Maybe invisible children aren't there
By: Phil Cookhttp://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinio ... 88783.html
Posted: 03/10/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0 (including replies)
Over the past few days, Joseph Kony has risen to stardom faster than a Kardashian sibling. His name is trending on Twitter, his picture is all over Facebook, and suddenly everyone knows everything about him -- all from a 30-minute YouTube video.
But in a world where information is often shared before it is digested, we need to take a step back and think critically about Kony 2012. Increased awareness should not come at the expense of informed decision-making.
I was quite surprised by some of my friends who were sharing the now (in)famous video made by Invisible Children. I had no idea they were so passionate about this issue. In fact, I didn't realize they even knew anything about it. So quickly they became educated and so eager they were to spread this new-found knowledge.
They became social activists overnight, and everyone from P. Diddy to Justin Trudeau was along for the ride. The good thing about social media is that you can mobilize a lot of people quickly. The bad thing about social media is that you can mobilize a lot of people quickly.
Luckily, there are people out there who have been studying the Lord's Resistance Army for longer than a half-hour. I think it's time we gave them a little attention.
There have been reports claiming children comprise as much as 80 per cent of LRA combatants. The gun-wielding seven-year-old is the poster boy for the campaign to bring down Kony; it's the driving force behind Kony 2012 and it's what inspired Jason Russell & Co. to found Invisible Children.
The problem? Experts agree the involvement of children in the LRA has been vastly exaggerated. Studies show the prevalence of child soldiers in the LRA has been consistently over-reported.
The Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkley examined LRA combatant age by looking at formerly abducted persons (FAPs) who passed through rehabilitation centres after leaving the army. Of the 25,231 FAPs studied, only 6.4 per cent of them were aged six to 12. More than 60 per cent of the male returnees were teenagers or young adults, and their average age was 20.
Perhaps we can't see the invisible children because they aren't actually there.
This is a mere snapshot of many intensive studies with similar findings. Take it for what it's worth. It shouldn't change where you stand on Kony 2012. In fact, I hope it doesn't. In the same way it is imprudent to support a cause after watching a short video, it would be equally foolish to abandon it entirely after hearing a couple of statistics.
But it should raise a few questions. Just how much do you know about this issue? I am by no means an expert, but chances are, neither are you. And while you don't need to be an expert to support a worthy cause, I would make a few suggestions: Do a little research before you re-tweet, ask a few questions before you click like, and do the best you can to make an informed decision.
Are there children in the LRA? Yes. Should Joseph Kony be indicted for his actions? Of course. But can a half-hour video summarize and solve this issue? Not a chance.
Congratulations Invisible Children, Joseph Kony is now famous. Mission accomplished. But now we are all aware, it's time to get informed.
The only thing more dangerous than not knowing anything is thinking you know everything.
Oakbank native and University of Manitoba graduate Phil Cook is graduate student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2012 A16