Earlier this week, I put together a post on Invisible Children’s new campaign and video, Kony 2012. It’s gotten a huge amount of readership, which this humble blogger is very proud and thankful for. Since the whole of the internet joined in what turned out to be a huge debate over both the issue of LRA disarmament specifically and Invisible Children as a whole, I began gathering links to anything I thought was worth reading. The list has gotten a bit bigger than I expected, so I’m re-writing everything here in what I hope to be a more digestible format as an early edition of the weekly reading feature.
- “Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions,” by Musa Okwonga at The Independent.
- UN Dispatch has a two-sided post on sensationalist vs. savior.
- The Wired’s Danger Room gives a quick look of Kony 2012.
- A blog post at the Washington Post covers the debate.
- Michael Dreibert gives a succinct history of the conflict.
- The Guardian has a long live-feed of updates on the debate.
- NPR asks if the campaign will actually work.
- The Guardian has an article including an interview with Jacob Acaye, one of the children featured in IC’s original video, as well as criticisms from Victor Ochen, who runs a great youth rehabilitation center in Lira.
- The Monitor, an independent newspaper in Uganda, has this report that includes support from the UPDF but a criticism from former Gulu Mayor Norbert Mao – who has worked with IC in the past.
- The New York Times’ Room for Debate features a number of important voices on the Kony 2012 campaign.
There are a number of critical takes on both the Kony 2012 campaign and on IC itself as an organization:
- Innovate Africa
- How Matters
- Visible Children
- Justice in Conflict posts by Mark Kersten and by Patrick Wegner
- This is Africa calls Kony 2012 “a campaign of infamy.”
- David Sangokoya says IC is selling old newspapers.
- A View from the Cave
- Overseas Development Institute has a post by Sarah Bailey.
- Akhila Khilak
Kings of War has a critique on the military side of the campaign. African Arguements has a piece up by Angelo Izama about the video’s misrepresentations. A guest post at FP by Michael Wilkerson criticizes the video’s apparent inaccuracies; Wilkerson also wrote about it at The Guardian. Elizabeth Dickinson writes about the moral conflict of the campaign as well as comparisons to the Darfur advocacy campaign. Global Voices has a collection of Ugandan criticisms of the Kony 2012 campaign. And here’s another look at the backlash of the campaign. Max Fisher at The Atlantic has a good article criticizing the video as well. An FP article explains that the danger of troops being withdrawn might be unfounded. Adam Branch at the Makarere Institute for Social Research thinks IC is a symptom of US actions and doesn’t affect things on the ground. Timothy Burke questions the goal of Kony 2012’s direct action.
TMS Ruge wrote specifically about how the narrative denies agency to Ugandans. Africa is a Country has a post lambasting IC co-founder Jason Russell and Kony 2012’s white savior narrative. Amanda and Kate from Wronging Rights wrote a piece at The Atlantic – also they made a drinking game. Teju Cole tweeted a short burst of criticism against American sentimentality. There’s also a fun, satirical interactive map. This article in the CS Monitor touches on the need to reach out to African groups. Alex de Waal argues that elevating Kony to “make him famous” isn’t the right way forwards. There is also an article on Kony in the real world.
Resolve, Invisible Children, and Enough released a letter to President Obama (pdf) that is a blueprint for the way forward. Invisible Children also released a response to critiques directly responding to many of the critiques. Paul Ronan, Resolve’s Director of Advocacy, posted this from South Sudan, where he has been doing research in the field. Anneke van Woudenberg wrote a recent piece for Human Rights Watch explaining the need for action. Senator Chris Coons wrote that we should work together to capture Kony. Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey responds to financial critiques in this new video.
And a critique of the Visible Children blog in defense of Invisible Children was posted on Facebook by an IC staffer working on the Crisis Tracker. Bridgette Bugay offers a response to criticisms at the LSE blog. Sarah Margon, a former staffer for Senator Russ Feingold (who spearheaded the bill that was passed in 2010) has this defense to offer. Jared White, a development worker at IC’s Uganda office, wrote about the benefits of IC’s three track system. James Pearson criticizes the video, but give his support to the mission of Kony 2012. A former IC roadie wrote a half-defense at Dave Algoso’s blog.
Things to Think About
Daniel Solomon gives some views on the way forward. Kings of War’s original post on the topic covered the dangers of “crowdsourcing intervention.” Shanley Knox does some reflecting on interacting in Uganda as a savior versus a partner. This World We Live In offers a warning against hubris. Dave Algoso touches on the differences between simplification and distortion in advocacy. Think Africa Press has a piece on Uganda’s military and a survivor’s story that’s important to consider. The Washington Post interviewed Glenna Gordon, the photographer who caught the filmmakers posing with soldiers in 2008.
Siena Anstis provides a number of ways to learn more about the crisis. Hayes Brown looks at whether or not the UN could harness the momentum, while Give Well has an argument for concentrating on malaria, which could actually be stopped if more people paid attention. Mafoya Dossoumon argues that we should hold African leaders more accountable, which is a great point. Daniel Solomon also has a piece on seeing advocacy as discursive, and how that changes the approach. Here is a look at the video’s impact on documentaries. And Aaron Bady put together a list on the “Genre of Raising Awareness of Someone Else’s Suffering .”
A Week Later: More Links
- Alex Halperin wrote this breakdown of IC for Guernica Magazine.
- An op-ed written by those still affected by the LRA says critics have missed the point.
- Ben Affleck gives a balanced view from his position at the Eastern Congo Initiative.
- Anne Richard of the IRC tells everyone how they can help – educate yourself, then raise money and raise your voice.
- Schomerus, Allen and Vlassenroot give another take at Kony2012 and the prospects for change.
- The New Inquiry has a brilliant essay by Elliott Prasse-Freeman on the militarism of the campaign.
- The Association of Concerned Africa Scholars called on the U.S. to support a peaceful resolution to disarming militias and apprehending Kony.
- Jeremy Konyndyk wrote one of the best pieces defending critiques, explaining the need for smart advocacy and to move beyond awareness.
- The BBC interviewed those who are currently being victimized by the LRA, contrast to new outlets that have been interviewing Ugandans. These victims overwhelmingly support the campaign to find Kony.
- Time has a short look at how debate over Kony 2012 quickly fell apart into take downs and breakdowns.
- Addressing the Governance Gap in Northern Uganda is also important.
- Sam Gregory on principles of making advocacy videos.
- IC Director of Programs Adam Finck responds to critics by explaining programs and defending the organization.
- Michael Poffenberger, the executive director at Resolve, has put together a list of ten things critics – and everyone – should know about the Kony 2012 campaign.
- Jadaliyya has a late post in defense of so-called “armchair critics.”
Another interesting piece is this reflection by Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire:
“…this is another video where you see an outsider trying to be a hero rescuing African children. We have seen these stories a lot in Ethiopia, celebrities coming in Somalia … it does not end the problem. I think we need to have kind of sound, intelligent campaigns that are geared towards real policy shifts rather than a very sensationalized story that is out to make just one person cry, and at the end of the day we forget about it.
I think it’s all about trying to make a difference, but how do you tell the story of Africans is much more important [than] what the story is, actually. Because if you’re showing me as voiceless, as hopeless… you have no space telling my story; you shouldn’t be telling my story if you don’t believe that I also have the power to change what is going on, and this video seems to say that the power lies in America and it does not lie with my government, it does not lie with local initiatives on the ground… that aspect is lacking and this is the problem. It is furthering that narrative about Africans: totally unable to help themselves and needing outside help all the time.”
I really hope the response to this controversy isn’t just “Well let’s just do nothing!” Rather, I hope that these critiques can lead us to a new way of understanding how we as human beings interact with each other around the world. The fact remains that America is a country with an intense concentration of monetary and material resources, partially because of the way that we and other Western nations have exploited the economies of African countries. To promote ourselves as White Saviors is not justice, but neither is maintaining the status quo of extreme inequality. The question is, how can we have a mutually beneficial relationship across national and cultural boundaries without being infantilizing/silencing/domineering/etc.
Nice post with some good links.
We can begin by retaking the utterly corrupt United States government from corporatists and plutocrats that use the military to advance their agendas of economic domination and exploitation of peoples worldwide to sustain our terrifying vampirism we call our “standard of living”.
There are no such things as “humanitarian interventions” using the most powerful military machine the world.
If we were to put our own house in order it would go a long way towards addressing economic injustice and terrorism worldwide.
Thanks for linking to my post on how-matters.org. @InnovateAfrica & I hosted a live chat today to reflect more the issues that came up from our posts on #StopKony. Read more at: http://www.how-matters.org/2012/03/12/searching-for-closure-a-kony2012-postscript/
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