While propaganda flourishes on the internet, propelled by the swiftness of social media through the viral nature of the “share”, “like”, “pin”, and “tweet” buttons, the average person gets swept into a frenzy over the latest war-induced atrocity, ecological crisis, or Bieber/Gaga sighting. In the fleeting attention span of the internet, these all have equal weight and are due an equal amount of attention at the top of your Twitter feed…at least for a few hours.
This week’s Social Media top trending cause is the Lord’s Resistance Army, thanks to the video “Kony 2012” by Invisible Children, an organization that views itself as the “Pixar of human rights stories.” Shamefully, I only just heard about the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) this morning during my very short commute to work when a reporter from NPR asked a Pentagon official about America’s involvement in Africa and to comment on the belief that we should not have sent soldiers there to handle what appeared to be a local, not a global, issue. General So-and-So announced that we were there in more of a managerial position, overseeing talks and reconstruction, and not as a military force, but then deftly changed the conversation to what an atrocity was being committed by the LRA.
I was dismayed at the obvious spin technique, wondering how many people listening would recognize that he answered the question he wanted to answer, not the one he had in fact been asked. I felt my ears begin to steam like so many whistling tea kettles. The question was one of an obvious (to me) objectivist origin; after all, who other than the libertarians/tea party/objectivists believe that we as a country should become more isolationist and quit being the police officers of the world? Admittedly, I agree with this view. I think we have spread our selves entirely too thin in our attempt to remake the world in our “democratic” image, but I digress; this was not the topic I wanted to discuss today.
But what is the LRA? And what is this video of which they were speaking which had become an overnight Youtube sensation? Obviously more research was needed before I could feel confident in sharing my opinion. In my research, I found that the Lord’s Resistance Army was a rebel group originating in Uganda and was known for kidnapping children to make them soldiers, if male, or sex slaves if female. Other atrocities seem to be included in the group’s attempts to restore democracy to Uganda (clearly this is why we as Americans would want to get involved) and the “gross violation of human rights” perpetrated by the Ugandan government (can this violation of human rights be worse than abducting children?). I also learned that the atrocities that we have to keep in focus are no longer happening in Uganda…
Now does this mean that this Kony guy is not an important person to stop? No, but it does bring up several questions about the validity of this video, a video which makes the claim that you can make a difference simply by sharing the video. First and foremost, it seems that there are less than 300 supposed fighters in the LRA, and the video doesn’t discuss other atrocities happening in Uganda; remember, the LRA is supposed to be fighting against the inhumane treatment of people by the Ugandan government. Imagine how bad the government must treat people if abducting children to become soldiers or sex slaves is preferable.
Wait a minute; let’s back up for a sec. I can make a difference by sharing the video? As in, I can sit back, calmly sip my tea, and CHANGE the WORLD?! With the click of a button, I am suddenly a key player in the fight against injustice!
And I thought being a super hero would require at least a cool costume and possibly some physical training.
Now we’ve come full circle. Top trending items on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any number of other social networks lead to a call to action, and then sites like Change.org offer a way to start a movement…sans actual movement. Within 48 hours, a major issue (or sometimes, just a trivial one) becomes big news on the internet by simply adding a hashtag, then a petition gets signed by the global community who is now in a fervor, and something either becomes of it, or not. Hour 49, everyone who was so concerned is now signing a new petition, having found a new cause to rally behind.
Welcome to the age of the “slacktivists”, armchair activists with the attention span of a toddler with ADHD.
If you feel strongly about the atrocities in Uganda, or anywhere else, please take action, but follow through. Make sure you’ve done some research and know what you’re supporting/protesting. Keep informed of the progress of the situation. Don’t lose interest in your cause in lieu of the next wardrobe malfunction, or Bieber sighting.
And one more thing, please share this blog if you found it interesting or entertaining. You won’t save the world, but you’d make my day a little brighter.