Invisible Invisible Children: Coverage on UNCOVER THE NIGHT.
UNCOVER THE NIGHT [UTN] began the night at 7PM with the first COVER THE NIGHT event, which had 771 attendees on Facebook. It amounted to a completely empty campus. There wasn’t a single person or flyer in sight. There was just one lonely seagull.
Then we moved onto the second COVER THE NIGHT event, which had 788 attendees on Facebook. The event was supposed to start at 8PM. We arrived to an empty field. We assumed that the “invisible army” [IA] was on their way with their shirts and kits. We waited and waited and by 8:15PM we realized that no one was coming.
We decided to move towards downtown to see if there was any action. We finally saw the first poster. They had finally come out from the shadows! Then the game of hide & seek began with little groups of high school and middle school students. We would follow the Kony2012 posters (most of them were handmade or printed) to try to find the rapidly moving IA. Upon finding these groups (they were usually pockets of 3 or 4 people), we tried to engage in some sort of rational and intellectual dialogue by handing out our Ugandan Voices and Timeline. This proved impossible:
UTN: “Hi, are you covering the night?”
UTN: “Do you have time to talk for a little bit?”
UTN: “What is this all about?”
IA: “Well, there is this conflict in Northern Africa with this guy named Kony. So far the U.S. has done nothing, so we want to do something about it and stop him.”
UTN: “How exactly did you get involved? And what do you hope to achieve by putting up these posters?”
IA: “Well, we saw the Kony2012 videos and realized we had to do something. We want to bring awareness.”
UTN: “And what do you hope to bring about with this awareness?”
IA: “Um….have everyone know about Kony?”
UTN: “OK, so it seems like you are trying to say that you are putting up posters because you want to raise awareness and bring peace into the area?”
UTN: “Well, we wanted to talk you because it seems like you have the right intentions, but your putting up these posters is not achieving either of your goals. First, it is not just about awareness because you will see at the end of ‘Kony2012’, Invisible Children is actually advocating for using the awareness to urge more U.S. militarization into the area.”
IA: “Oh, yeah…” *Moment of apprehension and looks of terror as they realize this is not where they thought it was going…
UTN: “Second, this will not bring more peace into the area because if you read this Timeline you will see that every time the U.S. intervenes militarily it only escalates the violence. Not only that, but the process of “catching Kony” will be at the cost of thousands of innocent lives. Plus “killing Kony” will not address the root of the problem because it is not a comprehensive solution. The LRA formed after President Museveni came into power in 1987 and began to commit atrocities to the Acholi people (losing IA’s attention as they get bored). Therefore, it is not just the LRA that is guilty of violence, but also the UPDF, the Ugandan military.
Most importantly, if you read these quotes from Ugandans you will see that they feel very offended and disrespected by the Kony2012 movement. They want peace, not the “justice” that you are fighting for. They don’t understand why you have the face of someone who killed their family members on your shirts and posters. You wouldn’t have pictures of Hitler on your shirts, right?
So, we hope that with more information than the one-sided information Invisible Children gave you, you will think twice before putting up these posters.”
*The different wonderful IA responses:
IA1: “OK….Thanks….” then running down the street to get into their moms’ cars.
IA2: “Um…well it’s like too late now because we already put the posters up.”
UTN: “It’s not too late! There is no contract that says you have to keep putting these posters up.”
IA2: “Yeah, we like didn’t sign a contract, but we are already here.”
Then giddily skipping down the street with their friends or huddling in little groups to whisper & cast evil glances at us, “the haters”. **I still don’t understand how promoting peace labels you “a hater”.
IA3: “Thanks, I have done a lot of research too on the topic. I read everything on Invisible Children’s website. But we are from our church group and we still support Invisible Children. They came to talk to us last month and gave us these posters. We still think we should do something about it.”
These interactions proved to us that this movement indeed had nothing to do with Uganda or Ugandans, but everything to do with the supporters. (Of course, this is nothing new. The West tends to represent Africa how they wish to see it, not as it is). It didn’t matter if Ugandans were offended, it didn’t matter if Ugandans didn’t want what they were advocating for, it didn’t matter if more Ugandan lives were lost. This actually had nothing to do with “raising awareness” and “bringing peace” as they claimed, but was about their own self-esteem, self-righteousness, and Friday night of fun. Or as one IA so eloquently wrote on the facebook event: “This s*** was so much fun!”
The rest of the night was spent continuing in this game of hide and seek with the four little packs that were running around. Finally, at midnight we decided that there was no point in trying to engage in any sort of meaningful dialogue with the brainwashed IA. There was no point in just following them,taking down the propaganda posters, and failing to have any sort of meaningful dialogue. It was basically just turning into a night of picking up trash. This could be done the next day on Earth Day AKA Clean up Kony2012 Trash Day once all the damage was done. So, with tired feet and bags filled with trash, we headed home.
We came home with defeated spirits as well. It seemed so hopeless. If scholarly information and Ugandan lives and opinions did not matter to them, what would stop them? They really would “stop at nothing”. We realized that the only way that any IA drone would change its mind is if Invisible Children started a new trend or if Jesus came down himself and told them to stop. In desperation, I called my professor in Uganda for some words of inspiration.
He was able to point us to the silver lining. COVER THE NIGHT showed that Invisible Children has been stripped down to only the “heart” of the organization. It has lost its mainstream appeal and has now become so marginalized. Why else would it be that out of the 771 people that were supposed to show up, only a dozen, at most, showed up? No one with any common sense or even an ounce of respect for Ugandans dared to show up. He even pointed out how celebrities, Invisible Children’s main weapon for advertisement, will probably be wary now of having their names associated with Invisible Children with all of the negative media attention.
My professor’s words gave me great comfort, it made me realize that Invisible Children, unlike the “invisible children” that they “support” who are actually becoming more and more visible, is in fact becoming invisible now.
Share Ugandan Voices
Clean Up Kony2012 Trash Day.
Thank you for all of your support. Coverage on UNCOVERTHENIGHT coming soon.
PS. Happy Earth Day! (AKA Clean up KONY2012 Trash Day). Be sure to keep all of the posters so we can creatively recycle them.
If you really want to help…
“I agree that Kony must be stopped as soon as possible. However, it must be done in a way that avoids further civilian casualties and the loss of the lives of innocent children. Raising potentially false expectation such as arresting Kony in 2012 will not rebuild the lives of the people in northern Uganda….As such, simply killing or catching Kony will not improve the lives of the victims in northern Uganda… The more we are connected directly to the victims, the more real our support becomes.”
-Victor Ochen, a former LRA victim &director of African Youth Initiative Network.
BEFORE YOU COVER THE NIGHT….
Please read this quote from a former LRA victim &director of African Youth Initiative Network, VICTOR OCHEN, explaining the offensive nature of your actions:
“ I speak as a victim, as someone whose brother was taken, and he has never come back, but I don’t want to play based on that, and I play—talk about myself. If I talk about myself alone, it loses the meaning.
So, a campaign like Cover the Night, the victims, when they saw the film, the most infuriating things was when they saw that make him famous. The first question: why do you want to make him famous? He is responsible for our suffering. The victims who are bleeding, without hands, without legs, without ears, nose, and saying, “If you really care about us, if you really understand what we feel, how we have suffered, you will respect our feeling. You will not put on the T-shirts that make Kony famous.” We don’t need even any publicity about Kony. The world knows about Kony. The United States government has been very instrumental in working with the government of Uganda in trying to end the Kony rebellion. And then, you go ahead to make the point that you move around the world to tell the world that Kony exists in there. The more the victim gets empowered, the more Kony become less relevant. And then, the victims are appealing, they’re saying, “Don’t do that. Don’t put on the T-shirt. Don’t put on the promotional material.” But Invisible Children remain completely adamant, and now, at this point, they care for the video more than they care for the people.”
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