So is this a potentially powerful example of grass roots, social media based, public empowerment, or is it just another example of social and consumerist exploitation?
The criticisms of Invisible Children can be found HERE. There are a lot of additional links on that site that lead to the primary articles from which the quotes were taken. Notable, as usual, are the comments. Frequently stated in those comments is that this is a superficial campaign to make white Americans feel smug and superior by contributing to a cause and doing nothing else. My reaction to those people was that they seemed to have the smug and superior attitude down by doing nothing other than putting down the people who are trying to do something. It takes a real act of double think to put down those taking a stand and offering support, and then feeling smug in your own inactivity. They’re looking for the “perfect” cause or action to which they can contribute, probably knowing full well that they’ll never find it. They can then forgive themselves for doing nothing.
The rebuttals to the criticisms of Invisible Children can be found HERE. They do a pretty good job and recognize their shortcomings. They point to inaccuracies in the criticisms, especially in their financial statements, which seem to be in order. They understand that supporting the Ugandan army is controversial because of human rights issues, but is necessary as the best rout to achieve the goal. Few institutions are perfect. There are many in the world who would condemn the Canadian government (and hence its army) for human rights violations against our own Aboriginal Peoples. Any institution, including the Red Cross and the U.N. have to weather occasional controversies and are far from perfect. Once again, people waiting for the perfect cause are deluding themselves about their own inaction.
What I see here is a brilliant social media campaign which can have a significant effect. The aim is to make Kony famous so that it is harder for the powerful people who make foreign policy decisions to ignore the situation, as they have been doing for years. Public pressure is the name of the game and this is a masterful way of accomplishing it. The additional projects being coordinated by the group in providing aid the the stricken area are important, but secondary. Any project that empowers the people is a step in the right direction. As an example of “people power”, this is a stroke of genius and I plan to support it any way I can.