After almost a week of hearing about KONY 2012, the campaign is slowly but surely coming under a lot of warranted skepticism. Any activist video that starts by spending two minutes on the power of liking YouTube videos and Facebook statuses should raise a few eyebrows. But what other viral marketing campaign can tout “taking down a Ugandan warlord” as one of its ultimate goals? This highly controversial campaign was debated by the panelists on This Week today, with half of them sharing their skepticism of the campaign and the other half singing its praises.
George Stephanopoulos began by saying that “something remarkable has happened on the internet” with the campaign to make Joseph Kony famous. Mary Matalin described how she first learned of the video from her 13-year-old daughter (who apparently thinks this would be a great issues for Republicans to capitalize on if they want the youth vote), before taking the position that having such a complex issue be in the hands of teenagers is probably not a good idea. Because who better to understand the political landscape in Uganda than people who don’t know where it is on a map?
Austan Goolsbee somehow likened this to the popular TV show America’s Most Wanted, before saying that it’s exciting that social technologies are being used on such a global scale, and “dictatorships being brought down by Facebook.” Stephanopoulos rightly brought up the term “slacktivism” as an important part of what’s going on here. And while Goolsbee is certainly right that social media has been used to bring down dictators in the past few years, the key distinction here is that in places like Egypt, it was the people being oppressed using these tools. KONY 2012 is all about the Western world using their Mighty Morphin’ Power Tweets to make Kony famous. The problem with Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gaddafi isn’t that no one knew who they were.
Eliot Spitzer, meanwhile, took issue with the “slacktivism” term, insisting KONY 2012 will slowly go from pure online activism to people taking to the streets and demand something be done. But again, Spitzer’s praise of the campaign was solely focused on the power of social media. He said, “it’s got to be good for humanity.” Nicolle Wallace said its purpose could only be served with follow-through, further actions merely beyond tweets and such.
Jake Tapper had what was the best and most well-reasoned take on the campaign, bringing up his own attempts to get Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army into the news.
“Awareness is a good thing. As somebody who tried and failed to get stories on air to get the public interested when Obama sent 100 special forces troops to central Africa to take on Joseph Kony… as somebody who asked President Obama about this last October when there was very little interest in getting that question and answer out there for the public, or very little interest in awareness for the public, bravo to them.
“But the question is to what end. There are things in that video that are not factually accurate. He’s not in Uganda, Joseph Kony. A lot of this, there are not 30,000 child soldiers, there are probably between 150 and 300.”
This is the important distinction those of us less enthusiastic about this campaign need to make. No one doubts that a focus on this tragic situation isn’t important, but when the facts are not presented accurately (and by an organization which has a less-than-impressive reputation), it’s okay to be skeptical. That doesn’t make us heartless people who want to see this evil man in power. A girl who suffered at the hands of Kony himself is not a fan of this campaign. And a simplistic portrayal of Ugandan history is not helpful here. As HuffPo’s Michael Deibert said last week:
I think it is easy for Invisible Children and other self-aggrandizing foreigners to make the entire story of the last 30 years of Northern Uganda about Joseph Kony, but there is a history of the relationship between the Acholi people from whom the LRA emerged and the central government in Kampala that is a little more complicated than that.
As far as I’m concerned, Kony should be brought to justice for his crimes against humanity. But I’m not sure this campaign is necessarily the answer.
Watch the panel discussion below, courtesy of ABC:
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