I’ve thought long and hard all day about posting this or not. I wrote it last night, but have decided to put it out there any way. This whole thing is troubling me in a way I can’t work out.
Yesterday I learned about the Stop Kony campaign for the first time. I had seen a friend post up the IC video in the morning and happened to see the same friend later that day. She briefly explained to me what it was about and by the end of the day 5 more friends had also posted it up on Facebook. It was also starting to appear on Instagram and Twitter and was a trending topic. So I gave the film a watch. It’s 30 minutes long so I hunkered down and watched it with Gary. What followed was an incredibly slick video produced by an American Activist film maker.
Now I’m the kind of person who will easily get swept up in a cause, but after watching this, my gut was telling me something else. I felt uneasy and I couldn’t, and still can’t, explain why. The movie didn’t give enough information, and for a 30 minute video there was enough time. Issues seemed to be skirted over and whole thing reeked of the propaganda videos I’d seen in history lessons, made in the 1940’s.
First of all let me explain I have a natural aversion to anything that the masses immediately like. Until I can find out more about something and work out if I agree, my natural reaction is a negative one. So my initial reaction to this was the analyse my troubled feeling. I’ve felt like this once before and I realised it was whilst I was watching Exit Through The Gift Shop, Banksy’s film. If you haven’t watched it, then a recommend you do, it’s excellent. I’m also about to give the game away on it so maybe stop reading if you care. But if you don’t care: Banksy’s movie was a shrewd illustration of the commerciality of art and how money and fickle media can make anyone an artist. It was laboriously made over many years and as a result people didn’t assume that in fact the ‘documentary’ was all a set up. It was very very clever and astute.
So my first thoughts about this Kony video were that maybe it was a social experiment. Is someone using the internet and people’s gung-ho attitudes against them to see how far it can be pushed. Social networking is full of ‘fake activists’ who will like statuses, post up videos and pictures and add a ribbon to their avatars and then believe they’d played their parts. Another thought was that maybe the IC organisation were trying to scam people out of money (and time) for their own gain, using the issues in Uganda as a scapegoat. I started to voice these concerns on Twitter. But then I thought surely I’m not alone in feeling this uneasiness. So I did a little search on Twitter to see what people were saying. I searched for the term ‘Fake Kony’ and mostly people were moaning about fake twitter accounts set up in his name (how sick!) and others were angry about anyone considering the video is a fake. There were maybe 3 tweets from people questioning validity. So I deleted my original tweets. I was afraid I’d wake up in the morning and find loads of people slagging me off for my uncertainty. So I reformed my thoughts.
I googled and found a couple of blogs, one written in 2007, which questioned the need for the movement and I decided my initial concerns may have been valid. It seems the movement may be too action crazy, moving in without all the information, concern for the facts and adapting to change as the issues developed within it’s own country. They may have become so wrapped up in the issue that they hadn’t noticed it was being dealt with already. Yes the message may be real but there may be no need for a fight any more.
Another thing that bothered me was that people will happily follow a cause if the message they are given is slick enough. Look, I might be wrong about all this and it might be a truly worthy cause. But the lack of hard information in the video, the fact that all IC are asking for is ‘fame’ and that they’re asking for money in order to do it, rang alarm bells for me. Also the fact that as I was having my Banksy-esque worries street artist Sheperd Fairey popped up in the film helping to fight the cause (and not helping to ease my mind).
The UK news channels and print are not reporting this at all – no mention. Not even any reports on the stir it has caused. Why so quiet? Only time will tell. I hope I’m way wrong about all of this, but something really smells odd.
Here’s a couple of other things to read on the matter: