Medical aid worker on Kony 2012: "The aid industry has just been Biebered."


(Photo: Joseph Kony, via Reuters)

On his personal blog, Marc DuBois of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) writes about the impact of the viral Kony 2012 campaign on the work of long-established humanitarian efforts in Africa.

"Most madmen love the idea of fame, so Joseph Kony’s wet dream just came true," writes DuBois.

Many aid workers are simultaneously offended by the project and jealous of its unprecedented reach. At the time of this blog post, the promotional video for Invisible Children's fundraising/"awareness" campaign about the fugitive African rebel leader has exceeded 70 million views, making it the fastest-growing viral video in internet history.

Snip from DuBois' blog post:

So why, really, are we aid insiders so bothered? It’s the big green monster. Is there another charity whose message has captivated so many so fast? About six months ago, my niece “Lisa” in Chicago excitedly asked me to contribute to Invisible Children. At the time, I’d never heard of it. I poked around. I can’t say I was taken by the cause, but I couldn’t help feeling envious of IC’s having so effectively reached Lisa, usually more interested in dance and boys. These young upstarts at IC are the next big thing. And we aren’t.

Why? Well, for one, they have a simple message that people grasp. For another, good looks. More importantly, Invisible Children has discovered what the entertainment industry figured out a decade ago. It’s not about us old timers. It’s not people who read the Philip Roth or contribute conscientiously to their pension fund. It’s about the under 25s, maybe even the under 15s. It’s about the kids. That’s why there are a couple dozen TV shows about teenage vampires. That’s why we have Jedward.

The aid industry has just been Biebered. IC’s hundreds of thousands of donor / activist – they were invisible to us. Kids. That’s the target and that’s the message. If you think the aid world depends on gray haired HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals, aka rich folk), wait and see what IC does with its pubescent legions. My advice to the aid industry? First, get over it. Then, get on the boat.

Read the rest here.

DuBois isn't speaking for MSF, but I spoke to another MSFer via Twitter today: Avril Benoît, the group's Director of Communications, who pointed me to DuBois' blog post. I asked her if MSF had released an official statement in reaction to the Kony campaign: No. But, she said, "MSF teams in LRA-affected regions of DR Congo, Central African Republic & South Sudan are likely wary of retaliation risks."

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Joseph Kony documentary: bringing the world's attention to the horrific Lord's Resistance Army

An activist group called Invisible Children has produced a 29-minute documentary on Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda's horrific Lord's Resistance Army, which recruits by kidnapping children and beating and abusing them until they serve as soldiers. Invisible Children hopes that viewers of the video will be inspired to "go viral" with the campaign in a coordinated action on April 20 that, they hope, will spur the world's governments into taking decisive action against the LRA.

Wired's Spencer Ackerman describes the early success of the campaign and the criticisms that it has drawn from other human rights activists who say the video is "obfuscating" and accuse it of oversimplifying the complexities of US military intervention.

The visually sophisticated documentary tells the story of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s brutal history in Uganda — it doesn’t say much about Kony’s flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic — mostly through the eyes of Jacob, a child refugee whose brother was killed by the militia. At one point, the boy says he would prefer to die rather than to live in the world Kony has made. It hits like an emotional sledgehammer.

And that lays the foundation for the campaign the movie essentially advertises. The nonprofit group behind it, Invisible Children, supports President Obama’s recent deployment of 100 military advisers to Uganda to help its army hunt Kony, a decision that required years of grassroots demands from humanitarian activists. In order to make sure the pressure keeps up, and Kony is ultimately arrested — this year — Invisible Children wants to plaster the cities of the world with red, visually striking KONY 2012 posters, stickers and t-shirts.

The video is essentially a plea to take the campaign viral in time for a planned action on April 20, in which Invisible Children hopes to mass-advertise KONY 2012 that night, globally, so the world will “wake up to hundreds of thousands of posters.” Action kits containing stickers, posters, bracelets, information and t-shirts are going for a $30 donation on the group’s website. And the filmmakers want to enlist celebrities, athletes and politicians for the campaign, everyone from Sen. John Kerry to Bono to Mark Zuckerberg.

Viral Video Hopes to Spur Arrest of War Criminal