Friday, March 9, 2012

Kony 2012 Review

Good god! It's been over a year since I 've written a blog post. I have been doing a lot of other writing, but my reviews and opinion pieces have ground to a halt.

Not any more!

Let me preface a bit: I saw the Kony 2012 video from the Invisible Children and reposted in on Facebook without commenting. My mother brought it to my attention that I hadn't said "Watch this!" or "Screw this!" and was interested where I stand on it. Here's what I told her:

There's some interesting opinions floating around right now, but I think they're missing the point of their organization. Invisible Children are not funding cancer research or feeding people, which are Not For Profits you would expect to funnel almost all of their money directly into those goals. Their primary goals are to spread awareness of what's happening in Africa to 1st world nations who don't see these children in peril and to move for legislation change in major governments to help support the governments of Uganda, Sudan, and others who don't have the power to stop people like Kony.

To meet these goals I think they've done a great job of spending their money. They make trendy documentaries and sell hip merchandise to both hook young people and to rely on their ability to spread the word and write to their senators. More directly they pay lobbyists in Washington to get congress members on board to vote to send soldiers to Africa to hunt Kony down.

More importantly, these plans worked. All those goals have been achieved. All that's left for them is to catch Kony, which is not an effort they fund directly. They're not in the business of hiring mercenaries.

They might change their goals over later, once change has happened, in order to support the internally displaced people left behind in Kony's wake. In that case, I would expect their funds would be allocated differently.

I think it's important to remember they are not a direct charity, and that as an NFP they are in fact a major corporation whose product is social change and whose clients are private citizens who invest in those goals. It's more like buying stocks that pay out in help to others, you still have to choose which companies you want to gamble on. This is unlike giving through a charity, where you choose where you want your effort and money to go directly.


What does irk me about their organization is the cheesy videos and annoying hippie front man they have in Jason "Radical" Russell. I think his film tricks are cheap, and he's not someone I could hang out with for very long before punching him in the face. He clearly has good in mind and when he realized he wasn't going to make it as a filmmaker, in the traditional sense, became the CEO of a world wide charity instead. He just comes off like a hack that used to play his acoustic guitar in front of a Starbucks to pay to for his partying at USC.

He did manage to get a bunch of intelligent and well-intentioned folks to do some good work behind him and he's causing, in my opinion, some positive change in the world.

As far as a review of the film, it's got some great effects. I like the way he brought photos to life and his use of text. The narration is abysmal and the pandering scenes of his innocent son, Gavin "Danger", not understanding why we don't just stop the bad guy were both trite and condescending. I would definitely have left out his audio from his first trip back in 2003 as I think he comes off really ethnocentric and uninformed while interviewing the children. He's clearly learned a bit more about what's going on since then, but it's probably not good for business to sound like a moron.

If you could never get into politics because your politicians didn't sound enough like your emo music, then I would recommend this documentary to you. If, however, you just want to learn a little bit about what's happening in Central Africa re: the LRA, I would recommend reading a book or attending a lecture: preferably from someone who's middle name isn't "Radical".

1 comment:

  1. what's most interesting to me about this campaign is that it's the single most effective use of facebook for philanthropy that I've ever seen. It spread like wildfire and is still going- what about the movie/message itself was it really that affected people? why NOW? how does the original invisible children documentary (filmed by the same people in 2006) stack up to this one?