Panel debates efficacy of KONY 2012
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 03:05
Stephanie Fitzpatrick, press secretary for former governor and congressman Mike Castle, Ralph Begleiter, director of the university’s Center for Political Communication, current students and alumni came to speak to students about the KONY 2012 campaign and the effectiveness of social media in advocacy.
The panel took place in the Trabant Theater Wednesday night as part of the fourth annual Discover.Understand.Change event, says junior Thien-Chan Vu, a member of UD STAND, a genocide intervention group, and founder of DUC. The annual event is planned by leaders from different humanitarian groups on campus. Previous themes include children in conflict, conflict in Africa and peace.
This year’s theme is gender equality, says Vu. The clubs involved include UD STAND, Haven, Sage, UD Democrats, Uganda Untold and Model U.N.
Vu says she began the umbrella group her freshman year as a way to allow the clubs to come together for a common cause. The groups had tables set up in Trabant food court earlier in the day to advertise their cause. On Friday they held a concert with three bands.
The discussion began with a showing of the 30-minute KONY 2012 film, made by the nonprofit group, Invisible Children, to raise awareness of Joseph Kony, leader of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. The video, directed by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, went viral in early March and encouraged supporters to spread KONY 2012 posters around different cities on April 20 to create even more awareness in an event called “Cover the Night.”
After the screening, there was an informal discussion between students and the panel. Senior Philip Livingston, a political science major and Model U.N. member, and alum Tom Schrandt were also on the panel.
They say the video omitted important details about the conflict in Uganda and the charity’s financial aspects. In addition, Vu, Begleiter and Livingston say they were in New York City the day after “Cover the Night” and did not see any KONY 2012 posters.
Begleiter raised the issue of truth in social media. He says that user-made videos are not edited by a credible source. He says he wants them to have standards of truth and accuracy.
“This demonstrates how easy it is to follow along with campaigns no matter how much truth is in it,” Begleiter says. “Which click on the internet is the one I should do something about?”
Begleiter also says that the video raised several points, but only offered solutions to one: supporting Invisible Children.
“The video is muddled as to what you’re supposed to do,” he says.
Livingston says the video was self-centered and ineffective because it focused on the platform and the creator before the actual issue.
“Calling attention to the media before the cause put a bad taste in my mouth,” Livingston says, “The use of ‘I’s’ and ‘we’s’ and the pictures of Jason Russell made it egocentric.”
The discussion also encompassed the second Kony 2012 video, which was made in reaction to the harsh criticism the first film received. The second video was not as popular as the original and Livingston says that might be because it gave more facts about the issue, but it was still not enough to properly inform people about the cause.
Schrandt says he wished someone else who was more professional and had goals to remedy the conflict had made the video.
“It has a lot of problems, but they moved the ball down the field,” Schrandt says. “The problem was there weren’t any other players on the field.”
Schrandt says the core problem is the lack of concrete steps that could be taken to solve the issue.
“It should have been a one, two punch,” Schrandt says. “Call your representative, hang up.”
Fitzpatrick says she favored the video a little more than her peers, but still thinks there are some issues.
“At the end of the day, people know who Kony is,” she says. “It played on people’s emotions, spread misinformation and did not have a great spokesperson.”
A group that is involved with DUC, Uganda Untold, is affiliated with Invisible Children, but members did not attend the event. They prepared a statement that Vu read. In the statement, the advocacy group said the KONY 2012 campaign is legitimate and necessary and the Invisible Children organization is run in an atypical fashion. They say they think the video was successful in raising awareness and they encouraged people to do their own research in an unbiased way.
As host, Vu took an informal poll of how many people who had seen and shared the video, researched the cause or took action. While many people watched some of the video, hardly anyone did more than that, she discovered in the poll.
Senior Paige Barton attended the event and says her political science class recently had a similar discussion about social media and she was interested in hearing differing opinions.
“It’s undeniable that this is a huge impact and implication for social media,” Barton says. “It’s a positive campaign in that it made it possible for people in the future to do something similar. It had its flaws, but the method was effective.”
Vu says she thought the discussion was a good way to meet the panel and hear their opinions on the controversial issue.
“Social media is a double-edged sword,” Vu says. “It can get the word out, but the message gets lost.”
Begleiter says people are just grazing the possibilities of social media in humanitarian issues.
“Social media gives you a sense of power,” Begleiter says. “How will we use that power to accomplish something good?”