A viral video by a controversial group claims to fix Central African violence with awareness, but such misguided campaigns can do more harm than good.
Have you heard? Joseph Kony, brutal warlord and International Criminal Court indictee, is going to be famous like George Clooney. The reason is Kony 2012, a 30 minute film by the advocacy organization Invisible Children, which has gone viral in the 72 hours since its release, garnering over 38.6 million views on Youtube and Vimeo. It has been retweeted by everyone from Justin Bieber to Oprah, and shared on Facebook by seemingly everyone under the age of 25.
The video opens with a perplexing sequence of home movies. A happy couple film their baby's delivery by Caesarean, and he grows into a healthy, smiling toddler. Then the scene cuts to Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony in Central Africa, violently preying upon poor villagers. Now we discover the reason for the five minutes we just spent with this bubbly blond child in Los Angeles. He serves as a contrast for the crying children of northern Uganda, who have been victimized by Kony. (Never mind the fact that the LRA left Uganda years ago.)
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The movie swirls us through a quickie history of the LRA, a rebel group that terrorized vulnerable civilian populations in northern Uganda for nearly twenty years before moving into the borderlands of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic. It's (justifiably) heavy on the vilification of Kony, but light on any account of the complex political dynamics that sparked the conflict or have contributed to the LRA's longevity. Instead, we are given a facile explanation for Kony's decades-long reign of terror: Not enough Americans care.