By now, you probably have all heard of the Joseph Kony social media campaign and the unfortunate public breakdown of its creator, Jason Russell.
I’ve watched the Kony 2012 YouTube video, and it is among the more brilliant pieces of viral media I’ve ever seen. You probably have, too: over 80 million people have viewed it. While the video meant to shine the spotlight on Kony and his evil reign of terror (including enslaving children to become soldiers and a lot of other atrocities), it attracted a lot of criticism too. There was talk that the short film was oversimplifying the political situation in Uganda, that Kony was not even the biggest problem in the region (preventable diseases are) and there were some skeptical reports of Russell’s foundation and the way they spent money.
Because Russell involved his own personal story in the video (how he met a victim of Kony’s, a former child soldier years ago and promised him he’d do something about Kony, the birth of his son, his son’s reaction to being told what Kony had done) he (indadvertedly, I think) made himself into a sort of bulls-eye target for skeptics and detractors.
According to his wife, the pressure and criticism really bothered him, to the point where he suffered from “reactive psychosis”.
The whole thing is unsettling to me, as an ALI blogger. My real name is associated with this site, and I have put myself out there as an advocate with the Faces of ALI series. The reason I attached my real name was because I was certain I was strong enough to withstand criticism from the outside world, and I was uniquely positioned to do so, being a SAHM with a supportive family. And I still feel that way. But there is a kind of dread attached to going really viral, like the KONY campaign. I have not yet received that mean comment from someone outside the ALI community. I know that day will come.
What I think surprised me recently is the fact that people within your own cause are not always 100% percent aligned. This makes perfect sense in retrospect. (Of course all individuals have their own unique viewpoint). To be honest, I don’t know much about advocating at all. I’ve never really had a cause to fight for, other than working on political campaigns, which is different than blogging for a cause. I had never told my personal story and connected it to a public problem.
Really, it was something in Harry Potter that spoke deeply enough to me when I was going through infertility and my miscarriages and moved me to advocate. I have always admired bravery more than any other trait, like I suspect Rowling does, probably because a lot of things scare me. In the end, I liked the lesson that Neville Longbottom, who’s kind of shy and timid like me, can be helpful to a cause and his friends simply by putting himself out there and standing up for his beliefs. He chooses to do that, it’s not like he’s an adrenaline seeker. (Like I kind of think Harry is. At least, that’s how I see him sometimes.) He chooses to do it, even though it makes him uncomfortable.
But I so totally, totally understand why so many of you choose not to (and in many cases have no choice at all due to relatives, work, friends, religious institutions, etc) and the last couple of weeks has really gotten me thinking about advocate blogging and the issues involved.
What do you think? Do you think it’s dangerous to mix the personal with the private while blogging for a cause?