Opinion: Kony 2012 in retrospect

Gareth Jones  Asst. Int’l Editor

Kim Jong Un is missing. He has not made a public appearance in two weeks now, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything by itself. However, given the fact that he has been mouthing off to the western imperialists with vague nuclear suggestions, more or less everyday for the last two months, makes it somewhat suspicious; remember that Hugo Chavez disappeared for a few weeks right before he died. However, for all we know he is alive and well, relaxing over Moet & Chandon and a Woody Alan flick in a penthouse somewhere and therefore I will honor my own vague threat last week to discuss the Kony 2012 campaign.

I liked it. I admit it, this time about a year-and-a-half ago, without even thinking about it really, I just clicked the “like” button on Facebook when some casual friend I respect but don’t know well posted it. Maybe the source had to do with it, I just assumed it was another one of his political rants and liked it because I like him.

Little did I know I had become part of a fraternity of concerned Americans, millions strong, an uncompromising body with a single goal of bringing the devil reincarnate Kony to justice, and saving some African kids along the way. Did every single one of these idealists actually watch the whole 30-minute long video? Did I watch the video? Of course not. I am the product of a generation raised to absorb information in 30-second long blasts of aggressive advertising and was therefore personally offended at the suggestion that I had half an hour to spare for just one of the thousands of demands for my attention in just one day. I assume it was the same for many of my new peers.

If I had watched the video, I would have been confused. The Ugandan Overlord was the ‘subject’ of the video, per se, but the underlying current is a little more interesting. The ‘social media change’ rhetoric, the way they glorify the ‘idea’ and its movement through society, eclipses the minimal attention spent on child soldiers and the Uganda problem, which has been raging off and on since the 1960s.

The video really focuses on ‘telling your friends,’ using brief shots of kids holding cell phones and using keyboards to get you exited: you too can change the world! The underlying vibe is educational, not about Africa but how to tell your friends that they should care because you suddenly care. It was infectious, and a rousing success.

I mean, it’s a good video. It is just not about what it claims to be about. I can almost picture a couple of videographers with money and time to kill arguing about their respective social advertising skills. Dr. Seuss was bet by a friend long ago that he couldn’t write an entire book using only 50 words. The result was “Green Eggs and Ham,” a book we’ve all heard of. That’s exactly what I think happened. That poor publisher, before his infamous sexual meltdown in a parking lot in California was a truly gifted social engineer who won a bet that he couldn’t make a 30-minute long video explode around the world.

“I’m so good I even let you name the subject of the video.”

“Anything I want?”

“Sure.”

“Child Soldiers in Africa.”

“No problem.”