In the last week there has been an explosion of talk about the organization Invisible Children and their documentary film Kony 2012.
Kony 2012 begins with views of social media sites and integrates them throughout the film. There is no arguing with the documentary’s power. It is a moving piece that shows some plight, identifies a “bad guy” and identifies the one clear and solid solution – stopping him.
The issue with Kony 2012 is it shies away from the horror and the complexities of issues and breaks them down into a simple storyline that can be solved or fixed by one action. It focuses on social media awareness and pressure on celebrities and politicians for direct military action instead of explaining the complexities of the conflict to the general public.
The truth behind Kony and many conflicts is that there is no one simple solution to the problem. Mass oppression and years of violence cannot be drawn into groups of good guys and bad guys (though there are certainly bad guys that can be spotted). If a man like Kony is killed it does not create an atmosphere of tolerance and safety immediately. The constant power struggle and warring of groups provides a long line of terrors waiting in the wings.
The American government has responded to Kony’s crimes with increased presence in the area and a search for Kony himself. His organization has lost most of its power. Yet there are still dangers and civil rights violations.
Recognition and social movements are a move in the right direction but ignorance and misunderstanding can be dangerous. Re-tweeting and believing documentaries with blind faith can and have led to false reporting and misunderstandings. As journalists we have to recognize our social responsibility as a source for the general public. Movements can lose traction due to criticism and if an examination of the facts shows misinformation or calls into question motivating factors for the source.
Though the organization and the film have been called into question there is certainly more awareness of the conflict. Even if the story has become about the flighty social consciousness of society it certainly did bring to light conflict in Uganda and led to awareness of other organizations that benefit the children of the country.
Here is a Storify link that goes over the release and reactions to Kony 2012.
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