I promised more blogging action, so here we are! Buckle up!
Some of you may recognize this:
A PR poster for the "Kony 2012" movement.
Forgive me for disagreeing.
If you don't recognize this, you can familiarize yourself with this Wikipedia article, or you can watch the "Kony 2012" video, which went viral not too long ago and got about 4000 billion majillion views in the first ten days of its appearance on the web.
Briefly, Kony 2012 is an awkward video produced by a non-profit-ish organization called "Invisible Children." The director of the video is one Jason Russell.
Peace lover and self-proclaimed "good guy" Jason Russell,
being quintessentially American, appears here as the
right-most heavily armed white guy.
In the video, we are presented with a barrage of slick video effects and countless images which purport to accurately portray the problem with a man named Joseph Kony, the leader of the "Lord's Resistance Army," a militant group operating around the central region of Africa. The LRA is a murderous crew who generally pillage and kill and rape and steal.
I won't dispute that this guy has some severely
dickish modes of living...
One of the LRA's tactics, probably the one they are best known for, is kidnapping young children, while simultaneously forcing them to commit terrible acts, such as killing their own parents. Forcing young kids to kill their parents assures that the children have little motivation to escape from the LRA, and also puts them in a psychologically brittle state, allowing the LRA to turn the young men into child soldiers. Kidnapped girls and women are, from what can be discerned, normally turned into sex slaves.
The Kony video takes advantage of, in a very intelligent way, just about every possible aspect of viral internet marketing. The video is aimed at children. It plays off emotion with heartbreaking interviews of people affected by the LRA, and attempts to pull at the heart strings even more when Russell presents information about Kony to his very young son. The child is too young to understand geopolitics, war, child-militancy, rape, slavery or revenge. But the child agrees that Kony is a bad guy and that his father is the good guy that fights bad guys.
Here are a couple of other self-proclaimed American "good guys"
whose job (they decided) was to get revenge on "bad guys."
This image provided as a "self-proclaimed good guy" reference point.
The video was also marketed directly to influential public figures, including key political policy makers and several icons of pop culture who hold significant sway with their (again, very young) fan-base. They even targeted my beloved Lady Gaga.
I saw this video just before it went viral. I was somewhat unimpressed, but knew that it would "blow up," as they say. I was awed by how perfectly the campaign had been put together, and I had to give it to Russell: he had done his homework. As planned, the video exploded and was all over the news. As with anything these days, there was almost immediately a loud dissenting voice in the media against the video.
Then, a couple of weeks later, Russell appeared to have a mental breakdown of sorts in San Diego where he lives. Here's a man with an accent giving the bullet points of that situation. He was running around his neighborhood in his undies screaming and holding up traffic. At some point he was on the ground banging his fists against the concrete. I don't mean to be a dick-hole, but I wasn't completely surprised at this event. The video he had made, while tactically brilliant, had portrayed its director as narcissistic in a creepy way that I couldn't quite verbalize.
The crux of this issue doesn't have much to do with Russell's mental health, though. To be sure, I've been arrested under similar circumstances before, so no judgment on the public nudity or apparent insanity. I've been there. Let's move on.
I won't get into the various ways the Kony 2012 video glossed over details or otherwise failed to give the full story of the LRA. You can read about that at any number of news sites online by searching Google.
My point is this:
This video was absolutely being sold to a young and impressionable audience. I don't mean to say that kids are necessarily dumb. In fact, I believe that children today are by and large more full of knowledge than any other young generation before them (thank you, Wikipedia.) But the fact is that Invisible Children, at the end of the day, is advocating for US and world policy makers to send armed troops into the heart of Africa to exact justice (read: vengeance) in a violent way against the LRA (many of whom are the very same children kidnapped and forced into militancy through a myriad of bizarre mind-control mechanisms.) The video is very ambiguous about the kinds of operations that would be required in order to hunt down and kill Joseph Kony. I say "kill" deliberately, as my bets are he wouldn't go peacefully in such an event.
Despite the strategic fuzziness of the Invisible Children's ideal end-game, the video is not ambiguous about the fact that wearing a "Kony 2012 Bracelet" (pictured below) is super cool.
The Kony 2012 BFF Super Awesome Fun Club Bracelet with
Super Secret Fun Club Serial Number.
Compare to these wicked animal rubber-band bracelets,
which were equally as hip:
Further, the video is not at all ambiguous when it portrays the situation as "black and white" (no racial pun intended.) They unequivocally share the message that members of Invisible Children are absolutely "good" and that the LRA is absolutely "bad." This was elucidated, again, by Russell's child.
The video is not ambiguous about the fact that everyone will be Konying, including your favorite movie actors, your favorite singers, some politicians you may know, and all of your cool friends. It's going to be the hottest thing since The Hunger Games, and if you wanna have friends then you better get the fuck on board!
Peer pressure is a bitch when you're a kid and viral videos pop up on your screen offering bracelets and moral indemnity.
My other main issue with the whole thing is a broader look at what this campaign indicates about the western world. The video kinda says it all here. It shows a (presumably) wealthy white man (Russell) using very expensive technology from his presumably expensive home to make a video about a situation on a continent where some 250 million or more struggle to get enough food to even sustain their bodies on a daily basis. I'm not saying Russell is wrong for being concerned about his friends in Uganda (well, not in Uganda now, but that doesn't matter, right?) I'm saying, as per usual, that wealthy do-gooders have missed the mark.
But, then again, the affluent and self-righteous
have a knack for missing the mark, eh?
Net worth: $160 million.
The issue of Kony pales in comparison to the issues of both world hunger and western military imperialism. To appeal to the US government to take action, which would necessarily be military in nature, against anyone, is an insane thing to me.
The world consistently produces more calories than it would take to feed the entire world, and yet 250 million in Africa want for food, 100,000+ civilians in Iraq die for no just cause, and the world reaches a fever pitch with America unwilling to reign in the state of Israel for its illegal and brutal actions in the West Bank area, bringing us ever closer to the yawning fiery chasm of nuclear annihilation.
If we send in choppers and men with guns to mow down Kony and his close friends, or, alternatively, arrest him and allow Uganda to execute him, all the folks who watched the Kony video will get a warm fuzzy feeling for a minute, thinking: "I really helped when I 'liked' that video." But American consumer capitalism will continue to infect the globe, and the wealthy guys running Invisible Children will continue to live their wealthy lifestyles, which is the very reason the whole world is so jacked up in the first place.
Consumerism continues to blame the ailing human race on anything that isn't consumerism. Kony is somehow the number one problem, not the simple minded hedonism of millions of Americans hypnotized to the point of drooling by their $2,000 flat panel televisions. The worst part, for me, is that I am a knowing participant in this madness!
Rrrr... sorry. Can you sense my frustration?
In review, I give the Kony video one half of a "Charles Head." Recall that here we rate things on a scale of five Charles Heads (five is the best.) For those ready to rip into me, note that I suggested Jason Russell was narcissistic, yet I use my own ugly face as a rating system for all things. Bash me.
I'm only giving the video the half-head (as opposed to zero heads) because I really admire the way they were able to get 40 mazillion babillion video views in .4 hours. That deserves some recognition no matter what the video was about.
I'm interested in your opinion about the Kony issue. Does anyone think that there are more peaceful or effective ways to go about helping Africa? And, please, don't tell me "organic farming." My head (or rather my five Charles Heads) will explode if you tell me non-industrial farming is going to feed that continent.
On a wildly different note, I'd also like to rate this movie:
Drive starring super sexy Ryan Gosling.
This movie gets five drawn Charles Heads.
(Drawn ones are arbitrarily better than photographed ones.)
The movie gets five heads because it was better than any movie I've seen in a long time, and because Ryan Gosling gives me a phantom clit-boner. I can't explain how good the acting, cinematography and soundtrack were. You just have to see it. Trust me on this. I distrust Hollywood and loathe most of the rolled up balls of shit that come out of it, so it takes a lot for me to love a Hollywood film like I loved this one.
And that about wraps it up for today. I don't know what else to say except that peace and personal austerity is the answer to the ills of the world. We have a collective spirit or will that can only be uncovered when the trappings of advertisement and conspicuous consumption have been removed. Kony would have a hard time doing what he does if Africa were fed and set upright, and Africa would be fed and set upright if I didn't spend money seeing movies like Drive, but rather dedicated my resources to more loving and spiritual matters. (BTW, I didn't pay to see Drive. *wink wink*.)
Hope I didn't bum you all out. I'll write something happier in the next installment. Remember: comment, link and share to help me go more viral than Joseph "dickwad" Kony himself!