Friday, March 16, 2012

I <3 Kony2012

Few days ago, I decided to write a blog post to criticize that Kony2012 thing. Who is that Kony dude!? What's his problem!? Why is he all over my timeline!? May be he is yet another American presidential candidate a la "Herman Cain", who also spammed my timeline one day!?

Later on, I decided to go to the website, voila! there is a video there that summarizes the whole story, but nah! I'm not gonna waste 30 minutes (may be 30 more minutes loading the video depending on my internet connection) just to know about that Kony dude! So I read the first line I stumbled upon in the page, "Joseph Kony is one of the world’s worst war criminals and ...", good, so Kony is a bad guy. Bad bad guy! I scrolled down. I found some photos of celebrities, yeah, I know those people, they are cool people, should I click on their photos? How easy! So now, I am sending a tweet to those celebrities, I don't even have to think of what to say, or even type anything, the kind people behind that site wrote everything on my behalf. I didn't even bother to read the tweet. Who cares!? I am a mouse-click-away from killing that evil Kony bastard, let's do it, let's kill that fucken Kony with our tweets and save the Nigerian, Ugandan or Sudanese children, who cares which country he is from, as long as saving the universe just costs us few mouse clicks!?

No kidding, the above story is 100% true, well, in fact, it's 99% true, I did all that, I just didn't click the send button and never sent a tweet is support of this campaign.

This is slacktivism at its best, right? But why are Invisible Children - the charity organization - behind Kony2012 campaign doing so? Well, come on, may be they need funds, they do campaigns, they succeed, they do more campaigns, get more funds, and so on, and who cares how useful are those campaigns on the ground. May be they are just fans of one of those celebrities whose photos are on their site and they want to grab their attention. May be they wanna fuck Angelina. Or may be as Adam Branch wrote here:

Invisible Children's campaign is a symptom, not a cause. It is an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa. Invisible Children are "useful idiots", being used by those in the US government who seek to militarise Africa, to send more and more weapons and military aid, and to bolster the power of states who are US allies. The hunt for Joseph Kony is the perfect excuse for this strategy - how often does the US government find millions of young Americans pleading that they intervene militarily in a place rich in oil and other resources? The US government would be pursuing this militarisation with or without Invisible Children - Kony 2012 just makes it a little easier. Therefore, it is the militarisation we need to worry about, not Invisible Children.

So why do I <3 Kony2012?
Well, away from all this, it's already being described by some "as the most effective viral campaign in history". It's wicked but successful. And as far as I am concerned, I like the technique of simplifying a story, here are the good guys, and those are the bad guys, and all what you have to do is to click here on those eye-candy photos to kill the bad guys and save the good guys. Neat! Also as stated here, "Nine celebrities out of the curated list on the website chose to publicly support the cause, drawing substantial amounts of attention". Again, I am not saying it is a good campaign for sure, it's wicked, simplifications can be damn harmful sometimes, but you know what, we are a busy and have hell of things to care about, so if your campaign isn't that simple we might not care about it, no matter how humble and honourable it is. We better criticize Kony2012 from an ethical point of view, but watch and learn from them whet it comes to viral marketing.

Gilad Lotan wrote an excellent post about the social phenomenon, he analysed how it spread, profiled those who initiated the campaign, how they are connected to each other, their interests, how celebrities responded, all via the beautiful science of data mining. I highly recommend that you read Gilad's post.

And Finally, I'd better end this post by quoting Ethan Zuckerman who wrote a good post about that subject that worth reading too.
As someone who believes that the ability to create and share media is an important form of power, the Invisible Children story presents a difficult paradox. If we want people to pay attention to the issues we care about, do we need to oversimplify them? And if we do, do our simplistic framings do more unintentional harm than intentional good? Or is the wave of pushback against this campaign from Invisible Children evidence that we’re learning to read and write complex narratives online, and that a college student with doubts about a campaign’s value and validity can find an audience?

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