I contribute a weekly column to the Platte County Landmark under the “Rambling Moron” name. It’s a great Northland Newspaper and well worth a subscription. The following is an copy of my article which appeared in the 3/29/12 edition – printed with permission.
HAVE A COCA-KONY AND A SMILE
I’m sure you’re seen it by now. The pop music swelling, the doe-eyed little boy, the generic voiceover guy explaining his personal mission of taking down an evil slave trader in Uganda.
The slave trader? A man named Joseph Kony. A name you’d have no reason to know until a video went viral by filmmaker Jason Russell. If you saw the video, you’re not likely to forget it. I almost spent the $20 to buy one of those KONY 2012 bracelets and storm out of my suburban home to battle evildoers.
It was masterful. It was brilliant. It was compelling. It was also the latest example of how we need to be stronger at sniffing out propaganda and marketing. You think you’ve got a good nose for marketing BS? Hold on, while I call you on your iPhone. Or I can just chase you down in those neon-pink Nikes. Or I could just buy an ad during Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
I know I’m getting crankier in my old age, but it’s simply a condition of getting smarter. I have much less of a tolerance for fancy advertising tricks. This Kony nonsense is the latest example. Unfortunately, I smelled a rat because the video was too clean. It was too well put together. Turns out, that grass roots video cost $1.5 million dollars – nearly 1/3rd of the budget for Jason Russell’s “Invisible Children” Foundation.
If I had a million dollars, I could make a viral video and then go blow $999,000 on pizza and hookers.
We need to be extremely shrewd about what information is fed to us. History is replete with examples of propagandists moving masses in one direction or the other. During World War II, it was Hitler’s propaganda films that grew a nation of hate. That led to the United States’ anti-Japanese propaganda posters nearly as shameful. Even Woody Woodpecker wanted us to get those Japs in the early 40’s.
I say this, not to compare Jason Russell to propagandists or Hitler. But I will say that anything compelling is usually trying to get you to do something. The kicker is figuring out what they want you to do. Sure, Jason Russell wants to see Kony brought to justice, but he also wants you to send your money to his organization that sells trinkets and posters and hats.
There are rarely endeavors that are clean and pure because everyone has a sub-agenda. You just need to find one that fits your value system and be wise enough to identify the ones that don’t.
No sooner had I decided to save my $20, than I saw in the news that Jason Russell had a nervous psychotic breakdown which included running up and down a public street wearing nothing but a smile. More and more reports are showing up now questioning the true motivation of the Invisible Children organization and I stand proud that the organization doesn’t have my $20. Oh, sure, I may be complicit in letting a child slave trafficker walk the streets of Uganda, but I didn’t give my money to a crazy person. It’s a small win in my book. Just not one that I should probably be too proud of.
I’ll save my cash for my trip to Namibia where I’m set to meet a rich Prince who has been having some problems with his billion dollar fortune. He sent me an e-mail, so I know it’s legit.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @thefakened. He can be reached via his web site, ramblingmorons.com)