You could have only missed the YouTube documentary that went viral, Kony 2012, if you were living under a rock last week. It already has 74 million views and has been online for nine days.
While it’s all well and good that a documentary about child soldiers in Africa is getting the recognition it deserves and people are starting to take action to stop this, we have to ask why. Why now? Why this cause? Why?
Because it’s cool, of course.
Some commentators have been saying that Kony has been a force for evil for 35 years, so what’s getting everyone all hot under the collar about him now? Children being used as soldiers was no less bad 35 years ago than it is today.
Jason Russell, the brainchild behind Kony: 2012, worked on the doco for close to ten years. It’s great that a young activist is using the skills at his disposal to work towards a greater good, but there are so many other charities and causes out there that deserve recognition, too.
But on April 20, we’re going to be bombarded with posters and badges and volunteers stopping us in the street for our cash and urging us to watch the video, as if by then there’d be anyone who hasn’t seen or heard about Kony: 2012 and the Invisible Children organisation that runs it questionably spending money on documentary-making, when grassroots and on-the-ground activism would have put that money to much better use.
Why? Because it’s cool.
There are thousands upon thousands of charities and awareness-making organisations out there and have been for the 35 years it’s taken Joseph Kony to gain worldwide recognition. The reason everyone’s kicking up a stink about the warlord and his 30,000 child soldiers now is because it’s cool.
As Josh Kron and David Goodman wrote in The Age about the phenomenon this past weekend, “Some have called the video a pitch-perfect appeal to the so-called slacktivism, a pejorative term for armchair activism by a younger generation, often online.”
Now, I don’t agree that just because you’re young and use the internet as the primary means of publicising a cause it’s akin to “slacktivism”. Look at SlutWalk and the Arab Spring.
But I do agree that having all your Facebook friends and people you follow and who follow you on Twitter posting the video and pledging their money for the Kony: 2012 action kit (which is now sold out. They have some great marketers on their hands.) works as a kind of peer pressure to do something about it, too. When Rihanna and Taylor Swift and Angelina Jolie (though she promotes many a charity, with less-than-Kony results) come out in support of it, it must be totes cool. Because it’s not worth supporting a charity unless it’s a cool and popular one, right? Kony: 2012 is the new Pink.
I think we should be working towards a better world actively all the time or when and where we can, not when a fad YouTube video comes along.
Elsewhere: [The Age] The Warlord Versus the World.
Image via Human Rights Now.