Kony 2012 – flash mob political action
My freshman art class approached me with Jason Russell’s film on Kony and wanted to do Shepard Fairy-esque posters and raise awareness. I had another unit planned so the discussion was about: do you want to learn to paint apples from direct observation or help catch a serial killer. We’re doing the unit on Kony so I read up and was surprised at the amount of negative press Russell’s film is getting. Former colleagues from the International School of Prague who are better informed than I am, responded to my Facebook wall with their articles.
The whole issue of flash mob political action is what is fascinating me about Russell’s film–that and the agendas that people have around both African politics and about social media. The Africans are uniformly lined up against Russell saying it is just another Western elitist attempt to control the narrative of African culture, defining it to their own purposes. Experts in political science don’t like Russell’s over-simplifications of the issues. Others resent his use of donated funds.
My feelings about Russell’s film are close to what Russell intended them to be. Joseph Kony is the number one person posted on the International Court’s list of most wanted war criminals. Regardless of who else is responsible for crimes against humanity, we know he is a candidate. Russell was accurate about that. Three hundred thousand children have been affected. Russell got that right too. Those facts are true and Russell did not lie in the film. He simplified the issue: bad guys got a way with horrible things. Children suffered because of it and justice has not been done to a known perpetrator. Bringing attention to this issue will not discourage a better understanding of the political conditions in Uganda and the Congo even if the film doesn’t directly support one.
There is a parallel issue to the one concerning Kony and it concerns digital media. Should flash mobs control or force political agendas? I think that is where the controversy is centered. Here I will admit to a gleeful enjoyment of watching the role of social media in the Occupy movement. It made me think about new possibilities–ways around the glacial pace of political change. I am also aware of how dangerous this phenomenon can be. Rule by the Mob is a constant fear by those who value rule by law.
But at what point do horrific events like the massacre of thousands of children over a ten year period, become something that is everyone’s business rather than the property of a nationality or a board of experts? There are other issues concerning Uganda and the Congo, other war criminals, other victims. Let the critics of Russell make their own films