Updated 09 March 2012: If you’ve popped your head into the swamp of the internet in this past week, you’ve likely seen the video linked above. If not, you’re one of the few.
The video is an engaging advocacy appeal from a mainstream American perspective. Not everybody’s loving it, but the video has undeniably made a huge impact on awareness and more than a few more people now know who Kony is — as opposed to a week ago. I won’t summarize the video, but will instead leave it to you to watch and judge for yourself, if you’re interested.
I’ve been fascinated by the criticism of Invisible Children, the group responsible for this video. The first wave of criticism was essentially a cross-linking, feedback loop based on of a few ungrounded or confused dissents — most notably one from Tumblr. Many people people were quick to assume the organization had to be a sham, and so on. Or that they weren’t appropriating their money effectively. Much of this early criticism was grounded on a misrepresentation of Invisible Children’s stated purpose (which is somewhat a growth from the Witness campaign which sought to arm people with video cameras and equipment to record and document human rights violations — in order to raise awareness and promote dialogue).
After a day or so of the mindless citing-of-non-expert-sources-without-grounds, the real criticism started to form — and by “real” I mean more thoughtful.
New Media is a giant mess of uncertainty and the Kony 2012 campaign is certainly one of the most effective marketing appeals I’ve seen emerge through this tangle of digital communication modes and social networking platforms. The amount of attention its gained in this past week has been staggering. I’m glad the criticism is developing into something more substantive than that first (and now second) wave, though I still wonder if some people are pushing Invisible Children’s intended purpose of advocating awareness and public participation a bit far. Actual foreign policy isn’t really covered in that thirty minute video — and I’m not sure it needs to be. Invisible Children, for the record, also states this explicitly on their website (though many critics seem to be skipping what IC actually says).
Below you’ll find an evolving set of links if you’re interested in following up. I’ll expand the list if as new sources emerge. This debate is more than interesting to me.
One note: I must admit I’m heart warmed to see so many kids talking about Kony and his injustice via YouTube, Twitter, and elsewhere. It’s a welcome break from Beiber (or is it Bieber), Twilight, and Snooki. I just can’t agree that an advocacy program which inspires young people to empathize with victimized people half way around the world and to take the time to think and write about human justice is an inherently bad thing —even if the thirty minute video is flawed by not accounting for all the ethical and social implications of such humanitarian intervention. Methodology may be hinky, but the discourse is fantastic. In my little opinion. Extended discussion is more than good, it’s necessary. But that shouldn’t reject the value and power of this video. In my opinion.
Here are the links:
Invisible Children (Kony 2012) Primary Links: Links to Invisible Children’s primary sources.
- Invisible Children: Organization/Campaign Homepage.
- Invisible Children @ Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/invisible.
- Invisible Children @ YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/invisiblechildren.
- Invisible Children: Response to Criticism. This is Invisible Children’s initial response to direct criticism of their mission.
First Round of Criticism (Dismissal): During the first 24 hours or so, most criticism cited and referred to a Tumblr blog written by a political science student. My issue with this critical source is a fundamental misunderstanding and/or misrepresentation of the video’s actual purpose/objectives by the author. Interestingly, the author of this tumblr blog tonally backed off when his criticism also went viral, but has sense re-intensified his righteous criticism as other critics surfaced. Fascinating.
- Visible Children @ Tumblr: http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/.
Second Round of Criticism (Snark): The second round of criticism was rooted primarily in the professional blogosphere, though some larger publications began to also respond. There’s a lot of snark in these responses (check out Dictator’s smug response, though admittedly that blog is usually more humor-driven than seriously or editorial). There’s also a continuing rejection/dismissal of the stated objectives of the video and the campaign’s goals in many of these responses.
- Dictator of the Week: Invisible Children: Do They Know They’re Dictators At All?
- Kings of War: Joseph Kony and Crowdsourced Intervention.
- Demand Nothing: Making the Invisible Visible.
- Foreign Policy: Joseph Kony is Not in Uganda.
- Gawker: How You Should Feel About Kony 2012. (Most fun bit of the day!)
Third Round of Criticism (Pros and Cons): On day three, we’re getting better, more-serious, more-balanced responses and feedback. So far. The best criticisms, in my opinion, are those that balance the pros and cons of the video in response to the actual rhetorical situation (the purpose, the intended audience, the context, etc) that surrounds and informs it.
- New York Times: Online, a Distant Conflict Soars to Topic No. 1.
- The Guardian: Kony 2012: What’s the Real Story?
If you see a good read, let me know!