Saturday, March 10, 2012 | Categories: House Blog |
This week on The House, Evan reflects on the 'Kony 2012' video campaign.
Listen to Evan's weekly commentary here:
That's how many have viewed this 29 minute video called Kony 2012, posted on the web on Monday.
It's an old story.
Jospeh Kony, the leader of the Lords resistance army -- is the most wanted man on the list of the international criminal court -- accused of abducting over 30,000 children in 26 years, turning them into child soldiers and sex slaves.
Murdering thousands of others.
This guy has been a beast for a long time and it's well known so why is this suddenly so popular?
Well it's made by a group called Invisible Children, and it's produced like a movie trailer combining music, riveting images, information and then, a dramatic call to action.
But most interestingly, it brilliantly understands the dynamics of social media -- it targets celebrities, and policy makers, including Stephen Harper, to pledge to capture Joseph Kony by the end of 2012 and put him on trial for crimes against humanity.
And then when Oprah, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and yes, even foreign affairs minister John Baird all tweeeted about the video -- the wave took off.
But so did the criticsm:
The film over simplifiesd the situation in Uganada: critics complained.
What about the resource war fueling the regional conflict?
Or, critics said, Kony is no longer in Uganda but in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so why fund the Ugandans?
Or, they said, the idea of the white saviours of Africa smacks of paternalism that development experts have long warned against.
And then they said, why does only 30% of the 13-million dollars the invisible children raises goes to Africa, do they spend too much on their own marketing?
All the critics have some valid points, but is this letting the perfect get in the way of the good?
Kony 2012 is not policy, it's a polemic and it's very effective.
Look: there would be no chance I would be talking about Jospeh Kony today without this video.
Mainstream media should just have the courage to admit that.
And the video isn't aimed at me, it's aimed at teenagers, not policy wonks, it's about youth engagement.
And really, what's wrong with Justin Beiber telling kids to stop a killer? Isn't that better than telling them how to clean up their zits? (Which, by the way, he also does.)
The critics miss the bigger political implication here.
Foreigh policy be driven by social media and youth activism? Is this smart politics or dumbed down do-goodism?
Well, it's a bit of both, of course.
Foreign policy-types often quote the old Lord Palmerston phrase: There are no permanent allies, or enemies, there's only permanent interests.
But social media like this 'Kony 2012' may be changing that, reminding millions of people that there also permanent values.
And isn't this the kind of democracy we always lament is missing?
Engagement of young people, unpredictable, transformative, hard to define, shocking, new, active...
Sorry Lord Palmerston, this is politcs in the year 2012, and that smells like teen sprit to me.