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Is KONY 2012 causing more harm than good?

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Many of you have watched the KONY 2012 video over the last few days, but should we take what the filmakers, Invisible Children, and their mission at face value, or should we look a little deeper…

Have a read of a letter from blogger Amber Ha to Invisible Children’s Co-Founder/Filmmaker, Jason Russell, she raises some interesting points:

Dear Jason Russell,

After being bombarded with your KONY 2012 crusade, I have no choice but to respond to your highly inaccurate, offensive, and harmful propaganda.  I realized I had to respond in hopes of stopping you before you cause more violence and deaths to the Acholi people (Northern Ugandans), the very people you are claiming to protect.

Firstly, I would like to question your timing of this KONY 2012 crusade in Uganda when most of the violence from Joseph Kony and the LRA (The Lord’s Resistance Army) has subsided in Uganda in the past 5 years. The LRA has moved onto neighboring countries like the DRC and Sudan. Why are you not urging action in the countries he is currently in? Why are you worried about Kony all of a sudden when Ugandans are not at this present moment?

This grossly illogical timing and statements on your website such as “Click here to buy your KONY 2012 products” makes me believe that the timing has more to do with your commercial interests than humanitarian interests. With the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and the waning interest in Invisible Children, it seems to be perfect timing to start a crusade. I also must add at this point how much it personally disgusts me the way in which you have commercialized a conflict in which thousands of people have died.

Secondly, I would like to address the highly inaccurate content of your video. Your video did not leave the viewer any more knowledgeable about the conflict in Uganda, but only emotionally assaulted. I could not help but notice how conveniently one-sided the “explanation” in your video was. There was absolutely no mention of the role of the Ugandan government and military in the conflict. Let alone the role of the U.S. government and military.  The only information given is “KONY MUST BE STOPPED.”

I would like to inform you that stopping Kony would not end the conflict. (It is correctly pronounced “Kohn” by the way). This conflict is deeply embedded in Uganda’s history that neither starts nor ends with Kony. Therefore, your solution to the problem is flawed. There is no way to know the solution, without full knowledge of the problem itself.  We must act on knowledge, not emotions.

Joseph Kony formed the LRA in retaliation to the brutality of President Museveni (from the south) committing mass atrocities on the Acholi people (from the north) when President Museveni came to power in 1986. This follows a long history of Ugandan politics that can be traced back to pre-colonial times.  The conflict must be contextualized within this history. (If you want to have this proper knowledge, I suggest you start by working with scholars, not celebrities).  President Museveni is still in power and in his reign of 26 years he has arguably killed as many, if not more Acholi people, than Joseph Kony. Why is President Museveni not demonized, let alone mentioned? I would like to give you more credit than just ignorance. I have three guesses. One is that Invisible Children has close ties with the Ugandan government and military, which it has been accused of many times. Second, is that you are willing to fight Kony, but not the U.S. Government, which openly supports President Museveni. Third, is that Invisible Children feels the need to reduce the conflict to better commercialize it.

This brings me to my third issue, the highly offensive nature of your video. Firstly, it is offensive to your viewer. The scene with your “explanation” of the conflict to your toddler son suggests that the viewers have the mental capacity of a toddler and can only handle information given in such a reductionist manner. I would like to think American teenagers and young adults (which is clearly your target audience) are smarter than your toddler son. I would hope that we are able to realize that it is not a “Star Wars” game with aliens and robots in some far off galaxy as your son suggests, but a real world conflict with real world people in Uganda. This is a real life conflict with real life consequences.

Secondly, and more importantly, it is offensive to Ugandans. The very name “Invisible Children” is offensive. You claim you make the invisible, visible. The statements, “We have seen these kids.” and “No one knew about these kids.” are part of your slogan. You seem to be strongly hinting that you somehow have validated and found these kids and their struggles.

Whether you see them or not, they were always there. Your having seen the kids does not validate their existence in any shape or form or bring it any more significance. You say “no one” knew about the kids. What about the kids themselves? What about the families of the kids who were killed and abducted? Are they “no one?” Are they not human?

These children are not invisible, you are making them invisible by silencing, dehumanizing, marketing, and invalidating them.

Last year I went to Gulu, Uganda, where Invisible Children is based, and interviewed over 50 locals.  Every single person questioned Invisible Children’s legitimacy and intention. Every single person. If anything, it seemed the people saw Invisible Children as a bigger threat than Joseph Kony at the time. Why is it the very people you are trying to “help” feel more offense than relief with your aid?

“They come here to make money and use us.”

“It makes us feel terrible to be presented as being so stupid and helpless.”

These are direct quotes. This was the sentiment of the majority of the people that I interviewed in varying degrees. I definitely didn’t see or hear these voices or opinions in your video. If you are to be “saving” the Acholi people, the very least you can be doing is holding yourself accountable to them and actually listening to what they have to say.

This offensive, inaccurate misconstruction of Ugandans and its conflict makes me wonder what and whom this is really about. It seems that you feel very good about yourself being a savior, a Luke Skywalker of sorts, and same with the girl in your video who passionately states, “This is what defines us”. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if Invisible Children is more about defining the American do-gooders (and making them feel good), rather than the Ugandans; profiteering the American military and corporations (which Invisible Children is officially and legally) than the conflict.

Lastly, I would like to address the harmful nature of your propaganda. I believe your actions will actually bring back the fighting in Northern Uganda. You are not asking for peace, but violence. The fighting has stopped in the past 5 years and the Acholi are finally enjoying some peace.  You will be inviting the LRA and the fighting back into Uganda and disturbing this peace. The last time Invisible Children got politically involved and began lobbying it actually caused more violence and deaths. I beg you not to do it again.

If you open your eyes and see the actions of the Ugandan government and the U.S. government, you will see why.  Why is it that suddenly in October of 2011 when there has been relative peace in Uganda for 4 years, President Obama decided to send troops into Uganda? Why is it that the U.S. military is so involved with AFRICOM, which has been pervading African countries, including Uganda? Why is it that U.S. has been traced to creating the very weapons that has been used in the violence? The U.S. is entering Uganda and other countries in Africa not to stop violence, but to create a new battlefield.

In your video you urge that the first course of action is that the Ugandan military needs American military and weapons. You are giving weapons to the very people who were killing the Acholi people in the first place. You are helping to open the grounds for America to make Uganda into a battlefield in which it can profit and gain power. Please recognize this is all part of a bigger military movement, not a humanitarian movement. This will cause deaths, not save lives. This will be doing more harm, than good.

You end your video with saying, “I will stop at nothing”.  If nothing else, will you not stop for the lives of the Acholi people? Haven’t enough Acholi people suffered in the violence between the LRA and the Ugandan government? Our alliance should not be with the U.S. government or the Ugandan military or the LRA, but the Acholi people. There is a Ugandan saying that goes, “The grass will always suffer when two elephants fight.” Isn’t it time we let the grass grow?

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Amber Ha

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If you haven’t had a chance to watch the KONY 2012 video yet, check it here:

 

Invisible Children

click to watch the video on the SBTV player click to play video

What do you make of it? Let us know what you think…

 

Posted by Natalia Jorquera

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Natalia
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12 Responses to “Is KONY 2012 causing more harm than good?”

  1. hdlazarus says:

    Finally, someone talking proper sense and actually knows what they’re talking about.

  2. Paulina says:

    I have watched the Kony 2012 video yesterday and okay, yes, it made me sad; it made me realise what is happening out there. Why is it that Africa and other poor countries and places have to suffer so much and here we have all these technology, money, wealth, everything? It’s disgusting. If bigger countries wanted to help, they would.
    I’m afraid Kony will become TOO famous. I hope it raises awareness with people, but even if it does, what then? People won’t just start doing things to stop Kony immediately. All sort of things are happening right now, not just what Kony does, which isn’t just Kony that does these kind of things.
    I am on Amber Ha’s side with this cause. The quotes made by the people in Uganda, just wow. After watching the video NO ONE would ever think that’s what they think.
    She is sharing some very interesting points, which everyone should know about.

  3. Sceptic says:

    Oh shut up love you think your s**t don’t stink…

  4. Brenna says:

    Ok great information, so what are you doing to help the Acholi people aside from writing a letter that you and I both know won’t do a thing to stop their efforts. You write this letter appearing to be completely educated about the entire situation and yet I have yet to figure out what you are doing to help anyone. Maybe you could join Jason if you feel he needs to be more educated and help him fix the “real” problem. At the very least I don’t believe Jason went to Uganda in hopes that he could make money off the people and their suffering. Perhaps statements from locals are true and there are ill feelings toward the “Invisible Children” program. I do believe this is their way of helping if you disagree then fine, but don’t try and act like we are all offended by the video. You don’t actually read that much into his toddler son and star wars and if you do perhaps it proves you are the one who needed it explained by a toddler. Personally I consider myself more educated then to choose to find any of the video “highly offensive”. If you have everything figured out then you help the Acholi people and get millions of people to pay attention to your efforts. If not, get off your pedestal and help him help them in the best way possible. Don’t make people feel bad for trying to do something good in this world help them do it better if you know how.

    • Tiffany says:

      Obviously she is helping the way she can. She has worked in Uganda before, and she is not gonna help a patronizing organization like Invisibility Children if you read her letter. See you are just being offended because you want to do what feels good and someone is telling you, this is not good or okay. People’s logic is help he way you want help is good, but help based on ignorance is not good. It’s never good. If you want to help someone, you need to find where the person needs helping. Not force the person accept unwanted help.

  5. John says:

    @Brenna – You make it sound like the only ethical options available are to support Jason Russell without question, or to somehow help millions of people. The point of the letter is that Russell’s crusade is a deeply flawed, self-serving and ideologically blind reduction of hugely complex issue, into some nightmarishly commercial witchhunt. Russell calls for the world to give financial aid to an army and government guilty of the most gross breaches of human rights, all because he made a breathy promise to a kid to stop one guy? The Kony 2012 video was emotional blackmail amplified to the very extreme. It was obviously aimed primarily at teenagers, and pandered to the idea that clicking on a Facebook link is tantamount to saving the world. The letter rightly criticizes Russell’s intentions and practices, because what could have been a genuine attempt to raise awareness of a terrible issue, has been horribly warped into a money-making, mob baiting propaganda machine that romanticizes social networking and makes the film’s creator out to be some kind of messiah.

  6. Matias Navarro says:

    we gotta be carefull from now on, there is the possibility that this kony thing may be hiding something, you know how the government works…

  7. Ann says:

    This makes a lot of sense and actually shows a good understanding! People are just too quick to join any bandwagon on social networking sites just to make themselves look good but they actually look very ignorant. The kony 2012 video just paints a horrible picture of uganda and also creates a stereotype of African countries all together. I also especially agree with the point in this letter about a toddler being used in this video in order to explain who kony is, its very patronising!!!!!

  8. Katie says:

    Your letter is just as one sided, if not more. You also seem to find almost everything “highly offensive”. im sorry but u can only speak for yourself. this is only representative of YOUR opinion, yet its worded in such matter-of-fact .
    you do have some good points and clearly uve done a little research, but i think u kind of sabotaged your credibility about half way through. ex: [ "The scene with your “explanation” of the conflict to your toddler son suggests that the viewers have the mental capacity of a toddler and can only handle information given in such a reductionist manner." ] is that what you gathered from that clip? i didnt see it that way at all. is it possible you didnt interpret that the way it was intended? by picking apart and miscontruing minor details, it makes u look totally biased and one sided. you go off on another rant about how the name “invisible kids” is highly offensive…. like really? ["You say “no one” knew about the kids. What about the kids themselves? What about the families of the kids who were killed and abducted? Are they “no one?” Are they not human? "] this statement just questions your intelligence even more. i think you took the word “invisible” wayyy to literally.

    I personally didnt know anything about the matter untill it was brought to my attention thru the kony video. i know i speak for many when i say the video was eye opening and inspiring. does it insipire me to set out and capture kony myself? No. but it inspires me to help others.. ofcourse not by just blindly donating money or posting up hundreds of stickers for some random, simply explained cause, but actually doing research and educating myself. hence the reason i stumbled upon this blog.

    i agree they might not be going at it all the right way, but i dont question ther intent to do good in the world and try to right the wrong. wat have u done? besides conjur up this huge one sided hate fest. your take is…well exactly that – YOUR take (minus a few true facts). im sorry all you can see is scandal, lies and alterior motives… thats unfortunate. your at the far end of the scale. the truth and resolution im sure lies somewhere in the middle. im know its not cut n dry like the kony video portrays, and clearly its one sided.. but what good would it do if everyone reacted to it like u did? you finish off by basically suggesting that Invisible Kids or anyone who supports them for that matter, will be undoubtedly causing more harm than good. soooo…we shouldnt raise awareness and take a new approach and reach out to the world and just.. TRY… no we should “leave it to the scholars.”

  9. Hers says:

    hi,
    Thanks for this. Yes this wont help the people but atleast it actualy shows some truth. Those stupid kids who actualy belive this need their head fixed!

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