The KONY 2012 backlash: three questions for ‘Visible Children’

Grant Oyston is the author of Visible Children, a tumblr feed that’s been cited in much of the online backlash against Invisible Children‘s KONY 2012 video. He is a second-year political science student and sudden internet celebrity whose initial post for a small group of friends has put him squarely at the center of the debate.

When Kony started fighting, creating grainy photos like this didn't require a smartphone app. Image courtesy of Collin Harvey.

Rash accusations without evidence may not be productive, but rational and thoughtful criticism is always justified.

Tell us about yourself, who you are and what you do. What led you to write about the KONY 2012 concept? What qualifies you to write about it?

I’m a political science and sociology student at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. I wrote about the KONY 2012 campaign because at the time, little attention was being given to the critical responses that Invisible Children has generated, and I felt that these voices needed to be heard. Nothing qualifies me to write about central African conflict other than a keen interest, which is why my blog is primarily a cited discussion of qualified people’s opinions.

Why is the video such a hit? Is there a place in conflict resolution for this sort of public relations campaign?

The video was designed to be a hit. It’s accessible, snappy, appeals to emotion and well-produced. As for the role public awareness plays in conflict resolution, that’s an interesting and very complicated question and one that I don’t feel qualified to answer. To be honest, I don’t think there is a straightforward answer.

The backlash has been fairly swift. Accusations of the White Man’s Burden, neocolonialism, and hipster narcissism are coming fairly hard and fast. Is this reaction justified?

Rash accusations without evidence may not be productive, but rational and thoughtful criticism is always justified. Invisible Children has made it clear that they welcome such critiques.

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