Joseph An | What happened to ‘Stop at Nothing’ ?
Honest-to-God | Support the KONY 2012 campaign for its cause, not the fad
March 21, 2012, 10:35 pm · Updated March 23, 2012, 12:06 am·
KONY 2012. The buzz seems to have disappeared as quickly as it came.
Or at least, it’s now gaining a second round of fame. This time, it’s not about the villain Joseph Kony, it’s about the man who made him a household name — Jason Russell.
On March 8, Russell — under the auspices of San Diego-based non-profit organization, Invisible Children — produced a video campaign entitled “KONY 2012.” The objective was to raise awareness of the malignant actions and crimes against humanity committed by Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant group that operates in northern Uganda.
Within a couple of days of its release, the 30-minute video gained millions of views. Facebook buzzed. People tweeted. “KONY 2012” was officially a success.
Still, there was some backlash. Accusations were made towards Invisible Children for being an opaque and fiscally unsound organization. Some even criticized the video for oversimplifying an extremely complex, longstanding issue in Uganda.
But by and large, the campaign accomplished what it set out to do — it went viral, making Kony famous and capturing mainstream consciousness.
Considering that the video had been around for a week, when I logged onto Facebook a few days ago, I didn’t expect to see another spike of activity surrounding the campaign.
The news was that Russell had been detained by the San Diego Police Department for displaying lewd behavior in public, including masturbating and maniacally pounding the pavement with his fist while nude.
People made fun, affirmed their criticism of the campaign, and perhaps most unfortunately — “KONY 2012” became a joke. For most, news of Russell’s meltdown was probably more newsworthy than the entire campaign to begin with.
But what about the campaign’s slogan, “Stop at nothing”?
If the effort to raise awareness of Kony’s crimes was something people really believed in, why are they letting Russell’s downfall get in the way of what they believe?
Sure, Russell may have been the one to create the campaign and start the conversation, but our responsibility to uphold our commitment to stop crimes against humanity shouldn’t hinge on every single one of his actions.
The campaign KONY 2012 deserves our attention not because Russell made a visually stunning and compelling 30-minute video catered towards hipsters who like to think of themselves as game changers for simply clicking a button. We should pay attention because there are children who are being raped, mutilated and abducted by the LRA.
Ultimately, KONY has nothing to do with Jason Russell and it has everything to do with these children.
The easiest thing to do when a campaign like KONY 2012 is brought to our attention is to pick apart everything that’s wrong with it. KONY isn’t perfect and Russell certainly isn’t either — but neither is a world in which every day, children are kidnapped, sexually assaulted and forced to murder their parents.
So stop reacting and start acting. If you think KONY 2012 is a genuinely futile effort, work harder to convince the world that it is — don’t rely on Russell’s mistake to bring the campaign down.
And if you abandoned the campaign because of Russell’s meltdown: realize that your efforts and responsibilities extend far beyond a single man. You don’t have to do everything that the video tells you to do, but uphold your belief to raise awareness and make Kony famous.
If you purchased a KONY action kit and think that your money has gone to waste, I don’t think it has. Wear your T-shirt around campus and use it to start conversations about how we must stop at nothing.
Go out on April 20 and plaster the city with KONY posters — not because Russell told you to in the video but because you believe doing so might make a change.
And for those of you who want to move away from the campaign, that’s fine too. Just don’t abandon the cause because of the actions of one man.
Joseph An is a College freshman from Vancouver, Canada. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Honest-to-God appears every other Thursday.