If you are a part of virtually any social network: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and even Pinterest, you have likely seen either, “Joseph Kony 2012” or, “Let’s Make Joseph Kony Famous” meme’s cropping up everywhere. Who is Joseph Kony and why is everyone trying to make him so relevant?
It all started in 2003, when filmmaker Jason Russell, founder of Invisible Children, an organization aimed to help victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), traveled to Africa to document the crimes committed by the LRA in central Africa. At the helm of the LRA is Joseph Kony, a former altar boy who seized control of a failed rebel group from his aunt in the late 1980’s. Under Kony’s leadership, Russell claims, over 30,000 children have been abducted and forced to serve the LRA. Boys are forced to kill their parents and become soldiers. Girls are raped and forced into sexual slavery.
So why make Kony famous in 2012? Because in October of 2011, after growing pressure from concerned U.S. citizens, the U.S. finally sent a small amount of troops to central Africa to target leaders of the LRA. While they are yet to be found, the concern is that as time goes on, priority and interest in this issue will wane and the troops will be prematurely pulled. The idea is that enough voices will sway our government to take action.
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On the opposite side of Invisible Children is Visible Children. Visible Children is a blog largely run by political science student, Grant Oyston, based in Canada, who feels that the efforts of Invisible Children are misguided and misleading. In a most current post, entitled “We Got Trouble,” they state, “Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production.”
The other issue, they state, is that this is a complex problem and one that cannot be fixed by, “postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture.” However, Invisible Children maintains that the purpose of the Kony 2012 campaign is to make Joseph Kony a household name so that, should the US decide to pull back efforts, there will be enough of a rising of the American people to get them to reconsider.
A lot of questions remain. Do the voices of millions of people, worldwide, make enough of a difference to affect change? Are the strategies of Invisible Children on track? Is this an example of monopolizing on slacktivism, or successfully using it in an advantageous manner? Is the writer of Visible Children merely aiming to gain notoriety by being an adversary of a movement gaining so much traction? What do you think?
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