Above: The controversial video from Invisible Children’s Kony2012 campaign.
Like many people across the world, I am in the large minority that takes internet access for granted. On March 7th, millions of wealthy people who count themselves among that group watched a half-hour long video made by a group called Invisible Children.
The video went viral and ended up gaining unprecedented support via a mixture of pledges of support and video sharing, both quite innocent, and donations. The request for these donations after an emotionally manipulative video, however, is quite sinister – brazenly so. It was a tour de force in coercion, emotional manipulation and sophistry, and millions are falling for it.
I can’t tell you what to do with your money, that’s entirely up to you. But if you had not heard of Joseph Kony before yesterday and are now thinking of reaching into your wallet for some change or your credit card, stop. Stop right now, please. I can’t tell you what to do with your money, but I can ask you what to not do with it, and what you should not do is donate to this group. Let’s say you do decide to donate though, as is your right; where would the proportion of your donation that is not spent on salaries and administration go?
Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University and NYU prof in the department of Media, Culture, and Communication, has written an article about anonymous for the 15th issue of Triple Canopy. She’s considered the leading anthropological expert on 4chan (thanks academia) and the article, Our Weirdness Is Free, is good, insightful, long, and worth it.
“If one term embodies the paradoxical and contradictory character of Anonymous—which is now serious in action and frivolous by design; made up of committed activists and agents of mischief—it is lulz. These four letters denote the pleasures attained from generating and sharing jokes and memes such as LOLcats and the cartoon pedophile mascot Pedobear. But they also suggest how easily and casually trolls can violently undermine the sense of security enjoyed by carefree denizens of the “real world” by, for instance, ordering scores of unpaid pizzas to be delivered to a single address, or publishing one’s phone number and private communications and credit-card numbers and hard-drive contents and any other information one might think to be “personal” or secure. Perhaps most important, lulz-oriented actions puncture the consensus around our politics and ethics, our social lives, our aesthetic sensibilities, the inviolability of the world as it is; trolls invalidate that world by gesturing toward the possibility for Internet geeks to destroy it—to pull the carpet from under us—whenever they feel the urge and without warning.”