A Response to the Criticism of Kony 2012

Most likely, you have heard about Kony 2012 by now. Yesterday this video link made the rounds on Twitter, and today I’ve seen it posted all day long on Facebook. News organizations and blogs have lit up with it, too, by now drawing attention to not only the video and the issue it presents, but also to a critical response the video and its organization, Invisible Children, have garnered.

Here is the place I’d recommend you start for an orientation to the critical response, which includes a lot of helpful links that you can follow for further orientation. Also, here is a point-by-point response to that critical response, written by a staff member of Invisible Children.

UPDATE: Invisible Children has released an official response to the criticism.

I am not affiliated with Invisible Children, nor do I support them financially. But those familiar with this space and my personal journey into nonviolence know that I have been concerned about the conflict in the Congo for some time, and I am personally thankful for the attention this issue has gained in the last 24-48 hours.

And really, I think that is the point.

I think about activism a lot because I maintain this space. I suppose when people learn that I care about, think about, pray about, and write about nonviolence, they think that means I’m an activist.

But I’ve realized over the last year or so that I’m not. At least, not at this point in time. I’m not going to be joining an international aid or humanitarian organization any time soon. I’m not going to move to a third-world or war-torn country. I’m not actively engaged in peacemaking activism in my hometown. And I very rarely write about global or current events in this space here.

Someday that all may change. But for the time being, that is the way it is.

And that’s because I’ve learned — slowly, slowly — over the last few years who I am and what I’m created to do. I am a spiritual director with a pastor’s heart and a priestly calling. I am still learning some of the practical realities of what that means, but in the bigger scope of things, it means I am concerned with the heart and with formation. That is my background. That is my training. That is my own story of healing and redemption. That is what I do with my life’s work.

So when it comes to nonviolence, at least for the time being, I’m asking questions about the heart. I’m engaging people in the interiorities of their own hearts. I’m learning about the violence within and how it is overcome.

That is my contribution.

I accord Invisible Children the same respect. I say this because the main criticism I’ve heard about Invisible Children today is that they primarily make videos and raise awareness and advocacy, rather than help solve the actual problem. I’ve heard they don’t know what it really will take to tackle this issue in Uganda, the Congo, and Sudan.

But I wouldn’t want them to solve the actual problem. That’s not what they’re equipped to do. That’s not who they are. They are communicators to a society of people who watch movies and care about global justice and who will use their voices to speak on behalf of it primarily through social media.

If Invisible Children succeeds in raising awareness about Joseph Kony (which it has) and provokes a democratic nation to speak up about their concern for this issue (which it has) so that those who do know the realities and complexities of this situation will hear that the issue has support and take appropriate steps in response (which only time will tell if it will), then I think they have done what they exist to do.

They are raising awareness to provoke a response that will impact policy. I’m reminded how necessary that awareness was in the Civil Rights and Vietnam eras — when Americans saw the realities of Birmingham and Vietnam, they agitated.

Let us agitate now.

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6 responses to “A Response to the Criticism of Kony 2012

  1. This is a great response to the criticism. The are advocators of awareness. With an idea, people bring actions to the table. And I’m sure they will hep support those individuals that are making changes in policies and putting time into social justice issues.

    • Thanks so much for visiting, Isabelle, and commenting. I like how you put that: “with an idea, people bring actions to the table.” It makes me think of how we are all so much more effective together than alone. We need what other people bring that we cannot bring ourselves.

  2. “…That’s not what they’re equipped to do. That’s not who they are. They are communicators to a society of people who watch movies.”

    Thank you for saying this. I feel this is terribly overlooked in many of the criticisms of the campaign!

    • Thanks for visiting, Gina, and sharing your response. I’m realizing that Invisible Children does more than make movies — they’re also involved in some rehabilitation and education projects on the ground in Uganda — but it’s so clear that they’re filling a gap in this issue by creating effective awareness-raising films that stimulate people to use their voices. I really respect them for that.

  3. Excellent reply. Thank you, thank you. People need to be less critical of those attempting to make a difference. Negative people will always surround us, but I choose to ignore them and look for opportunities for me to positively impact the less fortunate.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Diane, and sharing your voice. I love that idea of looking around to see what each of us personally can do to make a difference!