Editorial | Issue 3

Editorial | Issue 3

As young, well-educated people, we often feel a deep desire to try and make positive change in the world. We appreciate the unique privilege of being born in a peaceful, developed country, being well educated and enjoying social and economic success. We hope that we can do something to really make a difference.
But what happens when that desire is hijacked by a brilliantly executed but very vague social media campaign to raise public awareness, produced by a seriously questionable so-called charity?

If you havenít heard about Kony2012 yet, youíre probably not overly engaged with social media. The campaign aims to make Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lords Resistance Army, ďfamousĒ (though Iím sure they meant infamous) in 2012, to place public pressure on the US government to keep their 100 special forces soldiers involved in the hunt to capture him, so that he can be tried by the International Criminal Court for his various crimes against humanity.

At first glance, there seems to be no major issue with this. Why not run a campaign to try and help capture a wanted war criminal, a man wanted for the abduction of thousands of child soldiers? The problem lies with the organisation Invisible Children, and the people behind it.

Founded by filmmaker Jason Russell, Insivible Children is a charity with some serious questions hanging over it. Only 31% of their fundraising is spent on charitable programs. The rest is spent on funding Russellís filmmaking endeavours. For comparison, UNICEF spends over 90% of its funding on programmes. The money that it does spend goes in part towards rehabilitation programmes for ex-child soldiers, but much is channelled towards the Ugandan Army and the Sudan Peopleís Liberation Army, two organisations accused of rape and looting.

I can understand the desire of people to make change in the world. And I can see value in facing up to the reality of social injustice where and when it occurs. However, the Kony2012 campaign is not a realistic chance to change the world for the better. In fact, I doubt that a single personís life will be changed for the better through this campaign, except probably the three filmmakers who are promoting their own careers on the back of their so-called charity.

I can understand, and even to an extent admire, the passion of the young people wrapped up in the social media hype around Kony2012. But clicking ďshareĒ on Facebook isnít any way to change the world. This slacktivism is simply a way to make yourself feel like you have made a difference, without having to get off your arse, or donate either your time or your money. There are real issues of social justice in your own backyard that you could be working towards changing in a hundred small ways every day, but people are more attracted by the artifice of taking part in a large manufactured social movement.

Thatís a picture of Russell and his filmmaking buddies in Africa. I might be wrong, but I donít remember ever seeing Bono with a grenade launcher.

Ė Joe Stockman
This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2012.
Posted 6:37pm Sunday 11th March 2012 by Joe Stockman.