I’m inclined to say no, but I have a nagging feeling…
Okay, to be perfectly honest, I was skeptical before I even pressed play, since no less than 15 of my Facebook friends had posted about the video, beseeching everyone to “stop tweeting” and pay attention to the video’s 30 minute message. Fine, I thought, clicking on the video and wondering why the people who usually bombarded me with cat memes and status updates about getting high and eating McDonalds were suddenly fervent supporters of Ugandan children.
Invisible Children, as many readers may know, is less a film than a social movement in the US. Three young filmmakers set out to make a movie about the Sudan. They didn’t find their war in the Sudan, though. They found it in northern Uganda. Their movie did more to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army and the war in northern Uganda to US audiences, especially Congress, than any other advocacy organization on the planet. That deserves credit.
But why oh why, I have to ask, does it have to be in ways like this:
Last week I bemoaned the new ‘abduct yourself’ campaign and film. Many asked why, including their Mission Director. Here’s what I wrote back:
“Well, to be truthful, the hipster tie and cowboy hat was a little much. But there are more substantive things to be said about the new film.”
Criticism #5: Invisible Children is staffed by douchebags.
Now when I first watched the Kony 2012 video, there was a horrible pang of self-knowledge as I finally grasped quite how shallow I am. I found it impossible to completely overlook the smug indie-ness of it all. It reminded me of a manipulative technology advert, or the Kings of Leon video where they party with black families, or the 30 Seconds to Mars video where all the kids talk about how Jared Leto’s music saved their lives. I mean, watch the first few seconds of this again. It’s pompous twaddle with no relevance to fucking anything.
However, the central message – stop this cunt Kony killing and raping innocent children in their thousands – is a very powerful one. So I looked beyond my snobbery.
But, maybe I was wrong to. Chris Blattman, who’s an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale, wrote this blog about Invisible Children, effectively just calling them twats. He starts by dissing their “hipster tie” and cowboy hats, before moving on to accuse them of being post-colonialists.
So, now I’m in a bit of a quandary. I’m worried that the real reason I went to seek out the downsides of the Kony 2012 phenomenon was simply because I’m a snob who enjoys bursting people’s bubbles, and because I find the promotional film they made for it embarrassingly produced. What a horrible reason that would be to ignore a charity.
The film Kony 2012 began because the filmmakers went to Uganda and met a young boy so traumatised by his experiences that he was contemplating suicide. Confronted with the grotesque reality of the atrocities, the Western filmmakers did what I hope I’d do, and resolved to help. No matter what. With that in mind, does it matter if they get paid well? Does it matter if they massage the facts? Does it matter that their charity isn’t completely accountable? Does is matter that they’re naive prats who think it’s the white man’s job to save Africa? Or is that all just pompous hypothesising by Westerners with enough freedom, information and education to look down on a simple, kind act?
Isn’t it better to just stop criticising and start helping children in need? Or is that the kind of blind interventionist attitude that throws countries like Afghanistan into very, very long wars?
I don’t bloody know. Soz.