Kony 2012: Unsuccessful, but Unfairly Criticized

In an article from the Huffington Post from the height of the Kony 2012 video’s hype, the author delves into the shortcomings of the campaign and describes why the project was ultimately a huge waste of money. However, I feel that much of this criticism is unfair, and while the video has plenty of flaws, the project was not as much of a failure as the many critics like to believe.

In the article, the author describes several problems with the whole campaign:

  • An African audience found the use of the narrator’s son, a young white American, offensive for the simplifying nature of his input
  • A white American narrator was not especially appreciated, and in the midst of the recent discovery of oil resources in Uganda, many African viewers were reluctant to welcome American intervention.
  • The viewers asserted that making Kony infamous, and hunting him, was less important than actually providing assistance to the afflicted Africans, particularly because of the moral motivation behind the video.
  • The militaristic approach described in the video could risk the lives of child soldiers caught in the crossfire, a concern voiced by Africans as well as American critics.
  • The video simplifies a complex problem.
  • The impact of Kony’s army in Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic are not mentioned.

To a certain extent, many of these claims are validated by the result of the campaign. However, it is worth noting that the video succeeds in describing the personal aspect of suffering in conflicted regions to a largely ignorant American audience. The article also mentions that when Ugandans watched the video, they angrily responded with yelling and stone-throwing, and while this is pertinent in the evaluation of the video, we must remember that the video’s purpose was to raise awareness among young American populations, which it did very well. Furthermore, some of the criticism was more flawed than the video itself; CNN conducted interviews in the secure capital of Kampala, rather than northern Uganda where Kony’s forces were most felt (Kony 2012 Video). The video certainly fails to mention the geographic scope of Kony’s influence, but I would argue that the value of the video lies not in what is (or isn’t) explicitly described, rather in its impact, which comes in the form of the March 21st resolution wherein the US pledged to assist all four of the previously mentioned countries in stopping Kony. Whether the viewers know exactly where these atrocities take place is irrelevant if the policy makers are informed on the issue, which they were in this case.

Despite my assertions regarding Kony 2012’s value, the campaign is undoubtedly flawed and with limitations. In conveying the intervention as such a simple task, the video effectively encourages participation, but there is danger in assuming such a straightforward approach. Furthermore, we cannot even be sure that military intervention is the proper response; rather, it may be more valuable to tackle the systemic issues that allow for child armies in these developing societies. Ultimately, the simplicity that likely contributed to the video’s popularity is its downfall because it fosters the perception of viewing development efforts as clear-cut and simplistic.

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2 responses to “Kony 2012: Unsuccessful, but Unfairly Criticized

  • ahamilton92

    What happened to the Kony campaign is kind of sad. When people began criticizing invisible children, everyone who was so moved by the video felt cheated. They rose for a cause and then were told the cause was wrong. The movement completely fell apart. In this case, I think it would have been best if the naysayers would have either offered an alternative way to help, or kept their mouthes shut.

  • cgalley

    I agree with the above comment & would like to add a piece of info.You mentioned how Ugandans threw stones when shown the Kony2012 film. A friend of mine was in Uganda when this happened & she explained that a big part of the stone-throwing was not that the Ugandans opposed the message, but rather that the film was poorly translated & advertised as an entertainment concert, so viewers had no idea they were coming to hear a heavy-themed film to begin with.

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