Well, first update: my mom knows about the Invisible Children video. I want to attempt to contextualize this. My mom found out about Leeroy Jenkins literally yesterday. I'm serious. It was referenced on the Daily Show, so I asked if she'd seen it. She hadn't, so I showed it to her. Extraordinarily unscientific conclusion: The Invisible Children video is more viral than Leeroy Jenkins.
One of my professors, in response to my posting in a Kony 2012 facebook group a friend of mine set up, sent me a couple of links, which made the issue of initial research a lot easier on my part. I'll admit I haven't dug much deeper than these articles so far, but I'm going to keep at it and I'll do another round-up of what I've learned next Saturday.
The first post she linked me, Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things) by Joshua Keating, addresses flaws and misleading points in the Invisible Children video. It helped give me a much better handle on the broader outlines of the issue, though it still isn't a full cross-section of information.
My biggest take-away from that article, in direct contradiction of the point I made a couple days ago, is that there are real, noteworthy concerns about the sort of attention Invisible Children is raising.
One of the biggest issues with a simplistic "Stop Kony" message is that discussions of Navy Seals or drone strikes are inevitable when patience runs out with Ugandan-led efforts . But what about the dozens or hundreds of abducted and brainwashed kids? Should we bomb everyone? Will they actually stop fighting after Kony is gone? What if they shoot back?
The second article, Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions by Musa Okwonga, offered a much more clear window into the situation in Uganda, including the sorts of leads that will likely guide the next step of my exploration into this issue. It wasn't all critical of the Invisible Children video, either:
For too many years, the subject of this trending topic on Twitter was only something that I heard about in my grandparents’ living room, as relatives and family friends gathered for fruitless and frustrated hours of discussion. Watching the video, though, I was concerned at the simplicity of the approach that Invisible Children seemed to have taken.
But my biggest take-away from Okwonga's article was that we need to be paying attention to the corrupt Ugandan government and President Museveni, possibly as much as we need to pay attention to Kony, maybe even more.
About ten minutes into the video, the narrator asks his young son who “the bad guy” in Uganda is; when his young son hesitates, he informs him that Joseph Kony is the bad guy. In a sense, he let Kony off lightly: he is a monster. But what the narrator also failed to do was mention to his son that when a bad guy like Kony is running riot for years on end, raping and slashing and seizing and shooting, then there is most likely another host of bad guys out there letting him get on with it. He probably should have told him that, too.
That article linked to a few other articles, including Obama Takes on the LRA by Mareike Schomerus, Tim Allen, and Koen Vlassenroot. This article was published late last year, and goes into detail about the United States' history with Uganda and the LRA. This one, more than any of the others, shows the weird atmosphere that tends to emerge whenever someone is criticizing specific actions taken about an unambiguously worthy problem.
That said, I think this was the most informative article I've read, and it's difficult to find a specific paragraph to pull out. Really, it's better to just read the whole article. But here's one quote, for flavor:
In the decades that followed, the outside world largely looked the other way as Uganda's north sunk into violence and deprivation. That changed in the early 2000s, when images of thousands of children taking refuge in the town of Gulu, Uganda, first hit mainstream television. Various celebrities began to speak out about the war, mostly focusing on shocking incidents associated with Kony's rebels; the Ugandan government's aggressive counterinsurgency measures, however, were shocking as well. For example, the government forced the region's population to relocate into what were effectively concentration camps. There, they were poorly protected from attacks, and faced dreadful living conditions. A study carried out under the auspices of the World Health Organization in 2005 found that there were 1000 excess deaths per week in the Acholi region.
Finally, I want to repost Hank Green's video, Kony 2012 and Complexity.
Hank very successfully (and quite a lot more eloquently) made the points I wanted to: that the Invisible Children video isn't an unambiguously bad thing, but it's not an unambiguously good thing either. The fact that Hank doesn't have an easy answer about what to do in response to the video makes me feel better about not knowing, either.
His video doesn't go in-depth about the details. For that, I recommend the articles I linked above, and will be posting in future about what additional information I can gather.
The position on all this that I've come to so far is that I don't think I can help. I'm not in any way convinced that raising awareness about Joseph Kony is the right thing to do, and I certainly don't think supporting Invisible Children is an unambiguously responsible thing to do.
But I'm going to keep following this, and keep blogging about it. I don't think it's the humanitarian thing to do, or even necessarily the responsible thing to do. That's sort of the point, though. I don't know anything about this sort of situation. I feel a lot of anger and frustration and guilt about that, but just feeling that way doesn't really help.
I think the Kony 2012 campaign, and all its backlash and all its support, will be a good window into the complex issues of activism, international politics, and trying to help people out in complex situations that are still unambiguously awful. I think it's possible that, if I stay on this issue, but don't try to pressure myself into figuring out what the right answer for me, right now, is, I might be able to learn a lot about what a person can do in general to understand and help in situations like this. Joseph Kony isn't the only person on the world's Most Wanted list, so I'm sure there will be issues like this again.