After seeing a clip of the infamous viral video KONY 2012, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about the group behind its success. The group is called the Invisible Children, Inc. The group's main focus, stated in the film: "make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice."
Joseph Kony, the mastermind behind the near genocide taking place in various places throughout Africa, including Uganda, is responsible for the kidnapping, rape, maiming and murder of thousands. One of his most disturbing ongoing deeds involves children -- he abducts children to turn into killers. These children are then forced to murder their own parents and countless others.
Adding to the terror is that the abducted children become little monsters by committing unspeakable acts against their own people. Namely, they become younger versions of Kony, so the cycle continues.
The film, KONY 2012, highlights this fact. It also features Jacob Acaye as a child not long after he escaped from Kony's militia after being kidnapped. After a few weeks, he managed to escape and eventually, was found by the videographers responsible for the film. Akaye is now 21 years old, and, thanks to the group's efforts, has a new life. Today, Acaye devotes his life to fighting on behalf of those still trapped in the horror from which he emerged.
During the film, there are shocking images we usually expect from war, such as images of dead bodies strewn upon one another, skulls, and the like. The photos are graphic, disturbing. Still, these images are not new to us. We have seen them in passing; we recognize the brutality, the bloodshed, the horror depicted on the news, on various websites and in various films throughout the years, including Blood Diamond.
Trigger alert: Disturbing images
Still, it is the stories of young life -- Jacob's own story -- that manage to move viewers beyond mere words. In fact, the most heartbreaking part of the video has to be the clip of Acaye as a tween. As the crew interviewed him he spoke adamantly about death, asserting that "it's better when you kill us."
To imagine the implication of his words, that death is far better than life is heart-rending, to say the least. That a child would beg for death when he should be as carefree as other children, is poignant and reminds viewers that any bit of support they may offer, can go a long way.
Thus, the Invisible Children organization has garnered millions of supporters from around the world; so it is clear that people care -- and that social media can not only make a person famous, but can also bring to light the atrocities that exists.
Their plan seems simple: Bring as much awareness to the problem as possible while simultaneously gathering as many resources as possible to help support those suffering under Kony.
How will they achieve their goals? They are "sellingaction kits" that hold stickers, flyers, push pins, posters, bracelets, etc., for $30. Each kit, along with a steady contribution of a few bucks a month, could make their plans possible.
Though some criticize the group's "arrogant" and "questionable, and racist" methods of using social media to draw attention to the heinous state of Acaye's homeland, others such as Kevin Pereira, host of "Attack of the Show," and news experts at theyoungturks.com applaud the organization’s efforts.
The group's efforts extended even further as they met with congressman and senators, such as Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Susan Davis (D-Cal., 53rd District) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass., 3rd District). President Obama even recognized the group's efforts and sent in "a small number of U.S. forces...that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield."
Likewise, the group's campaign to bring awareness to this predicament has been discussed on the Rachel Maddow Show and has been exposed through various media outlets.
So why is Invisible Children meeting so much opposition? Some experts warn that the group is using this war and the suffering and turmoil of others for their own financial gain. Others insist that buying a bracelet and littering the streets with flyers and posters will not solve a thing. Others it's not a mainstream issue for Ugandans themselves.
In this cynical world, people naturally don't trust those who claim to be good, or want to effect change. It’s just engrained in us to believe otherwise.
As a result, if the group and the president lack the support they need to carry out their joint vision, the initiative will fail. Invisible Children understands the dilemma they face. The odds are overwhelmingly stacked against them, but they are hoping that the voices of a few will help many.
By targeting influential stars, elite millionaires and policy makers, they hope to make their dream a reality. Otherwise, the nightmare Central African citizens call life ultimately continues.
In an article posted on The Telegraph, a news outlet from the UK, critics offered, "Suggesting that the answer is more military action is just wrong," said Javie Ssozi, an influential Ugandan blogger.
"Have they thought of the consequences? Making Kony 'famous' could make him stronger. Arguing for more US troops could make him scared, and make him abduct more children, or go on the offensive."
In addition, the group has been accused of supporting the Sudan's People's Liberation Army, a militia ripe with rape and looting accusations. The author of the site visiblechildren.tumblr.com,Grant Oyston, along with Dr. Tonya Lyons, various sociologists, and others, argues that funding Kony 2012 will not solve the problem.
Where the expert community seems to be divided on a viable solution, there seems to be no clear answer to this problem. Nor is there any clear consensus on Invisible Children and their intentions.
Still, it seems unlikely that Invisible Children's sole purpose relates to profit, as they have gained valuable and influential support for such a difficult issue, and now have millions of supporters worldwide. Not to mention: They don't seem to highlight their talents, nor do they delve much into their own personal backgrounds. They simply advocate the Kony 2012/Invisible Children mission, appealing to the humanity in all of us on a deeper level.
What started out as three guys and a camera on dangerous ground has made a profound impact and led to enormous support for humanitarian relief, which could stop the genocide taking place. If nothing else, the actions of the Invisible Children organization is certainly "shaping human history."
When the world learned what Hitler was capable of, millions of dead bodies later, it responded and inspired change. Likewise, Invisible Children is hoping that the world has seen enough.
"The better world we want is coming. It's just waiting for us to stop at nothing."
Further Reading on KONY 2012, Social Media and Activism
- The Problem With STOP KONY on The Atlantic
- 12 Lessons From KONY 2012 From Social Media Power Users on Forbes
- What Will You Be Doing April 20, 2012?
- The War That Isn't What It Seems on the Huffington Post
- Visible Children
KONY and Transparency for nonprofit online activists, by Beth Kanter
KONY May Be Flawed But Slacktivism Isn't the Enemy on Mashable
N. Meridian is an editor, ghostwriter, soon to be author, and freelance writer of various subjects. You can follow her on Facebook at www.facebook/#!/inameridian. You can also reach her for writing/editing services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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