I've never been a massive Justin Bieber fan. I'm not anti- him either. I'm just a little old for his particular charms.
But when he tweeted about Kony 2012, I cheered.
18 million Beliebers were suddenly aware of a human rights abuse. 18 million young people were simultaneously learning about global issues. 18 million individuals were motivated to research child soldiers.
Then I read the oozing words of reprimand issuing from The Independent, amongst many others. I was so irritated, that I nearly went out and bought Bieber's whole back catalog on general principles.
'Even Justin Bieber got in on it. "Joseph Kony is a dirtbag," one of his retweets read. Another: "It's so important to follow what's going on in the world!" It sure is, Justin! And well done you for investing the half hour it took to watch the video before redistributing it. But there's a problem here. Those 30 minutes might not have given you a complete understanding of the issues. (I know!)'
When Villains go Viral by Archie Bland, The Independent (March 9th 2012)
The irony being that the journalist displayed no real grasp of the issues himself either. The whole tone of the piece was merely to swipe at celebrities, with Bieber at the forefront, for even contemplating raising awareness about Joseph Kony.
He did link to another article, written by Angelo Opi-Aiya Izama, as justification for his censure. Yet this article seemed to be making the argument that everyone should shut up about Joseph Kony, because it was years ago and anyway he's fled Uganda.
Oh. That's ok then. But isn't that implicit in the video? Given that it's all about an adult survivor telling his story? And should we now seek to agree that all ills may be forgiven, as long as the perpetrator evades capture for seven years?
Writing as someone who was politicized at twelve years old, by a combination of in your face Thatcherism and the rock band U2, I feel that a point has been missed along the way. If just one of those 18 million fans is so outraged by what he or she reads, that they become a human rights campaigner, then something good just happened.
What if that person then becomes the next Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Sojourner Truth or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? Then the good becomes amazing.
Of course no-one is suggesting that Justin Bieber alone can and should save the world. That's not his job. His remit, insofar as an old biddy like me can ascertain, is to entertain people with songs and live performances. He appears to be doing this extremely well.
Then, if he uses that world-wide platform to highlight serious issues, that should be regarded as a huge, fundamental bonus. 18 million fans have just potentially been politicized and who knows how that may pan out in the future.