(The Humanitarian Social Network)
The debate was heated, labels were used, people were categorized on both sides. Lots of voices chimed in - some with good relevant thoughts, others with loud noise. Some saw the whole dialogue as encouraging and furthering the practice of better advocacy, others saw it as deconstructive and wondered why the filmmakers were being criticized for raising awareness.
Overall, a lot has been said over these past few weeks. Some messages were spoken that go to the heart of the very challenges that we face as humanitarians. Other words might have been used that we wish had not been written. The critique on Kony 2012 has been sharp and many: the oversimplification, the bad information, the perspective, and strategy. Then critics moved from the campaign to the actual practices of Invisible Children, its board, its financial practices & transparency.
However, critics of the campaign received a good amount of criticism as well. I’ve seen critics of the campaign called jealous, disconnected, and wasting energy on the wrong problem. Many argued that the fact that the public was focusing and learning more about Kony validated the film’s effort. However, I would argue that the ensuing debate/dialogue and any subsequent learning that happened indeed occurred because critics raised their voice even if it was going to be unpopular and did not occur simply because the video went viral.
The recent events involving the co-founder bring a sad and disappointing turn of events to the discussion that was occurring for many reasons which I will not write about here. Perhaps it is indeed time to close the chapter on this discussion on IC’s film, continue the education on Kony and the LRA, and start more discussions on important human rights cases (like Syria). However, I write this post because as the organization and its members look to move on from these past two weeks and the recent incident involving its co-founder, it is no doubt that many will point the finger at critics for causing the incident.
However, the incident should not invalidate the need for critique of how we go about trying to “fix problems” as Westerners. Did criticism go too far? In my opinion, there was critique that were misguided but they did not seem to be at the heart of the discussion. Furthermore, the fact that even the many Ugandans feel the need to correct the information and perspective in the film says a great deal about the need for critics to speak out as a correcting force.
Yes, Jason Russell can be seen as a victim here. But let’s not forget how many more have been victims of the West having good intentions but producing harmful results. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then we do need change (which involves critique) in how to work with those in the Global South. Yes, we need grace but we also need truth. So I encourage aid critics to speak out because we all need the story to change.