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cover the night: #kony2012 and the challenge of activism

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any group or organisation, including my employers, unless otherwise stated.

As with my original post about #Kony2012, I write this post with a fair amount of trepidation since I learned from that episode just how emotional this topic can be. My aim here is merely to reflect on what we can learn from the ‘Cover the Night‘ event, not to criticise it, and I will attempt to be as sensitive as I can. For this reason I will not be commenting on the content of the Kony campaign; in any case I have done that previously.

The first thing to note is that the Cover the Night event was highly successful, at least in relation to Invisible Children’s initial expectations prior to the release of Kony 2012.

These expectations included that half a million people would watch Kony 2012. However given that the video became the most successful social media campaign to date, with over 100 million views, the results embodied in Cover the Night were quite disappointing. In my hometown of Sydney 19,000 people clicked on ‘attending’ for the Cover the Night Facebook event, though one report claims only 25 or so people were present at Martin Place, the event’s main centre.

That is not to say it’s all over. The campaign has not ended just because IC’s main event has passed by; there is still the opportunity for further advocacy. However judging by the take-up rate of Cover the Night this seems unlikely.

This is not a reflection of Invisible Children so much as the current state of popular activism; Invisible Children is merely the most publicised instance of the difficulty in translating social media popularity to on-the-ground work. Indeed, many I know who shared the Kony video and criticised those offering a critique stayed home on Saturday night… This is not a problem with IC, but the state of young generations (of which I am part).

So what have we learned from this episode?

Read the rest of this entry

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confessions of a failing radical: challenges of walking the way

This post was inspired by an amicable challenge set forth by my friend Simon Moyle, a peace activist and worthy Twitter followee, in the comments section of a recent post of mine.

But even prior to this challenge I have struggled with listening to Christian activists speak about their journeys and their perspectives. This is not because they are wrong, or uninspiring, or bad people. On the contrary the vast majority are beautiful, compelling, godly people.

But at a few points this year I have found myself secretly wanting them to share a specific kind of message. They will often speak about their theology, their most impressive stories of activism, living radically and following Jesus, or their well-articulated views on particular issues of the day…

…These things are important and valuable!…

… but I am often left feeling that these people are superhuman, and as a result I feel like I could never do what they do.

The truth is that what I really want to hear from these people is a message about failure, and losing hope. I want to hear a message entitled “The things that have gone wrong”, or “The things I have messed up”, or even “When I don’t feel like giving a shit anymore.” Read the rest of this entry

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