Kony 2012 – social slack-tivism or the new way of promoting change?

Millions of people around the world have watched the Kony 2012 Campaign’s new viral video, produced by the non-profit organisation Invisible Children, which pledges to make the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony famous “not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.”

The video has been shared prolifically across social media websites. Popping up in equal number are articles that have called into question the credibility and marketing tactics of the campaign.

Invisible Children has been criticised for spending only 32% of the money they raised in 2011 on “direct services” in Africa, with the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport and film production.  Charity Navigator rates their Accountability and Transparency at 2/4 stars, mainly because they don’t have independent voting board members and are not externally audited.

People have also criticised the manipulation of facts, exaggeration of the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasis on the use of children as soldiers.  Invisible Children is also in favour of direct military intervention, with money raised going to support the Ugandan government’s army and other military forces.

Kony is in fact no longer in Uganda and hasn’t been for the past six years.  In October last year, President Obama authorized the deployment of 100 US Army advisors to help the Ugandan military track down Kony, with no results disclosed to date.

The victims of Kony do not support the film and campaign, saying that “fame is not what Kony deserves for causing so much suffering…Why give such criminals celebrity status? Why not prioritise addressing the plight of the victims whose sufferings are visible?”

Everyone seems to agree that Joseph Kony is an evil man and that the situation in Uganda needs international attention.  Defenders of the Kony campaign argue that anything which raises awareness of the plight of child soldiers is worth supporting.

Activism and development work is a lot harder that clicking “Share”, but does it really do more harm than good that more people now know and care about Ugandan children and their plight?  Will more attention to the situation help motivate people to resolve it?

These are difficult questions, but one thing is for sure: Social media is changing the way we do activism and social change.

Tell us what you think about the Kony 2012 campaign.

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