Kony 2012: In Defence of Justin Bieber and AnonyOps

by JoHarrington

Kony 2012 politicized the mainstream seemingly overnight. Not everyone is happy about that. Watch the slap-downs begin.

Since 1986, an estimated 66,000 children have been pressed into the service of Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony.

Teenage girls tend to become sex slaves. The rest are trained in the art of combat and sent into war as child soldiers. It is an on-going situation, which had been largely ignored in the West.

Until the spring of 2012, when it was suddenly everywhere. With the speed of a viral video, it was the number one discussion topic on just about every forum you could name. The backlash began shortly afterwards.

Kony 2012 Campaign Goes Viral

Critics immediately mobilize to ridicule the silly, little children being diverted away from celebrity consumerism.

There's a certain smugness causing a stench over some editorials this week.

On March 5th 2012, the charity Invisible Children sought to raise awareness of the plight of child soldiers in Uganda. Not since Band Aid in 1984 has awareness of a human rights situation gone so viral, so quickly.

Now, as then, the critics are out with their supercilious smiles, writing poison pen journals in an attempt to put the genie back in the bottle.

Columnists more used to charting the progress of Lady Gaga and the Kardashians are suddenly having to appear knowledgeable about Ugandan politics. It's not a happy mix. It's not made any better by the fact that said celebrities by the drove are lining up to Tweet or utter sound-bites against Joseph Kony.

It seems that everyone is vying to establish their credentials. Of course they were the first to have known about the horrors perpetrated by the Lord's Resistance Army! It's nothing at all to do with Kony 2012! They've known for years!

And they are using this position to undermine the very campaign which seeks to raise awareness of these issues.

The Invisible Children Video Kony 2012

Uploaded on March 5th 2012, it has been viewed nearly 50 million times in four days.

Read about Kony 2012

Wizzley author Brl provides the background to the campaign for justice against Joseph Kony.

Journalists Attack Justin Bieber for Tweeting about Uganda

The influence of the singer should not be under-estimated. Who knows what might springboard from his involvement now.

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.

Poll: I want Justin Bieber to shut up about Human Rights issues because...

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Justin Bieber Poster

Reddit Turns Against AnonyOps and Kony 2012

Some people prefer to only fight human rights abuses, if it makes them look cool and different and, like, rebellious.

Meanwhile, in the 4chan-grew-up world of Reddit, the cynicism may have gone a bit too far.

'I'm sorry, but why is AnonyOps jumping on the Kony bandwagon?' bleats one poster. (S)He was scathingly referring to publicity provided by one of Anonymous's mouthpiece Twitter accounts.

The word 'bandwagon' has been bandied around a lot, in relation to Kony 2012, as if human rights should only be protested from the standpoint of a rebel outpost. The whole question is framed in such a way as to denigrate AnonyOps's involvement. It issues a stop-word, designed to end all debate.

Those sympathetic to either the campaign, or Anonymous's specific involvement, would necessarily be diverted into talking about fashions and fads. Nothing of import can be discussed, as long as words like 'bandwagon' obscure the central question.

Nor does it link back to the original tweet, so that readers may form their opinions based on AnonyOps's actual words.

In short, it aligns the poster with those journalists desperate for Kony 2012 to just go away. Given the tendency for Reddit users to rise up and fight the good fight, if the issue is to their liking (they did, after all, come up with the anti-SOPA internet strike), then a return to the banal surely cannot be the motivation.

The wording and target seem to point to popularity being the factor. You can't have your great rebellion, if the cause has gone mainstream; which says much more about the poster than either AnonyOps or Kony 2012.

When on Facebook
When on Facebook

Poll: Human Rights abuses should only be actively opposed if...

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'.. then they ridicule you...' Gandhi Quotation

The Dangers in the 'Kony 2012 is a Scam' Bandwagon

If you didn't spot what I did in that sub-title, then you seriously aren't paying attention.

If patronizing journalists and immature Reddit users have their way, then all talk of child soldiers will be over by this time tomorrow. So what then?

Those vulnerable to public perception and peer pressure will be wary of ever supporting another human rights issue. Too many hurt feelings and red faces abound. Everyone can safely go back to the familiar territory of celebrity worship and consumer satisfaction.

In the meantime, Joseph Kony still hasn't been brought to justice; and anyone asking the pertinent questions about that will find support an up-hill struggle. Moreover, misinformation met misinformation swiftly across the way, leaving the actual story muddied in its wake.

This isn't just about Uganda and Kony. It's about every other figure just like him, across the globe and encompassing a whole gallery of horrors.

So beyond the backlash, who and what was actually served?

Links Addressing the anti-Kony 2012 Backlash

The ridiculing of interested parties has quickly escalated into Kony 2012 being called a scam. It's not.

KONY 2012 – A Scam or Not?
The past two days have made me realized just how many cynical people there are in this world. There are people who are really behind this good cause, and there are others who sit on their high horse...

Invisible Children's Official Response
... We are advocating for the arrest of Joseph Kony so that he can be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a precedent for future war criminals...

Kony 2012 is No Scam: Understand the Facts Before You Criticize Invisible Children
With good reason and mostly good intentions, critics of the viral “KONY 2012” activism movie produced by Invisible Children have complained a lot about the organization’s supposedly “shady” finances.

Update! Anonymous Clarifies its Position on Kony 2012.

This video was uploaded onto YouTube on March 8th 2012. NB It's not AnonyOps per se.
Updated: 10/04/2012, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 03/15/2012

That part is a concern to me too. It's particularly worrying that the Uganda-Congo border is precisely where oil has been found. However, it doesn't appear to be a great deal of it, certainly not Middle East proportions anyway.

Some days, I don't know if I'm too jaded and cynical, or too trusting. I guess that if I can worry about both, I must be somewhere in the middle and therefore doing ok.

DavidPaulWagner on 03/15/2012

Raising awareness of -- and acting against -- human rights abuses is very important. However, I hope no one is arguing for Western military intervention in Uganda. Recent "humanitarian" interventions by the West in Third World countries (such as in Libya) have resulted in massive destruction and casualties and, moreover, have been a cover for the seizure of the oil and mineral resources of those countries. Remember: Uganda has a lot of copper, cobalt, crude oil and natural gas.

JoHarrington on 03/15/2012

*blush* Thank you very much. :)

lakeerieartists on 03/15/2012

As usual, your article is very insightful, passionate, and provocative. Thanks for educating me on this topic.

JoHarrington on 03/15/2012

Thanks for your comment, Digby, and I'm in complete agreement.

Rule number one should be to check out trusted sources for your information, then form your own opinion. My concern is that those ridiculing people awakening to these issues, just because of the celebrity endorsement, are scaring fans away.

Justin Bieber didn't speak at length about Kony 2012. He merely Tweeted that the video had made him think about it.

Digby_Adams on 03/15/2012

I understand that celebrity endorsements and tweets help raise money. I'm very concerned though about celebrities who know nothing about a topic becoming instant experts and impacting the political thoughts of hundreds of thousands of uneducated people as well. It can work for good and it can work for evil. When I went to some of the experts in the field, they had varied opinions about the current situation. But it did make me learn something so I could voice my own opinion. Just wish everyone did that.

JoHarrington on 03/10/2012

Uriah - Those who are raising legitimate questions are precisely those whom I'd like to see in the dialogue. Legitimate questions are not only to be encouraged, but should be fundamental to any action.

My issue here is solely with those bashing people for convenience sake; or because they simply don't want human rights issues in the spotlight. My major concern is that those vulnerable to peer pressure and public perception will be so put off, that they only focus on 'safe' subjects, like celebrities, for the rest of their lives.

The Truth - Mostly I wrote this article, which is on Wizzley.

I've been an Amnesty International Urgent Cases activist for 28 years. So yes, all of my bases have belonged to them for nearly 30 years.

My apologies, were you attempting to troll with a Willy Wonka meme?

The truth on 03/10/2012

Gee, you retweet and make posts on facebook about Kony?

Tell more more about you have been aware of the child soldiers in Africa that have been going on for more than 30 years now on a regular bases...

This is just like that Rachel's challenge thing, everybody talks about it for a month and about how much it changed them and how they see the world in a new way, and now nobody even remembers it... People annoy me.

Uriah on 03/10/2012

Right, this might be a valid response to those who are making fun of the situation, but what about those who are raising legitimate questions about the structure of Invisible Children. in particular that the fundraising efforts go primarily to making more awareness efforts rather than actually supplying aid in Uganda and other areas?

JoHarrington on 03/10/2012

I'll admit that I still couldn't name you a single one of his songs (unless I'm right in thinking there was one called 'Babe'), but that's ok. I'm not in his target audience.

But you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to have caught news stories about him over the years. I can only claim the first! He supported the anti-SOPA movement, before that was ubiquitous too.

He appears to me to be a decent, young man.

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