Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Phony Kony support

Low student turnout at events validates criticisms

By Emily Biggs, Photo Editor

Kony 2012 is a campaign by Invisible Children to “spread awareness about Joseph Kony and have him arrested for his horrible crimes against humanity,” according to Pacific Lutheran University’s Facebook event page.

My issue does not lie with the misguided information by the campaign’s videos, websites and PSA’s, or the bad publicity it has gained through leaders making poor choices, but rather the action of going out to Cover the Night — or should I say, a lack thereof.

When I received an invite for the PLU Facebook group for Cover the Night, I had already watched the viral Kony video and was well versed in the inaccuracies associated with Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 campaign to “support the idea, not the man.”

Soon after the campaign surfaced, criticism followed. Faithful followers defended their cause, claiming that despite the disparagement, they would make a difference through viral awareness and action.

Timelines and profile pictures were covered in red Kony images, and statuses by my friends who were attending Cover the Night in their respective cities and college campuses plagued my Facebook page. It seemed a revolution had been ignited in a matter of hours and change was on the horizon.

While I was not supportive of Invisible Children or the Kony 2012 movement, I found it refreshing that so many people were so passionate about a cause and were pledging to participate to make a difference in their communities by spreading awareness and taking action. Perhaps this wasn’t so bad after all.

The day after the Cover the Night event at PLU, I talked to a friend who was heavily involved in its planning. He said that, of 1,000 who were invited to participate and the more than 100 students who pledged to attend, a whopping 10 students showed up to put up posters and use sidewalk chalk around campus.

This instance of armchair activism was not surprising, but I had hoped that there would be some activity after all the hype.

The small turnout showed that students who could spare seconds out of their day to repost a video or share an article on their Facebook page could not take time out of their weekends to support a cause that they were so passionate about once upon a time.

Posting a status and changing the world with ‘likes’ will not occur unless there are actions to back up all the talk that happens on the Internet.

Similar cases showed up around the globe. The Facebook event for Cover the Night: London had almost 3,000 likes with 1,300 people pledging to attend in the city of Reading. According to The Guardian, “Birmingham has mustered the support of just 35 people, with a mere 14 in Norwich.”

I commend the students who took time away from their laptops to support a cause that they felt so passionately about.

However, the lack of follow through on the part of Kony 2012 supporters did nothing but validate the criticisms of others.