboard warrior.
    The really brave and difficult thing to do is to support complex, realistic and long-term solutions that empower the people involved to solve problems like Kony and the LRA – but why bother when you can click on a video and buy a bracelet?
    Charlie Beckett

    • Graeme says:

      No one said the media hadn’t reported it- just that, as usual, the next big thing came along and Kony became unimportant quickly. And as for the keyboard warrior nonsense- why have you personalised this? The issue of my time in the field is not one I shall explore here-its irrelevant to my main points- which you have singly failed to address so I will repeat them below-but I see you spent a whole week in Uganda- you must know the place inside out. The issues are:
      1) US entities (both gov (through USAID and mil-mil programmes, and IC as an NGO) are doing something to directly address the Kony issue- the methods you advocate (other NGOs, empowering people etc etc) have failed to deliver Kony for decades- and significant sums have been spent. Your faith that that will change through continued application of the thus far fruitless methodologies is touching. The really brave and challenging thing to do now is recognise when something isn’t working and do something else.
      2) The failure of regional governments to capture/kill Kony is symbolic of either a lack of capacity-in which case mil-mil assistance and civilian assistance might help- or a failure of will. In which case the points made by the liberal media (that its patronising thinking Africans can’t manage it)are proved to be once again, irrelevant.

      Again- strange that the liberal media should engage in a frenzy of messenger shooting around IC and its film- which has been nothing but a success in raising the issue- even with the tide of negativity from the usual sources- any publicity is good publicity for san issue like this. But I wonder what the real difference is between IC’s campaign and the countless SCF/OXFAM campaigns that have been funded through advertising, bracelets etc etc and have seen millions spent on nice landcruisers and well intentioned assistance programmes of failure. Oh yes- of course- IC is American.
      Good luck with your next in-depth one week long investigation. I dont expect a reply btw.

  28. Layla Revis says:

    Thank you for your insightful piece and for putting what may have been an unpopular, critical view out there, Charlie. I wrote my dissertation on a few similar topics at LSE and found it infinitely fascinating; and not without it’s critics and controversies. From the ideological burden of hegemony, power, and the polemics of ideology to the idea of suffering being for sale – looking at depictions of the subaltern and the saviour – I concluded somewhere around the neoliberal underpinnings of current philanthropic communications and marketing (khaki colonialism to corporate citizenship). Perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr. may have summed it up best: “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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