A mother and father sit their young adult son down; the mother speaks. "Son, your father and I are incredibly disappointed in you. You've spent the last 8 years of your life trying to bring the world's most wanted criminal to justice. Now you've used innovative technology and strategy to enlist millions in that fight, demonstrating how it can be used to unite the world's citizens in the future. And rather than ignore your son while you do it, you've not only been able to support him, you've made him a central inspiration of your effort. We just don't know where we went wrong." Absurd? Absolutely, but also plausible, if the parents of the Invisible Children founders believed what the critics are saying about their son's "Kony 2012" video. In response, the San Diego-based group has politely answered their critics. However, I think I'd like to add my response from New Jersey, where we (Jon Stewart, Chris Christie, Bill Maher, and I) like to take critics a little more head on.
Accusation: Kony 2012 oversimplifies a complex problem.
Answer: While I thought the video makes few, if any, attempts to do anything but to stop and arrest Kony, IC acknowledges the video oversimplifies the situation and is not the answer to the problem, merely a gateway into it. But even if it did nothing else other than get Kony closer to capture, what's your problem with that? John Walsh of America's Most Wanted would acknowledge it doesn't come close to stopping crime, but who's against catching wanted criminals? Evidently you.
Accusation: The video implies Kony now has 30,000 children in his army.
Answer: "For 26 years, Kony has been kidnapping children into his rebel group... It's been over 30,000 of them." "Been over", not "currently are." Get back to me when you understand English.
Accusation: Kony is not the problem he once was, and besides, the American military is already there and not planning to pull out.
Answer: Since they just can't seem to get their hands on a time machine, maybe IC is guilty along with the rest of us for not stopping Kony sooner. But does that mean that since we presume Kony's future victims will be smaller in number, it's not so bad if they suffer the same fate as the more numerous earlier victims? I guess we were right when we let so many Nazis spend happy golden years in South America.
As for the possibility of the American military pulling out, maybe your attention span is shorter that the video's 29 minutes, so I'll catch you up on what you missed: IC supporter U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe says "And if interest wanes, it'll go away... " A nervous bleeding heart liberal, you say? Actually someone who was "more outraged by the outrage than the treatment" at Abu Ghraib and thus voted against banning cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of individuals in U.S. custody. I guess whoever said you can't get blood from a stone hadn't counted on Kony.
Accusation: They've spent too much money on expenses, or publicity, or on their own salaries.
Answer: I assume people have already tried stopping Kony with a boilerplate approach. But since he's still out there 26 years later, we know that didn't work. Now the IC people try something different and succeed in getting the U.S. government to send troops, but they're wrong because they didn't do it the same way as the previous failed efforts. And let me get this straight -- "Profit is OK, except if earned while doing good. Then it's bad." I wish the IC guys were taking home not $80,000, but 100 times that. Adam Smith's "invisible hand" doesn't work here?
Accusation: There's not enough direct aid to programs in Africa, or the aid should be directed at other problems, like medicine, economic problems, etc.
Answer: How does IC's effort detract from those efforts? If anything, they'll increase it. This isn't a zero-sum game, people.
Accusation: It focuses too heavily upon IC founder Jason Russell and his son, not the Ugandans.
Answer: There are thousand of documentaries trying to draw attention to as many problems. This one succeeds as well as any in history, but you think it should be done differently. Then please, please make that video now. Those thousand problems still need solving. The approach in the video isn't self-aggrandizement, but rather Jason's realization (one he's trying to get the world to share) is that but for where and to whom he was born, his son Gavin could be one of those kids. Does "Ich bin ein Berliner" ring a bell? (If you're Rick Santorum, I hope that doesn't make you queasy.)
Accusation: White Westerners shouldn't play savior to helpless Africans.
Answer: So it's bad if we lose ourselves in mindless materialism, but it's also bad if we try to help. When this issue was raised 20 years ago in the environmental justice movement, my friend and Native American nuclear pollution activist Lance Hughes said, "I'm too busy dealing with dead Injun babies to care who stops it." Oh, and by the way, Kony's been indicted as an international criminal for crimes against humanity. We all want a piece of this motherfucker.
And now some advice to the IC people and their supporters who are flabbergasted by this criticism. Pioneers get arrows in their backs. When you do something new and really important, you're not instantly hailed as a hero. Southern racists weren't Martin Luther King's only detractors. People said he moved too slow, that he moved too fast, that whites were too important in the movement, and that he was too important in the movement. Success and history will be the judge of your actions.
Follow Chris Manthey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MantheyChris