Controversial ‘KONY 2012’ sensation spurs action

The Southerner

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By LeJoi Lane
It’s early morning in a 1B class and the Promethean board is alight with fast moving pictures telling a horrid story. The sound of a boy weeping for his lost brother filters through the speakers. Images of small Ugandan children, forced to carry guns nearly half their size, assault the class’ eyes. These images are from the 30-minute KONY 2012 video.
“KONY 2012 is a nonprofit organization that is trying to stop a guy named Joseph Kony from abducting children and forcing them to become child soldiers,” senior Traci Gibson said. “The way they believe they can stop him is if you make him famous, not in a good way, but in a way that if more people know about him, the more he will be taken seriously and get arrested.”
The KONY campaign was started by the Invisible Children Foundation nine years ago. Its goal is to stop African warlord Joseph Kony from recruiting young children to work in his army and rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA, which boasts a 26-year history, originated in Uganda but has now taken roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and south Sudan. With more than 30,000 children abducted and 2.1 million people displaced by the LRA, the KONY 2012 movement hopes to bring global awareness to such atrocities.
Gibson has played a major role in spreading the word about the KONY 2012  movement at Grady. She created flyers that she posted around the school building for students to see. She asked numerous teachers to play the KONY 2012 video in their classes for students to watch and continues to take measures to inform the student body. Gibson said the video inspired her to help with the KONY 2012 movement.
“While I was watching the video, it asked for your help, and at first assumption you would think ‘OK they want you to donate money,’ but when it told me that all I really had to do was make KONY’s name known, I thought ‘well that’s not hard to do,’” Gibson said. “So once the video ended, I decided that I would print papers to put around school, ask teachers to let me play the video in my classes and tell people about it. Every time I watched that video I would become more and more motivated.”
Environmental science teacher Kori Ellis, who played the video to her class, agrees with Gibson on that the issue is important but wants students to analyze whether the organization is truly dependent on their donation.
“I would like to see students at Grady focusing on global issues and how they affect them and think critically about whether donating will actually help bring justice to this cause,” Ellis said.
KONY 2012 has received harsh criticism from the media as to where funding is going, the urgency of the LRA threat and the scandal surrounding the originator of the KONY 2012 video, Jason Russell. Russell is also a co-founder of the advocacy group Invisible Children.
The media has questioned whether the money donated is being used to help cover the cost of supplying the African army with the technology needed to track and stop Joseph KONY or whether the money is primarily being spent on frivolous expenses. Many media outlets have said current research shows that the LRA is no longer the threat it used to be and that focusing on KONY now is a less relevant cause.
The scandal involving Jason Russell, the maker of the KONY video and the co-founder of the advocacy group, Invisible Children,  has received the most coverage though, with questions posed about whether he has been involved in substance abuse or mental distress,  according to the
The media coverage of Russell has caused many people and groups, such as the Grady Activism Club and 21st Century Leaders, to become less enthused about the campaign and renege their contributions.
“The Activism Club does want to get involved in the issue, however, not through the particular KONY 2012 campaign,” senior Lukas Olson, a co-founder of the Activism Club, said. “Rachel Citrin and I spoke with Ms. Van Atta about how the 21st Century Leaders was working to collect money to help on the issue. We agreed that the Invisible Children campaign has good intentions but may not be the best way to get involved, mainly because it has become so controversial. We are looking into other campaigns that we can get involved with.”
Ellis agreed that the coverage of KONY 2012 has become quite controversial but said it takes focus away from the bigger issue at hand.
“[Jason Russell] was glorified then vilified in the media really quickly,” Ellis said. “It’s unfortunate that the main focus has gotten lost in media sensation. I think [KONY 2012] was a great intention.”
Gibson said even through the media’s misguided coverage she will still support the cause and hopes Grady students will still take the time to get involved to help.
“I think that this organization has a positive influence on people,” Gibson said. “I feel that [KONY 2012] is a positive thing and I’m 100 percent for it, no matter how many people want to say otherwise.”

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