Via Warscapes, Dinaw Mengestu explains that the viral video’s appeal is that “the real star of Kony 2012 isn’t Joseph Kony, it’s us”:
Kony 2012 is the most successful example of the recent “activist” movement to have taken hold of celebrities and college students across America. This movement believes devoutly in fame and information, and in our unequivocal power to affect change as citizens of a privileged world. Our privilege is the both the source of power and the origin of our burden – a burden which, in fact, on closer scrutiny, isn’t really a burden at all, but an occasion to celebrate our power … helping to end the war in Darfur is as simple as adding a toolbar to your browser.
In the world of Kony 2012, Joseph Kony has evaded arrest for one dominant reason: Those of us living in the western world haven’t known about him, and because we haven’t known about him, no one has been able to stop him. The film is more than just an explanation of the problem; it’s the answer as well. It’s a beautiful equation that can only work so long as we believe that nothing in the world happens unless we know about it, and that once we do know about it, however poorly informed and ignorant we may be, every action we take is good, and more importantly, “makes a difference.”
What makes Kony 2012 especially frustrating, however, is that the film traffics in a sentimental and infantilizing version of Africa that is so prevalent we don’t even notice it. The idea behind a name such as “Invisible Children” is on par with the sentiments of the first colonists who claimed to have discovered the New World and Africa: We didn’t know about it, therefore it didn’t exist. The children of Uganda were never invisible to their families and communities, who long before the first flood of NGO’s to the region, worked for years to protect them. To claim they were invisible because a group of college students traveling through Uganda happened to stumble upon a war they were too ignorant to have known of before going to the region is, to put it mildly, patronizing …
Read the rest at Warscapes