Kony, Kids and Campaigns

As most people now know there has been an Internet campaign which has gone viral big time to alert the public to the evil machinations of Ugandan rebel and mass killer Joseph Kony, and to seek to bring him to justice. A 30-minute video has gone ballistic with zillions of views, and it is all the rage at the moment. Now I do not claim to be an expert on him and what he has done, but I do wish to make three points about all this here.

One. A number of commentators have pointed out that there is simply plenty of misinformation and even malicious material found in this video. When the facts are not even properly presented, then something like this can cause more harm than good.

For example as a number of commentators have noted, those actually on the ground are rather dismayed by all this. Two locals have been quoted often. Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting, said this: “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.

And Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation in Gulu, a town that was once the centre of the rebels’ activities, said this: “What that video says is totally wrong, and it can cause us more problems than help us. There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.”

As Andrew Bolt states, “Trouble is, Kony is not where these millions imagine and his Lord’s Resistance Army not as strong as they imagine: Critics argue Kony and his diminishing troops, many of them kidnapped child soldiers, fled northern Uganda six years ago and are now spread across the jungles of neighbouring countries….

“Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film (and by others) refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years.”

By all accounts, Kony sounds like a real monster. But getting facts right on a story like this is essential. Otherwise we simply whip people up into a frenzy, based on half-truths and misinformation.

Two. I have written before about what might be termed “keyboard compassion”. See here for example:

That is, I am concerned that many people – whether Christian or not – seem to think that they have done their duty – whether Christian or not – by pressing a ‘like’ button on a Facebook page, or going to some ‘social justice’ rock concert, or writing out a cheque, etc.

Such actions really cost us nothing – or very little – and tend to achieve very little as well. But often they are a means by which we seek to assuage our guilty consciences. We can feel good about ourselves by doing such minimalist activities. We think we have somehow contributed to world peace, global social justice, or in this case, stopping a very nasty character indeed.

Whether we have accomplished anything at all remains to be seen, but it does give us a false sense of moral superiority: “See, I have done something about this – now I can go back to my normal, selfish and self-absorbed life”. That is the real concern here: a few clicks of a mouse will convince many folks that they are somehow now quite virtuous, compassionate people who have done their bit.

Even non-Christians like Bolt get it: “In some jungle in Africa, a mass-murderer called Kony is shattered. A few million people on Facebook have unfriended him. And millions who’d never heard of Joseph Kony can relax, having advertised their goodness by clicking the share button on YouTube.

“Wow, and I thought the LiveEarth concerts – bopping to top bands while screaming at governments to save the planet – couldn’t be topped. But here’s the ultimate symbol of our new no-sweat moralising: the Kony 2012 video that’s been watched by 60 million people in just one week….

“How intoxicating for virtual friends everywhere. One click and Kony’s gone. The world remade. And they don’t even have to leave the house.” But hey, at least we feel real good about ourselves at the end of the day. We have just saved the planet, or put a stop to some mass murderer on the other side of the planet. And we didn’t even have to leave our easy chairs to do it.

Of course I am aware of the modern phenomena of ‘compassion fatigue’ in which we can get overwhelmed by so many pressing causes, such as aid relief to those devastated by tsunami, earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, floods, wars and so on.

So we can get overwhelmed at times at all that is going on, and think that a few minimalist contributions will be sufficient. But we are likely just kidding ourselves.

Three. It is certainly fitting and proper that we should be concerned about children. But one has to ask why it is that Westerners get so worked up about kids so far away, yet do not seem to give a rip about children in their own backyards.

Not only all forms of overseas child abuse and neglect should concern us, but we should especially be sensitive to our own atrocities at home. I refer especially of course to the abortion holocaust. If Kony has stolen 30,000 kids over a lifetime, we steal that many kids away in just three months in Australia by means of abortion.

Where is the concern for these children? Where is the compassion for this stolen generation? Why is there no similar outcry here about abortion? Why no viral Internet campaigns? Why not millions of likes on what is the most pressing moral problem of our day?

Why the double standards, in other words. It is a good thing to be concerned about children being abducted and killed in Africa. But is it not also a very good thing to be concerned about our own children being abducted and killed in the womb?

Interestingly, I just received an alert today about the actual abortion numbers:
“Summary of Registered Abortions Worldwide, through April 2010.
1922 – 2010: 863,000,000 reported abortions, estimated 950,000,000 total abortions.
Estimated current global monthly average: 1,237,000 abortions.”

Wow. Makes what Kony did pale in comparison.

In sum, am I begrudging those who are concerned about Kony? Absolutely not; we all should be concerned about creeps like him. So it is a good thing to have compassion, to care, to be troubled by these matters. But the question is, is that enough?

The truth is, it is a lot easier to ‘save the planet’ by dealing with something in the far-flung reaches of the globe than it is to actually make a difference in our own back yard. It is far easier to write a cheque for some unseen overseas orphan than to actually help our next door neighbour. It is far easier to press a like button than to deal with real needs in our own street.

Now there is a place for pressing share buttons and like buttons. I do it all the time, mainly to encourage others. But I know it is not the only thing that needs to be done. Indeed, it is just the beginning. So we must be careful about these Internet campaigns which may be factually faulty, and may simply mislead us into thinking we are world-changers when in fact we are nothing of the sort.


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