The Kony Campaign Backlash

So the Kony campaign about which I reported recently has been making the news everywhere, first because of its viral popularity, and then because of questions of sincerity, possible embezzlement on the part of its executives, questions of a hoax, impracticality, sweeping generalizations of a more complex problem, the evangelical Christian fundamentalism of its spokesman, Jason Russell, and most recently a psychotic episode involving nudity and public disorder.

And because even HIV wishes it could have gone as viral as the Kony campaign, those, like me, who posted the video, liked it on facebook, tweeted about it, etc. are now experiencing an uncomfortable dose of cognitive dissonance and are turning into the predictable cynicism and the hindsight bias we tend to feel whenever we feel we've fallen for a scam.

So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to post the funny video below (because it really is worth posting), but also to offer my two cents about what this lesson might be able to teach us about the way human minds are wired and the likely and predictable mistakes we are likely to fall into. But first the video:


Are all the things being reported about Russell true? Let's assume they are. Are the non-profit Invisible Children and its executives profiting from this campaign? Let's assume yes. The mistake many people seem to be reaching given these two possible facts is a logical fallacy known as tu quoque: assuming that because this dude and his organization are possibly engaging in shady and less than forthcoming tactics from which they might be benefiting, that therefore we should stop caring about what really matters: Kony!

Tu quoque is a distraction for which we fall all the time: the realization of hypocrisy makes us focus on the hypocrite instead of his message, but two wrongs don't make a right, and even a hypocrite can have something worth listening to. The fact that this Russell may be a douchebag is a completely independent issue from whether Kony is forcibly recruiting child soldiers and engaging in crimes against humanity, or from the question of whether he should be stopped. In case you're still not sure, the answers is yes to both.

So, while we may have our problems with Russell (and really more with ourselves for letting ourselves get 'duped', whatever that means), we should nevertheless exert whatever pressure we can on our political leaders so that Kony can be brought to justice, and so that the people he has so ruthlessly terrorized can finally start getting a good and peaceful night's sleep...

So, if you don't want to feel duped (as if this were all about you...), maybe don't buy the kit (and contribute to this questionable organization), but you can still download it for free and spread the word about the real issue at hand: Kony!
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