Who Is Joseph Kony? Worthy Use of New Tools For Engaging an Audience? Or Reckless Do-Gooders Engaging in Dangerous Incitement?
The video is compelling and it's having the desired effect: Millions of views (almost 10 million as of March 7th, 2012) on YouTube and #stopkony is trending on Twitter.
But what will follow the social media campaign?
Critics have pointed to the military agenda, exaggerations and propaganda techniques in the video. Yes, Joseph Kony is an evil and dangerous man - but is taking him out through military intervention the right approach?
A November 15th, 2011 article in Foreign Affairs has observed that "the political challenges in the region are massive... [a]nd the LRA is, in fact, a relatively small player in all of this -- as much a symptom as a cause of the endemic violence. If Kony is removed, LRA fighters will join other groups or act independently."
And a March 7th 2012 Huffington Post article by Michael Deibert ominously warns that "[b]y blindly supporting Uganda's current government and its military adventures beyond its borders, as Invisible Children suggests that people do, Invisible Children is in fact guaranteeing that there will be more violence, not less, in Central Africa."
How will activity on Twitter and Facebook (marshalled in response to a slick video from a charity that receives so-so marks for transparency and accountability) become action? Will sales of not-for-profit merchandise become a mandate to deploy American soldiers in ways that might further destabilize a region? What will become of the social media "support" when Joseph Kony is gone?
What is happening in Central Africa is complicated and requires "due diligence," as the following clip (from Stephen Colbert back in October 2011) should suggest: