KONY 2012 Eve: Cover the Night, Fight the Cynicism

I don't always get made fun of, but when I do, it's with a delightful meme.

When I first told someone about the KONY 2012 video, that was the picture I was sent a few minutes later.

Tomorrow, on April 20th, 2012, when people all over the world partake in Invisible Children’s ‘Cover the Night’ campaign to bring awareness to LRA Leader Joseph Kony and his atrocities in Africa by covering their neighbourhoods with posters and signage, they will have to combat a more local challenge: Cynics.

If you endeavoured to change the world, how would you do it?

Young people have been asking themselves for years what The Beatles sung about:

“You say you want a revolution, Well you know, We all want to change the world”

Immediately after the KONY 2012 video circled the globe a few months ago, a Tumblr blog by Canadian student Grant Oyston popped up entitled Visible Children. It helped set off a firestorm of critique on every element of the campaign, the organization, its funding and its people. A surprisingly amount of vitriol was targeted towards a group attempting to help people in Africa, although should we be surprised?

As Eminem mused:

“I say what I want to say and do what I want to do. There`s no in between. People will either love you for it or hate you for it.”

The easiest way to become hated – is to become famous.

Second Kony Video Fights Criticism

Much of the critiques have since been cleared up in Invisible Children’s second video. For the movement’s April 20th Cover the Night event, media organizations are gearing up to cover the spectacle. It can thus be anticipated that a slew of new memes will show up on online trying to further disparage the campaign, and those that take part in the cause.

Perhaps Mr.Russell did in fact want to simply use the video as a platform to become famous…although his public display on the streets of San Diego likely dashed those aspirations.

Stan Marsh

An artist's rendition of the incident. (South Park)

Perhaps the entire organization is simply trying to assuage they’re ‘white guilt’, as many sites have suggested…but really, can this not be said of nearly every charity and NGO?

Perhaps there are causes that Invisible Children should be tackling instead. Although this then leads to a slippery slope of “well yah, but they’re also not helping with [insert critical cause here]”.

KONY 2012 Raises Awareness

Every one of these critiques can, and has, been debated endlessly. A key point though, is that the issue is in fact being debated. Much like the Occupy Wall Street movement helped shed light on the growing problem of income inequality amidst widespread criticism, the KONY 2012 campaign brought an important issue into the public conversation. Even if it was in an effort to trivialize the campaign, more people likely read about Uganda and Africa than any time in the last 10 years.

The world needs eccentric dreamers who takes risks likes Russell, as well as skeptical, well spoken critics like Oyston. The only problem is that its far easier to be a critic.

No doubt if one were to heavily investigate any charitable organization, one could find good reason to not give money to any of them. Certainly it can also be pointed out that the sort of ‘slacktivism’ that Kony 2012 supporters take part in might make little difference in the long run.

However, trying to belittle their efforts won’t make a difference either. For all the cynicism the organization has received, here’s one thing they have inarguably done:


Final Thoughts on Kony

Everyone’s favorite gay wizard, Albus Dumbledore once said: ‘The time will come when you must decide between what is right and what is easy.”

On his final Tonight Show appearance, Conan O’Brien wanted to get across one key message: ‘Please do not be cynical’.

Conan O'Brien

A man who left us NBC too soon.

To this I say: “It is easy to be cynical.”

Personally, I will not be attending KONY-fest on April 20th, nor should anyone feel obligated to. (I also won’t be joining a small contingent of friends heading to a downtown corner to ironically fondle their ‘Kony-Bolognie’ – their words, not mine).

However, to those that do put up posters, I will not belittle their opinion with cynicism, or turn my nose up at their efforts. Maybe Joseph Kony will be found this year, maybe he won’t. Perhaps Invisible Children’s campaign will have made a difference. Perhaps not. But we need more people like them, people that are trying to do what’s hard.

People that are, well – trying.


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