News Tip: Kony Video ‘Does More Harm Than Good’

Cultural anthropology doctoral student conducted research in an area of central Africa the warlord had been using

Invisible Children, a nonprofit that produced "Kony 2012," a viral 30-minute documentary exposing African warlord Joseph Kony, has faced intense criticism over its approach.

Louisa LombardCultural anthropology Ph.D. candidate

Lombard's dissertation research was in the eastern Central African Republic (CAR), an area Kony's group, the Lord's Resistance Army, has been using. Lombard is a consultant to international development and human rights organizations, focusing on issues of conflict, militarization, displacement and justice in countries such as CAR, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Somalia.

Quote:"'Kony 2012' does more harm than good by misrepresenting a long-running, messy political conflict and suggesting it can only be solved by Americans. The problem is not that Joseph Kony is unknown. There have been a number of international military efforts to capture him, and all have ended in failure. Civilians have frequently suffered the violent consequences of these failed interventions. Recently, the Ugandan military has been accused of wreaking more havoc than the LRA.

"There are two big problems. First, the LRA --  which today consists of only a couple hundred ragtag fighters -- has made its way to an area of CAR, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan that's about the size of Texas. This area is sparsely populated and largely ungoverned, making the LRA extremely hard to track down. And second, removing the politics from this protracted conflict -- as Invisible Children's narrative does -- makes it harder than ever to address the reasons it has gone on as long as it has."

Gareth PriceVisiting assistant professor, LinguisticsPrice researches the politics of language, including social media, media discourse and political communication.Quote:"What's worrying for me is the implication that simply 'liking' a status update on social media is a proxy for engaged political action. It encourages an 'armchair humanitarianism,' whereby a mouse-click is sufficient to count as activism. There's also another troubling aspect with the likes of Justin Bieber and Sean 'Diddy' Combs weighing in on all of this. While there's been a long tradition of celebrities engaging with social and political issues since Live Aid in the 1980s, the nature of celebrity has changed. Rather than agenda-setting, this looks rather more like an odd kind of celebrity endorsement. It turns a political cause into a product, and this is the kind of neo-liberalization of international aid and development which the very people who work in the field have been fighting against for at least the last decade and a half."