The non-profit group Invisible Children has launched a new public relations campaign against Joseph Kony, the brutal Ugandan war lord, and it has created the most successful viral video in history.
But it’s raising a number of questions. Max Fischer writes in the Atlantic that it does more harm than good.
The damage of Kony 2012 is probably already done, and that damage is real. First, it’s likely to actually decrease the amount of help that goes into Central Africa. The video is a joy to watch and spread because it tells Americans that by simply watching a video, and at most maybe buying a $30 “action kit” of wristbands and stickers, they have done all that’s necessary; they are absolved of responsibility. How much money has Invisible Children soaked up that could have gone to actually effective campaigns or more experienced NGOs?… Worst of all, the much-circulated campaign subtly reinforces an idea that has been one of Africa’s biggest disasters: that well-meaning Westerners need to come in and fix it. Africans, in this telling, are helpless victims, and Westerners are the heroes.
Invisible Children released a response video to critics.
Chief executive Ben Keesey said “I understand why a lot of people are wondering, ‘Is this just some slick, kind of fly-by-night, slacktivist thing?’ when actually it’s not at all. It’s connected to a really deep, thoughtful, very intentional and strategic campaign.”
Next week we’ll speak with a Ugandan author who says the campaign is an example of the “pornography of violence.”