Like Kony 2012, the video of Jason “Radical” Russell’s recent antics has gone viral on YouTube. Russell, the co-founder of Invisible Children and director of Kony 2012, allegedly had a non-drug related meltdown where he ran naked along a public sidewalk, all while vandalizing cars and shouting, “You’re the devil!” The Russell incident is pure fodder for Gawker and TMZ, but I’ll stick to criticizing the organization and the video itself.
It’s undeniable that the Kony 2012 video reached a lot of people really quickly. By one account, 112 million people viewed it over 12 days. But in an age where the most viewed video on YouTube is “Baby” by Justin Bieber, with 712 million views, it’s really question-able how much going viral matters.
While the video about Kony has undoubtedly generated widespread support, I con-tend that it is inherently shallow and superficial. Most viewers probably wouldn’t be able to differentiate between a picture of Kony and actor, Carl Weathers, of Predator fame. And even if the video resulted in more armchair activists and generals, it’s not clear what more our government could do. Indeed, our government has actually been ahead of the curve.
To his credit, in October 2011 President Obama sent 100 Special Forces troops to the region to help hunt down Kony, train local forces and fight the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Now, unless you want to dramatically escalate the U.S military presence in the region, there is simply no need for policy change on our part. Frankly, Kony 2012 was a decade late; there is nothing for it to ac-complish at this point.
As many commentators and experts have pointed out, the LRA is no longer a real threat to the people of the region.
Our attention would be better di-rected at places like South Sudan, which are still actively threatened. In this re-gard, George Clooney has demonstrated a clear mature alternative to Invisible Children’s antics.
Recently, Clooney and several con-gressmen were arrested outside the Su-danese embassy for protesting against Khartoum’s alleged bombing of the bor-der towns between the two countries. In spite of Clooney’s acting credentials, it was a serious demonstration, not a theater production.
Rather than ambush lawmakers into stating their support for his cause like In-visible Children, Clooney testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Invisible Children’s good intentions and idealism are laudable, but there is a serious problem with their methods. In their Kony video, they hawk a $30 kid’s “action kit,” containing posters, buttons, a t-shirt and an action guide.
Their storefront states, “People will think you’re an advocate of awesome. Everything you’ll need to take part in our KONY 2012 campaign is included in this kit.” Seriously? An advocate of awesome?
More damning is what Invisible Children does with the money you spent buying their action kits. A huge portion of their budget is spent on making YouTube videos; 270 to be exact. Overall, one third of their funds are spent on movies, another third goes to travel and salary expenses and only the last third goes directly to help Africa. The rest of Invisible Children’s other videos are just bizarre.
One music video features Jason Russell dancing in a high school gymnasium ? la Brit-ney Spears singing that he wants to “put Uganda on your mind.” Another cult-like video shows Russell and fellow members singing and jumping off a cliff. In light of these facts, it’s really no surprise that so many Africans found the Kony video patronizing. If you really want to help Africa, steer clear of Invisible Children.
Contact Alan He at [email protected]