I expect that most people have by now heard about KONY 2012, the video from Invisible Children that has gone viral. For those that have not, please watch it.
To begin, I want to make it clear that I am not defending Joseph Kony or the acts for which he has been indicted and that I support the goal of the KONY 2012 campaign; to bring justice in Uganda. However, I am concerned about the precedent this video may set.
Innocent or guilty?
Joseph Kony has not been tried for the atrocities presented in the video. He has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. That doesn't mean he didn't do it, but it doesn't mean he did either. In the world I am privileged to live in, I am afforded the right of being innocent until proven guilty and the right to a fair trial and I believe everyone should be afforded those same rights. The KONY 2012 campaign skirts a fine line in this regard, perhaps even crosses it.
I believe the KONY 2012 campaign is well-founded and that Joseph Kony is guilty of the terrible acts for which he has been indicted, but all I did was watch the video. Before watching this video, I didn't even know who Joseph Kony was, yet now I fully believe he has committed terrible crimes in Uganda. Invisible Children no doubt sees that as a success (after all, their strategy is to make Joseph Kony famous) yet I have little substance to that belief; I am asked to accept it as truth based on perceived trust in the source. Why should I believe Invisible Children over Joseph Kony? I had never heard of either of them until I watched this video.
Furthermore, we're asked to make Joseph Kony famous. Famous for committing crimes for which he has not yet been tried. Throughout the video, the guilt of Joseph Kony appears to be assumed, stated as fact rather than accusation or suspicion. Think about that. A party that I've never heard of is asking me to vilify another party that I've never heard of. Which is right? Which is wrong?
It is easy to take spoon-fed media like this and jump to the conclusions to which we've been led (a point raised in the half-hour presentation), but it is our personal responsibility to take time to discern the truth for ourselves. To research our sources and determine who to trust. To afford others the courtesy and consideration that we ourselves would like to enjoy.
As the world becomes more connected, a new kind of lynch mob is made possible – create a compelling video and get it viral. Such a world makes a fair judicial process even harder than it already is, relying more and more upon individuals to discern the truth for themselves when, let's face it, not everyone is capable, willing or bothered to do so.
How many times have you voted for a political candidate based solely on political party without researching their individual manifesto? Or bought a product without reading reviews? Or considered that your religious beliefs or lack of them may be wrong? The fact is we don't like to work to prove ourselves wrong, but when it comes to justice, we must. A system where people are condemned based upon rumour, conjecture and personal belief is unacceptable. Would you like to be judged by such a system?
Stop and think
I want to reiterate, I am not defending Joseph Kony or the acts for which he has been indicted; when he is tried and if he is found guilty, he should face appropriate penalties as determined by the International Criminal Court. However, I do not want the next generation of people on this planet to grow up in a world where the first one to get their video viral writes history and I hope that you don't either.
So, I ask that before you act on KONY 2012 or any other information presented to you, stop and think. Whether the source is a charity, a news organisation, a politician, a government body, a colleague, a friend or a family member, stop and think. Listen to and think about what is being presented to you. Consider the source, do some research and find out what you can about the truth for yourself before you act, before you condemn, before you make a mistake.
To close, please support KONY 2012, but not because I, Invisible Children, or the streets full of propaganda in April tell you to. Do it because the facts tell you to. Be confident in your own opinion, not someone else's.