Kony. Kony. Kony. It was hard to get the word out of my head last week after Invisible Children released a movie with the intention of making the brutal warlord Joseph Kony "famous." Pundits lined up to take their potshots at the film and all the repetition was advertising gold. The negative publicity sometimes felt as big as the clip itself. But the vehemence of some of the reactions was a little shocking. For a handful of more thoughtful and mature responses, I recommend Chris Blattman's blog, Ethan Zuckerman's analysis, Tom Watson's response in Forbes, and Sarah Margon's interpretation at ThinkProgress. 

The movie is cast as an experiment in using the power of our newly connected world for good, and I don't think it has been given its fair shake yet. The reactions remind me of the scenes in No Impact Man where commentators are shocked that someone would publicly experiment with his ethics in a such a dramatic way. Like Colin Beavan's motivation to leave behind a sustainable planet for his daughter, Jason Russell (pictured above) is acting out of a sense of duty to his son: making the world a better place by helping to bring an accused mass murderer to justice. Russell took up this mantle after befriending a Ugandan boy named Jacob whose family had been terrorized by Kony's rebel army.

I must admit, when the Obama administration ordered 100 "adviser" troops to central Africa late last year to help track down Kony, my reaction was mixed. On the one hand, Kony clearly needs to be brought to trial before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The warrant for his arrest has been outstanding for nearly seven years, and catching him seems like a beneficial use of American military skill. On the other hand, the American track record for interventions is mixed at best.

But my anxiety over American imperialism aside, I have to hand it to Invisible Children for asking the world to enforce its international ethical commitments. As Chris Anderson of TED put it, it's a "bad time to be evil" when a film like this can go viral and amass tens of millions of views in under a week. Of course, digital vigilantes must follow through with action, in accordance with due process, or else risk behaving more like a spineless digital lynch mob.

If this incident proves anything it's that the power of simple narratives can motivate people to fight for the global good, and that our new technologies can act as an ethical amplifier.

[PHOTO CREDIT: Jason Russell of Invisible Children, by Sean Dreilinger (CC).]

Views: 158

Tags: communication, ethics, peace, reconciliation, technology, war


You need to be a member of Global Ethics Network to add comments!

Join Global Ethics Network

Carnegie Council

Marlene Laruelle on Europe's Far Right Political Movement

What has led to the rise of far-right parties across Europe and how have they evolved over time? Is immigration really the main issue, or is there a more complex set of problems that vary from nation to nation? What are the idealogical and practical connections between the far right and Russia? Carnegie Council Senior Fellow Marlene Laruelle is an expert on Europe, Russia, Eurasia, and Europe's far right. Don't miss her analysis.

Global Ethics Forum Preview: From the White House to the World with Chef Sam Kass

Next time on Global Ethics Forum, Sam Kass details his time as President Obama’s White House chef and senior policy advisor for nutrition and the links between climate change and how and what we eat. In this excerpt, Kass and journalist Roxana Saberi discuss an uncertain future for food policy in the United States under Trump.

The Rohingya Crisis: "Myanmar's Enemy Within" with Francis Wade

Francis Wade, author of "The Enemy Within," a new book on the Rohingya crisis in Burma, explains the historical background to the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya minority and gives a first-hand account of the terrible situation now. Has democracy been good for Burma? Will some Rohingya refugees become Islamic extremists?



© 2017   Created by Carnegie Council.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service