Is Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 campaign baloney?

April 5, 2012

By Thomas Lowe

With over one hundred million ‘views’ the Kony 2012 video has started a far-reaching debate on the aims and value of a production seen by many as an over-simplification of complex situation.

Produced by the NGO ‘Invisible children’, the video calls for military intervention to “stop Kony and disarm the LRA”.

Host Paddy O’Connell of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House was on the hunt for controversy – which is exactly what he found.

Perhaps the most scathing comments on the video came from film-maker and journalist Callum Macrae.

“Low and behold the world has paid attention and I’m hating every minute of it… This is a dreadful, I’m afraid, campaign. But nonetheless very important and we need to discuss it.”

Macrae says the unwavering focus on Joseph Kony puts him ill at ease.

“We shouldn’t be lowering ourselves to the level of Kony or the people who see him as an African bogeyman, we should be looking at the issues that are raised by it.”

Mareike Schomerus, of LSE’s Justice and Security Research Programme agreed that focusing entirely on Kony is a dangerous simplification.

“If you go into LRA controlled areas and actually stay there it becomes clear that the situation is actually much more complex than elevating just one man to the position of superpower…

When I talk, especially to military men,… and I say to them ‘do you honestly really believe that that one man can be responsible for messing about… 5 national armies and 3 UN missions and the US army, and the French army and sometimes the Israeli army.”

Programmes Director for the charity War Child, Amanda Weisbaum also casts a critical eye on the content of the video.

“They did 30 minutes of filming and they didn’t really do any history surrounding it or any complexities surrounding it… but yes I would have loved the 100 million hits”

But how then do people kindle an interest for African issues? Asks Benjamin Chesterton of production company DuckRabbit.

“Do you think we all start with PHDs?… we have to start somewhere… a percentage of [these people that watched the video] will go away and find out more… and maybe do something more than sitting around debating it.”

Poet and musician of Ugandan descent, Musa Okwonga rejects this out of hand.

“It’s utterly patronising to say that children can’t handle complexity… people followed complex narratives involving multiple characters over seven books with Harry Potter

The idea put forward by the video that military intervention is the only solution held no water for the panel.

“The lessons of history” says Macrae, “are that it’s always gone wrong; it’s always scatter gun and it’s always brought more havoc”

Watch the full event here:


Live Video streaming by Ustream