Joseph Kony and his child soldiers took up Facebook by a storm the other night when Invisible Children’s eleventh documentary entitled “Kony 2012” began popping up on everyone’s Newsfeeds. We were intrigued by the ubiquity of the 29 minute (and 59 second) video (does anyone really have time for that?) that has already garnered 11 million views on YouTube alone, and decided to spend some quality time procrastinating for a cause instead of doing homework (that’s much better than regular procrastination, right?).

What we found was a well-made and inspirational short film on Invisible Children’s foundation and cause. Officially founded in 2006, this charity  and officially registered 501(c)3 non-profit wants to increase awareness of the perils of the child soldiers that international war criminal Joseph Kony has abducted and recruited over the past few years. Having his arrest for crimes against humanity spotlighted as their primary goal, Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign aims to ignite a similar desire amongst people across the nation, mobilizing them in a collective awareness effort. They believe that this awareness will help maintain US military presence in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to help capture Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), wherever they are.

Specifically in relation to us overworked Berkeley students, Invisble Children is planning a “Cover the Night” event that entails covering the walls of cities across the country with Kony 2012 posters and signs in an en masse action to increase global familiarity with their ambition. These Kony 2012 posters, eerily similar to those used by presidential campaigns, are meant to “make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice” (according to the Berkeley Facebook event). Action kits for the poster initiative are sold at a whopping $30 on the Invisible Children store website (Who knows? You may a receive a free flyer on Sproul one of these days). Invisible Children is specifically targeting 20 celebrities aka “culture makers”  (including Rihanna, Tim Tebow and Mark Zuckerberg) and 12 policy makers (among Stephen Harper and Condoleezza Rice) to join in on their cause. As of March 7 at 9:15 p.m. Youtube celebrity Nigahiga voiced his support for the campaign. If one thing is for sure, it’s that people will be talking.

Around the same time the Kony 2012 vimeo and YouTube sources became the new thing to sport on your Timeline, Grant Oyston’s tumblr became notorious as a major source of criticism against what was starting to be seen as an infallible and almighty cause. The second year sociology and political science double major at Arcadia University created visiblechildren.tumblr.com, which highlights issues of the Invisible Children organization’s spending (as seen on Charity Navigator ratings) as well as questions the overall effectiveness of the current movement to spread awareness. His overall argument boils down to this:

“Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.”

At 7:50 p.m. on Wednesday March 7, Oyston posted Invisible Children’s official response to the criticism targeted against them in the past week. After complaining about receiving thousands of e-mails every hour after his site hit more than one million hits yesterday (doesn’t everyone have time for that?), the tired and controversial author simply left his audience with some more rhetoric and links to other contentious web sites to be interpreted by each as they wish.

What we should really be taking from this turn of events is that we should never jump into a cause without open discussion, research and doubt. Well-made films and the power of social media can have an immense impact on how we view the media that is presented to us – it often validates the causes FOR us even before we have a chance to step back and allow for further analysis. In the end, you may decide that donning the Kony 2012 bracelet, spending your (or your parents’) hard earned cash and covering the Golden Bear Cafe windows with Kony 2012 posters is indeed the right way to go – but nevertheless, we hope you become well-informed first.

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