[OPINION] Is KONY 2012 for Real? – News & Views – EBONY

Is KONY 2012 for Real?

David J. Leonard

With close to 30 million viewers on YouTube, multiple days trending on twitter, domination of Facebook newsfeeds, and captivation of the national (global) imagination the “Stop Kony 2012” campaign is a lesson in the potential and pitfalls of new media activism.

Others have already offered valuable critiques concerning factual problems presented in the video, the economic practices of “Invisible Children,” the erasure of Ugandan voices, and the overall simplicity of its presented story, one that paints it as a struggle between good and evil. It is a story straight from Hollywood, with (White) Western heroes and a disgusting enemy in the form of Kony whose defeat will purportedly lead to harmony and peace irrespective of persistent poverty, AIDS, and a myriad of other problems.

Yet, what is striking here is not simply the recycling of “White saviors” and the pathologizing of Africans as either helpless/invisible victims or evil murders, but how new media fosters apolitical consumption. The “Stop Kony” viral video is an example of an emergent strain of social justice activism rampant in the United States and throughout the Western world. Described as click-through activism (“clicktivism”), cyber activism, and essentially based on apathy, limited knowledge and overall disengagement with social/political issues, the Kony campaign is a telling example of the ways new media technology can undermine struggles for justice. Urban Dictionary, usually not a source of theoretical insights, nails it in its definition of “Facebook activism”:

The illusion of dedication to a cause through no-commitment awareness groups. Specifically in reference to Facebook groups centered around political issues.

Dave: Man, this genocide in Darfur is terrible. I sure wish I could make a difference.

Jenna: Well, I made a Facebook group about it. We have almost one million members!

Dave: That’s great! Are you all going to donate money to refugees or something?

Jenna: No, but now those murderers will really know how sad we are!

Dave: Sounds like you’re really into your Facebook activism!

With Kony, although part of its agenda clearly is getting people to donate to the Invisible Children organization or to buy their “tool kit” (for 30 dollars), the video frames the issue as one of awareness where global pressure will lead to justice. In other words, merely “sharing” the video on Facebook, via Twitter or tumblr, will bring about change. Chris Csikzentmihalyi, co-director of the Center of Future Media at MIT, compares “click-through activism” to “dispensations that Catholic Church used to give.” Whether posting the video online, donating to the organization, or raising funds or awareness, participation in the Kony campaign becomes absolution for a history of wrongdoing and even any potential complicity in the problems facing the world. That is since people are “doing good,” by demanding justice, by raising awareness about Kony, war crimes, or any number of issues, they are absolved from responsibility; they are absolved from taking action in the real world.

Continue reading @ [OPINION] Is KONY 2012 for Real? – News & Views – EBONY.

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