Why KONY 2012 Is Not A Bandwagon

presented by j:

let me get this out of the way first: for some people, the KONY 2012 film most absolutely will be a bandwagon.  it will be a cause they champion for a month and then forget about as the new whatever-it-may-be goes viral.  this is especially true in the U.S. where we have a cause of the month that gets talked about and financially supported for all of a couple of weeks and then nothing more.  some celebrities will get together to write a song about it and we pay attention – until we hear about Snooki being pregnant and get distracted from reality.  after all, yesterday was the one year anniversary of the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year, but only a handful of people i know (like my wife) still keep up-to-date with what is happening over there.

so why is KONY 2012 not a bandwagon?  find out by clicking below.
first off, Invisible Children’s efforts are nothing new.  the organization has been around for a while now, has produced 11 other films including the original entitled “Invisible Children,” yet this is the only one of their movies to go viral.  why?  because that’s the whole point of KONY 2012 – to make Joseph Kony famous and bring international attention to the atrocities of the LRA.  some of the detractors attack KONY 2012 for talking about an old issue, but how is that a criticism when the film talks about that very fact?  i would wager most critics didn’t even know it was an old issue until seeing the film themselves.  the fact is, the LRA has been wreaking havoc for 26 years and it’s a shame that i only learned about it in 2005.  how many of us knew about the Rwandan genocide until Hotel Rwanda came out in 2004?  i remember it briefly being mentioned in the news back in 1994, but nothing of the true devastation that had occurred.

and so the critics attack Invisible Children for bringing up an old issue, but they bring it up only because it is still going on and needs resolution.  KONY 2012 is not their first attempt at educating the American community about the LRA.  their “roadies” (my friend Josh served as one) have shown their films in hundreds of locations across the U.S. to thousands of people.  Invisible Children has done a far better job than other non-profits at keeping the LRA as a talked-about issue and not letting Americans forget about it.

second, the detractors attack KONY 2012 as a bandwagon saying it is just the most recent version of internet “slacktivism.”  they point to other examples, like online campaigns to “change your profile picture to your favorite cartoon character to end child abuse” – pointless campaigns that are easily abused and taken advantage of by the very people they are trying to stop.  Invisible Children, however, has organized many different events that require people to actually get off the internet and join in, including 2006’s Night Commute and 2007’s Displace Me, both of which i personally participated in.

the brilliance of KONY 2012 is that the whole point is to simply make Joseph Kony famous so that awareness is raised – and what better way to do that than on the web?  that’s not counting the efforts talked about in the film that will go down in April with IC activists plastering Kony 2012 info all over the cities of the world.  IC has never depended on “slacktivism” to make their message known, but the idea behind KONY 2012 is best made known in a “viral” web-based campaign.

third, IC’s critics attack KONY 2012 as being a bandwagon because they say that most people who are talking about it didn’t even know Uganda existed before seeing the film.  i would contest this, pointing back to my first point and how IC has taken tremendous efforts to keep the public informed about this issue even though it was not reported in the mainstream media.

the critics go on to say that Uganda is relatively safe now and that the LRA isn’t even in Uganda at the time, so why worry about it so much?  yet that’s the reason the film makes for WHY we should be so concerned – Joseph Kony is tricky and smart and he is not just a Ugandan problem, but a world problem.  the film points out that he has caused atrocities in other nations besides Uganda.  no, the LRA is not an issue for American interests or British interests or Russian interests or Italian…but it is an international problem, and we should care – not for any political reasons – but for human reasons.  pain is pain. and criticizing the pain does not make it go away.

finally, detractors attack IC’s financial situation, saying KONY 2012 is merely a bandwagon attempt to raise money and get rich.   as someone who works for a 501(c) 3 agency, i have to tell you that it’s very hard in the U.S. for a non-profit, especially one as large as IC has become, to get away with such tricks.  my work only has 30 people on staff, yet we have an IRS auditor who regularly visits to check on us and make sure our donations and books are being fairly handled – i can guarantee the same is true for IC or else they would not have been around for as long as they have been.  plus, the nature of their work requires a lot of internal costs – it’s expensive to produce films (especially good films), it’s expensive to be based in California, it’s expensive to organize and pay for thousands of volunteers across the world, it’s expensive to fly back-and-forth to Africa on a regular basis.

any one of IC’s founders could be working for a Hollywood studio right now making much, much more than what they do.  but they choose to run a non-profit instead because they believe it can make a real difference in the world.  yet they have been able to build schools, provide work opportunities for refugees, and raise awareness for a topic that most people would rather pretend does not exist.

and they’re not the only ones.  Sam Childers, an ex-gang biker, became aware of the LRA on a mission trip and has devoted his life to saving abducted children, building up an orphanage and school for them, and raising awareness – in fact, he is the subject of the 2011 film Machine Gun Preacher, which is not a great film overall, but the Africa sequences are very illuminating and well-done.  i heard him speak last year and though i don’t completely agree with his tactics or message, one has to admire his bravery and dedication to this issue.

Sean Fine and Andrea Nix earned an Oscar  nomination for their emotional 2007 documentary War Dance, which raises awareness about refugees displaced by the LRA and features an interview with Jolly Okot who is featured in a number of IC’s films, including KONY 2012.  it’s well worth a watch.

the fact is, some people would rather remain ignorant of difficult issues so their tactic is to attack a movement as a bandwagon.  it is easy to not care about an issue when you can dismiss it as trivial or futile.  but the fact is that we should care very much about the arrest of Joseph Kony – and that’s coming from a guy who typically espouses a non-interventionist philosophy.

some will say the facts presented in KONY 2012 are “oversimplified” and don’t address a range of bigger issues.  the film’s director and IC co-founder Jason Russell agrees with this statement – the message is too simple.  but it’s a 30-minute film, not a twelve-hour PBS miniseries.  being well-informed doesn’t come just by watching a movie, after all.

so if you believe KONY 2012 is just a bandwagon, a passing fad that will quickly be forgotten about, then fine.  nothing i say will change your mind about it, but by all means, continue to use your freedom of speech ot criticize.  after all, the more you criticize KONY 2012, the more famous Joseph Kony becomes and the more current the issue remains.

otherwise, join with the rest of us who want Joseph Kony to be made famous and infamous so that he will be captured alive, prosecuted, and put away so that he is no longer a threat to the children of our world.

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