Stop Kony – the good, the bad & the ugly

I am schooled in Framing theory.

I recognise a frame when I see one.

The Stop Kony video is a frame, a construction of reality.

To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text (like the video), in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition (kony), causal interpretation (because people don’t know about Kony), moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation (see Jacob, we need to stop Kony and this is how…) for the item described (Entman, 1993).

Are frames bad? – There are many sides to the story. Do bear with me if at the end of this page, I have not helped you reach a conclusion.

I watched this video for the first time yesterday morning. Seeing Jacob cry over losing his brother did bring tears to my eyes, and in that moment if Kony were right before me, even the Lord won’t resist what I could have done to him (if I had super-hero-powers).

The truth is Kony has to be stopped – and so do a million other African Konys like Boko Haram, corrupt government officials carting away treasures off shore, leaving people to wallow in poverty – name them.

I have monitored reactions to this campaign and I must say I am not surprised at the mixed aroma emanating from it.

Reaction 1 – It’s a scam

According to this blog on Washington Post, a Foreign Affairs article,” pointedly challenged the tactics used by Invisible Children and other nonprofits working in the region to raise awareness. ‘Such organizations have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil’…”.

There are other accounts and cited sources on this WashPo article that buttress the point about how Invisible Children charity may not be the way forward. There is one take on SOCIAL MEDIA TACTICS AREN’T HELPING – really?

To me, scratch awareness and profile picture changes as a contribution to the cause, social media is generating money – yup $$ & ££! Where and how the money goes is another matter entirely, but one more argument about how new media is not making any impact, and i’ll… sealed lips.

Let’s move on.

Reaction 2 – White saves Africa, Again?

I picked this reaction off one of the earliest blogs I read about the issue yesterday. This fellow WordPressEr opines the problem to be that from the outset till date, “the goal was premised on a White desire to save downtrodden Africa regardless of facts. The movies are premised on the idea that: North American (White) attention will save Africa.”

He goes on to explain that the problem is even much bigger, as it feeds into the public perception of what Africa is – full of war, famine, rape and people that can’t help themselves.

To this author, the scenario falls into the trap of the belief that the problem is ignorance and the solution is education. I quote the blog below:

It’s also about history. White folk have for centuries built industries on saving Black people in Africa. In creating images (framing again) of what Africans look like, in order to justify saving them.

Question and Answer time.

Can Africa save itself? YES

Will it save itself? *scratches chin*

Can the West save Africa? NO

Can the West collaborate with Africa to save Africa? *scratches chin* But here is my response:

It’s a global village and no man is an island to himself. However, the fact that we need to be partners does not mean we have to be back-rubbing buddies (even if one can pose as one). It simply means I have an interest to protect and so do, so how can we have a marriage that works?

The West would attempt to save Africa to the extent to which her interests are protected, there is no osho-free  (nigerian-english lingo for charity) – Gospel Truth.

The problems that occur with Western and African saving collaborations are corruption – on both sides I might add, because it takes 2 to tango, lack of proper definition of the problems and the top-down approach is administering aids.

If you really want to help, empower Africans to help themselves, to fight their battles the African-way.

When the West does something good for Africa, they have to blow the trumpet, you would too if it were you – they frame it to look good and it is usually good. The problem usually lies in the unsaid, neglected part of the story, and that is why it is a frame.

Framing involves selection and salience – it is the process whereby communicators act to promote a particular point of view that encourages the facts of a given situation to be viewed (or ignored) in a particular manner, with some facts made more noticeable than others. When speaking of political or social issues, frames actually define our understanding of any given situation (Kupyer 2002).

The onus then lies on you seeking the larger picture outside the popular frames you are offered – take a minute to reflect and research before you act. You may be surprised to find that your goals are perfectly aligned with the ‘frame-giver’, or not. You may find yourself convinced that Stop Kony is a worthy effort this one time, or not.

At least, now your reaction (giving support or criticsm) would be born out of knowledge, not manipulation.

Media Junkie

P.S. Did you manage to somehow reach a conclusion?


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8 thoughts on “Stop Kony – the good, the bad & the ugly

  1. Joachim says:

    My own issue with the campaign is that it isn’t turned into another celebrity jamboree and photo-op. Once that happens, the essence is lost. I am more concerned with the following: who are those arming and funding Joseph Kony? Stop them, you stop him. Also, what is the role of Yoweri Museveni in all this? Does he not have any role or responsibility to bring Kony to justice? These are my issues.

    Great post as always

  2. Boye says:

    This is seems to me a balanced article: the author drawing from her experience as a media scholar and an African. She is thereby educating the rest of us (non-media experts) on how to manage media information being thrown at us from different ‘interested parties’ – framers. It brought to light the need to seek more information from different sources before taking position on important issues.

  3. Dudu says:

    Even though i am familiar with the idea of framing, I’m glad to know that term.
    When I watched a short clip from the IC video on a friend’s mobile device, I was moved. But I got to a wi if spot, so I did my search online. I watched the whole video, and what came to my mind at first was ‘this seems like a family holiday home video’. The style of the narrative reminded me of voltron- Defender of the Universe. Also, I wondered how possible it was for Kony to have such a massive army of children and the Ugandian government kept mute,mor as portrayed, helpless and clueless.
    I have read tweets and 2 articles criticising the movement.
    In my opinion, Kony has to be stopped; the way and manner the west’s involvement appears…..just like voltron who comes to save helpless people.
    That approach is what I question….
    At the end of it all, a good cause, a just war, but faulty approach.

  4. Mykey Irene says:

    It is a two edged sword. One has to hold it with caution. Is this another scheme set up by some individuals to gain global recognition? And, is the Ugadan media so ineffective? In this modern age, one has to be careful about the information one takes in. African media houses should not wait for “others” to tell our stories.

  5. Agatha says:

    I saw the video for the first time yesterday evening. The 1st thing that came to my mind was propaganda. Media Junkie said “The truth is Kony has to be stopped – and so do a million other African Konys like Boko Haram, corrupt government officials carting away treasures off shore, leaving people to wallow in poverty – name them”
    America does nothing without an ulterior motive. Interest is a permanent characteristic of its foreign policy objectives. When there is no goal of safe guarding the nation’s interest abroad both in business, military or any other way that will benefit the country, they don’t’ interfere.
    So what is their interest in Kony and Uganda?

    What about a frame or SOS for Niger Delta,?where the big oil giant shell has polluted and destroyed the lives of the people. In my opinion Shell can be likened to Kony.

    The west cannot save Africa. Africa has all it takes to do better but we must first go back and solve the biggest problem, which is corruption. We need to fight corruption. The west also plays a role in corruption in Africa. What they can not do back home, they do in Africa. The Kony video raises a lot of question that we Africans most answer and at the same time unanswered question. I need answers about the president and government officials stance in the video. I did not see a minister or spoke person from the government side in the video. Just NGO’s and politician with videos of soldiers training. I missed the sound bite from the defense minster of Uganda.
    A lot of unanswered questions.

  6. Dave says:

    The Gift of a man maketh way for him.

    Worthy Cause.. Wrong Approach

  7. Obi says:

    On a different issues, I can’t understand how easy it is for anyone to label anything they do not trust as a “Nigerian scam”. They’ve already pinned this up on twitter as a “Nigerian scam”. How come Nigerians are so quiet about this stereotype or allowing people to use the words “Nigeria, scam, email, fraud etc” on the same line.

    This is akin to perpetual damage to the image of Nigeria and Nigerians around the world. I know know Nigerians are doing pretty well wherever they are regardless but it is still unnecessary to have it hanging over you all the time.

    You can imaging having a conversation with a non-Nigerian and the story they always come up with is either on corruption, email scam or some sort of fraud.

    Very sad.

  8. Very apt and objective, I had to see the KONY 2012 video about 10 times. Decided to brush up my knowledge on Uganda and central Africa despite knowing about Joseph Kohy and the LRA for over a decade.

    At the end I concluded that KONY 2012 is misleading, a one sided story that does not pain the true picture of the state of the present day Uganda. Taking sides in a conflict which the president and the Ugandan army is complicit is not a true and fair advocacy.

    A lot of time we question the source of weapons into the conflict zones of central Africa but the West has no answers.

    Like the previous one who have come before KONY2012, they will make their money and nothing will happen. You just cant simplify the Ugandan story with a 30 minute story, we need to research the true story of Uganda.

    Who is talking about the land grabbing going on in the Northern region of Uganda in the name of foreign investors, I hope you all know about the geo survey on the oil reserves in Uganda.

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