Sunday, 18 March 2012

Upon Kony 2012.

Like a really skinny Cthulhu, I hath awoken from my, er, 'eternal slumber', to destroy the world with my ridiculously dull blog posts. Woohoo! Not that anyone cares… Though the fact that the number of views this page has has increased to nearly 1,000 (without me actually doing anything at all on the blog or even attempting to promote it for several months) is a tad weird, I'll be honest.

This = me. With less wings. And less tentacles. And less awesome. …And less Cthulhu in general, actually.
Nearly a thousand views for a blog thats barely alive, however, is nothing compared to the over 100 million views for the various Kony 2012 videos now going around on the internet. And it managed this feat in less than 6 mother fucking days.

But I wanna be famous too :(
What can I say but Christ on a fucking stick? I wish I could get that many views for my blog. (Then again, the moment I realise tens of millions of people were interested in the rubbish that came out of my mouth would probably be the moment that I'd go all Professor Farnsworth on you all.)

Along with this gargantuan amount of fame, however, has come a big dollop of controversy over the entire matter. Probably most prominent of the large number of critics has been Visible Children, a blog (and a rather poorly made website, as it happens) strongly criticising the charity behind the Kony 2012 campaign (the charity being Invisible Children, if you've been living under a rock. In which case, how the hell did you find my blog?). IC have since written an equally biased response to the blog, trying to disprove the claims made by VC, and prominent media giants have been having a feeding frenzy over the whole thing.

I'm not going to go into all of that. The arguments for and against the whole thing is, to me, just a whole big mess of biased opinions against biased opinions; as far as I can tell its just people calling other people 'sheep' for following something popular, while not realising that they themselves are sheep as well. You know, just like with every other popular thing on the planet.

An accurate representation of the Kony 2012 debacle. D'awww, they're so fluffy!
Rather than dive into the controversy itself, I'm pondering the question of whether or not the viral spread of this whole thing will benefit us in a positive way or not. After all, the vast majority of the controversy seems to be concerning the legitimacy of the charity, rather than the validity of the cause itself (although there have been some people pointing out that Joseph Kony is no longer a huge threat, this seems to be a moot point to me since committing a crime doesn't generally become less of a crime if you get away with it for a long period of time).

Why the spread of Kony 2012 benefits us all (except Joseph Kony)

While the reputation of the charity primarily responsible for this is certainly up to debate, this doesn't necessarily mean that the hearts and minds of those whom support the cause is under the same scrutiny. While (depending on your point of view) the vast legions of followers Invisible Children has amassed may or may not be misguided in their cause, the passion that this movement has ignited is in itself stunning.

Why? Just Why?! It's not even funny! Or particularly cute!
Have a think of what video's get the most views on Youtube. Rebecca Black comes to mind. Rick Rolling.  Cat video after cat video after cat video after cat video. (after cat video after cat video after cat video after cat video…). 'Charlie bit my finger - again!' tops the Youtube 'most-watched' list at well over 400 million fucking views. (one of the great mysteries of life as far as I'm concerned). Nothing about any of them are serious, or things that matter.

Videos that go viral, and the vast majority of internet memes in general are simple, amusing clips or images that are in some way shape or form adorable or hilarious (or a combo of the two if you want to overkill it). And while I'd defend the importance of memes to the modern world any day (and probably one day will in a blog post or something), its sad to see that videos promoting things that actually matter to the world get comparatively minuscule amounts of interest. Politically inclined videos such as those regarding the Occupy Movement rarely get more than a million views. (The linked video is rather good by the way, I recommend you give it a watch.)

A lot of the time, it seems like people care far more about the next celebrity controversy or funny animal video. Things that, frankly, are shallow and unimportant; things that don't matter a whole lot.

Yet here we are, a highly politically inclined campaign now sitting comfortably as the most rapidly growing viral subject on the planet. The Kony 2012 video exceeded the likes of Susan Boyle, Justin Beiber (YES! Take THAT you nemesis of Captain Puberty!) and Nyan Cat in its rapidity to fame. Controversy or no, its still refreshing to see people actually interested in something beyond mere celebs and cats.

The good thing about this is that a lot of people who are becoming aware and becoming involved with this whole Kony 2012 thing are going to be 'newbies', as it were; people who were previously uninterested in political matters. I'm willing to bet that, during the 'Cover the Night' event (planned on April 20th, where people are supposedly going to cover cities with Kony posters during the night), we're going to have a lot of people whom have never done anything similar to such a thing before.

Now, obviously, a lot of these people are probably going to support this Kony stuff and never be aware of anything else. The vast majority, I'd hazard a guess, are simply those who share the video on FaceBook, say "OMG THS IS SOOOOO EMOTIONAL, LOL" and forget about it. Or worse, those who continue to follow it, but then fail to realise that to be properly politically active, one really should educate themselves regarding a cause thoroughly and understand what they're fighting for, before they actually do so; essentially, many will likely become 'sheep'.

WE! ARE! THE 99%!
 However, there has to be spillover; whenever a group of people find out about something, inevitably there will be a small minority of those who will investigate further. And with tens of millions of people having watched this passionately political video, that spillover, even if its a small percentage of those tens of millions, looks to be rather large.  There are bound to be quite a few people whom look beyond the well-marketed passion of the video that has enraptured so many, and start investigating; people, though they may be few in number, may become more active in other aspects of politics as well. In fact, considering the passionate nature of the video, I reckon quite a few of the people who were not interested before and got involved will remain interested in politics even after the campaign has died down. Even if only 0.1% of those 100 million go down this path, that's still 100,000 people worldwide whom are now politically active where they were not before. Thats quite a lot of people whom care about whats going on in the world, don't you think? And I'm hoping the spillover is a little larger than 0.1%.

What I'm trying to say is, with such a large number of people comes great potential; there may not be a significant change, but hopefully the Kony 2012 movement, regardless of the reputation of IC, will result in quite a few more people becoming more interested in whats going on in the world around them. Kony 2012 essentially represents a beginner's gateway to political activism for those whom may never have been interested in such things otherwise. Its not just viral marketing for Invisible Children; its viral advertising for politics everywhere. And thats a good thing; our leader's are quite blatantly not perfect, and more people who care about things going on in the world will mean more people who will stand up and fight when those in power fuck things up (as they usually do), instead of sitting on their arses thinking "whats the point?". Hopefully I'll hear a little less "UGH I don't care about politics! Politics is stupid!" from now on. (vain hope, I know)

A nice big 'but' (No! no extra "t" in that "but"!)

Now, of course, all of that is a good thing. However, I do also have some rather serious concerns regarding this whole thing as well. As with pretty much everything else, there is always another side to the argument.

Primarily, in this case, the controversy surrounding the movement cannot be ignored; and while I won't go into detail with them here, there are a lot of points about Invisible Children that cannot be accounted for without an unbiased opinion upon the subject (and good luck finding one of those on the internet!).

Thus, we're left with questions that the whole Kony 2012 thing might not be the best of ideas. Theres also been a lot of people pondering whether the movement itself can change anything; after all, when has a bunch of people on the internet ever actually changed anything in the real world, however passionate they are?
Totally beside the point.
Now, I'm leaving it up to you, the reader (haha, good joke! As if anyone will read this… *sniff*), to decide upon all of those questions. However, regardless of all of that, is it really a good thing that this movement, which will be the entrance to political activism for a lot of people, is surrounded by such controversy?

Of course, one could argue that any kind of political activism will get a certain amount of controversy; simply by its nature political activism is something that divides opinions and gets a lot of arguments going. Strong opinions will always spark strong opinions. However, usually the controversy is regarding the topic at hand, rather than the organisation that has, well, organised the activism. Not here; while pretty much everyone agrees with the fact that Joseph Kony does need to be brought to justice, a lot of the debate has been focused around Invisible Children, with questions regarding its legitimacy, and more recently some, er, 'interesting' developments regarding the co-founder of the charity, Jason Russell, whom, during the writing of this particular blog post, has been arrested and taken into medical care for allegedly public 'indecency' (read: "fapfapfap") brought about by massive stress. Which is fair enough, really (not the… act… the stress. Although, as a man, one can understand the necessity of personal relie-I'll stop digging myself a hole now).

…Ok, so maybe I don't want to be famous...
Whether this criticism is valid or not doesn't really matter; its existence on its own can be off-putting for many people who may be looking into Kony 2012, and, through it, political activism as a whole. Do we really want a gateway to political activism to be marred by such cynicism and drama? A lot of this news regarding IC detracts greatly from the movement itself, and all of this can be a huge turnoff from political activism; just as there could be a bleeding effect of people becoming more politically active, so too could events like these increase the scepticism of people towards it.

Looking on the bright side though, this does highlight something that is by in large overlooked by the public; charities are not necessarily always good. Frankly, non-profit organisations as a whole have a sort of 'holier than thou' reputation; one that is not always deserved, as many charities are disorganised, less effective, or, in rare cases, fraudulent. With such a massive and public discrediting of Invisible Children (Jason Russell is strongly tied to the reputation of IC, much like Steve Jobs was with Apple), this illusion that charities being entirely good may have been shattered; hopefully, this'll mean people being a little more cautious about the charities they support before they do so, researching about the charities and not just giving away their money to some charity workers on the street giving them a fast-paced chat up line.
Remember kids, the proper response to "can I have a moment of your time?" is "to the internet!". Do your research first.
(incidentally, if you actually shout "to the internet!" and then run off when a charity worker approaches you, you are awesome.)
So, what to take from this all?
Well, I honestly don't know. I'm frankly split about this one. While the controversy surrounding Kony 2012 does seem to be sliding in favour of the whole thing not being particularly helpful to the problem at hand, the actual long-term effects of the whole thing is still to be seen, including the whole political activism stuff that I talked (er, typed) about.

I guess I'll come back to this topic when I have the benefit of hindsight.

So until then, or until next time I post (lulz), you've been reading The Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student. Thanks!

A quick note: in the blog post, I mentioned that Jason Russell had been arrested for public indecency, making a specific suggestion to masturbation. However, further investigation shows that the majority of the more respectable news outlets are not claiming this as fact; most of the 'masturbation' claims are coming from the likes of The Hollywood Reporter which seems to go for more 'sensationalist' news. Therefore, the masturbation thing should be taken as a rumour rather than fact. He deeeefinitely went completely bonkers in public, mind.