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Slacktivist or activist?

March 14, 2012
The Daily Freeman Journal

Even if I don't like to admit it, I'm one of the first to jump on a bandwagon.

Lady Gaga became popular and I ridiculed and belittled her music to everyone I knew. Secretly, I was dancing to "Poker Face" like it was nobody's business.

So when the video "Kony 2012" popped up on my Facebook wall, I immediately tuned in and watched the 30-minute YouTube video.

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Instantly, I copied and pasted it to my wall. I whipped out my credit card and bought one of the campaign's bracelets, which its website proclaims as the "ultimate accessory."

And soon after, I was criticized fiercely.

For I should know better, I should do my research, and I shouldn't be such a gullible human being.

Or was I doing the right thing?

If you haven't heard of the online movement, here is a bit of background on the subject.

Kony 2012 is a film created by Invisible Children, Inc. The non-profit organization's mission is to 'Stop Kony' - to arrest indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony.

Kony is the head of the Lord's Resistance Army (a guerrilla group), which has been infamous for forcing children to be soldiers and sex slaves. In 2005, the International Criminal Court announced arrest warrants for five members of LRA, including Kony.

A video was created by Invisible Children to highlight their plans to have Kony arrested.

The media sensation, which has only been in YouTube circulation since March 5, has currently garnered more than 76 million views on the channel worldwide (it started airing on Vimeo on Feb. 20, attracting 16.8 million views).

After its posting, people, especially young adults, began clamoring to the organization's website to purchase items for the awareness day planned for April 20.

Last week, the criticism began.

With its slick editing qualities, the video came under attack for over-simplifying and misrepresenting Uganda's current situation.

The organization, itself, attracted scrutiny for its spending habits. This year, Charity Navigator, a charity watch group, had given the organization two out of four stars in the area of accountability and transparency.

I was introduced to the term "slacktivism" - a term that conveys the satisfaction felt in supporting an issue or cause, with little practical effort behind it.

So here I am in thought: Was I another gullible slacktivist, falling for another marketing ploy - or was I on the verge of something else, something better?

My conclusions? I should be a little less swayed by the brilliance and flash of a film, but, in all honesty, I don't feel wrong for wanting to participate in something larger than myself and for the greater good.

Personally, I have become more aware of other non-profits working overseas that are performing miracles every day.

Yes, there are currently 100 American military advisors in that area of Africa, and the LRA has diminished to a smaller number. But it really got the message out there.

Recently, a Republican congressman introduced legislation that would expand a tip-off program for terrorist and drug trafficking and help target Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

And it has brought awareness to the young people of this country. I know a lot of slacktivists - but I also know a lot of people who would like to help the world, their community and just don't know how. With the popularity of social media, Invisible Children brought its campaign to the masses and attracted a new generation of people who could do good in the world.

Who heard of Joseph Kony before last week? I'm going to say that it was a smaller percentage of our population that knew of the atrocities against humanity. I recently heard Anderson Cooper on CNN say that he had covered the plight for years, which received minor reaction from American audiences. This awareness campaign has brought to light how to grab the attention of young people and bring ideas to the forefront.

Will this be fleeting, like many of our attention spans? Or will this spawn new activists? I think it is hard to say at so early of a stage. It might not culminate into anything at all.

The most positive thing I saw? Even if it was for the "feel good" factor, I have never seen so many people post items online that had little to do with themselves. Perhaps the younger generation is a little more awake and a bit more aware that the world is large and goes past our own noses.



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