Did you read Nicholas Kristof’s raging op-ed last Wednesday against the cynical reactions to Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign?
I’ve been speechless about it since, speechless and so disappointed.
I adore Kristof for his reporting on stories we wouldn’t hear about otherwise. What his cultish critics call an air of “chivalry” I call caring. He is dedicated to the people in his articles, and his hopeful attitude for change in even the darkest areas of the world is admirable if not inspiring. (Did you know he is a native Oregonian?) Kristof is also a great Twitter pal (isn’t it weird how by following people on Twitter makes you feel like you actually know them?), and will often highlight criticisms of his work in tweets. Kristof is a real reporter who usually goes to great strides to provide contextual analysis, an argument, and also the other side to the story.
And that is what confused me so much about his op-ed last Wednesday.
Kristof ends his article saying, “But if I were a Congolese villager, I would welcome these uncertain efforts over the sneering scorn of do-nothing armchair cynics”, a phrase I hope he regrets. The irony of this nickname is that its converse is the do-nothing armchair supporters of the Kony campaign who are bravely fighting a villain through “likes” and shares over Facebook and Twitter. They continue raging on despite the backlash, continuing to flaunt their ignorant goodness by simply ignoring the facts. If you support what IC has done, fine, but use it as a gateway to real information-gathering and discourse towards change.
When George Clooney was arrested this weekend, many of my Facebook friends (who rely on Yahoo’s homepage or Perez Hilton for their news), began to rally behind the people of the Nuba Mt. of Sudan for a minute. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE George Clooney, but we can’t rely on him for advocacy. He’s a gateway for discourse, and frankly, I think it’s his duty as a smart, respected celebrity.
But don’t make these people our heroes. Don’t forget whose stories these are. Kristof is not a Congolese villager, and he is not likely to be affected by the ills and distractions of Kony 2012. For once, he seems to forget the people at the heart of the campaign. Don’t they deserve a more cynical approach?
Here are some alternatives to Invisible Children. Although donations are good (when going to reputable organizations), they are not the only way to produce change: