The White Flight into Social Media

Posted: July 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Kony 2012 –it’s been a couple of months since this video has gone viral, but the images and dialogue of Jason Russell’s Kony video flashed through my head as I read Janell Hobson’s “Digital Whiteness, Primitive Blackness”. The day after the video had gone viral, posters about the events of Kony 2012 swept across the hallways of school, my phone was buzzing with notifications about someone adding me to a Kony 2012 group and statuses changed every minute to Kony 2012. I only watched less than ten minutes into the video. It disturbed me about how simple it was to catch Kony and to end violence in Uganda with a simple promise to Jacob and Jason Russell’s own son. With this in mind, Hobson’s article can be contrasted with the overall issue of the Kony 2012 initiative and how white supremacy still remains supreme in our world today.


Using social media to promote global awareness to issues such as poverty, violence and political turmoil has its advantages. The Kony 2012 campaign definitely embodied the wonders of the internet with over 92 million views on Youtube alone. However, though it has been a success for the Invisible Children Organization to create a stir worldwide, it exemplifies this “digital divide” that Hobson talks about in her article. In the video, a contrast between white and black is visible to the naked eye. Hobson states that there are three wordportray blackness are nature, primitivism and pre-modernity. This contrast is further epitomized in this video, where Russell is depicted as progressive, because he’s struggling to help create this world of peace by having the technological means to broadcast this young boy’s story. On the contrary, Russell’s friend Jacob is portrayed as the disadvantaged youth who relies on the white man with the camera to tell his story to the world. With that being said, the social injustices of Africa are exploited by today’s social media and those who exploit them are predominantly white. However, as Hobson mentions, there are Africanists and Afrocentrics that would disagree with these efforts to portray Africa as a place suffering from social injustices. Instead, they look at Africa as progressive.

In addition to this, Hobson briefly describes a documentary video that was released in 2003 called Afro@Digital. This documentary that is directed by Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda aims to detract from the imagery of white progressiveness and to look deeper into Africa’s progressive history in the realm of science and mathematics. Unfortunately, we do not see mainstream media portraying the progress in Africa. Flipping through the news, everything about Africa is negative. I understand the sympathy that Russell and the Invisible Children have for those who have suffered under Kony’s reign, but instead of progressing, they are digressing. It brings back the primitive images of the World Columbian Exposition of 1893, where the white Americans show off their supremacy through the technological progress of the “White City”, while they portraying “bare-breasted” black women sitting in a Dahomey village. In my opinion, the Kony 2012 video is doing exactly what the World Columbian Exposition aimed to do, as well and that’s to further show white supremacy over the non-white people.

Instead of trying to understand the complexity of the situation, Russell and his team have oversimplified the problem and the conclusion. Is this because social media makes it so easy to make a point? I mean, we take to our Twitter or Facebook accounts to rant about issues that bombard our day-to-day lives or we create videos on Youtube to try to set things right. Can the “share” or the “retweet” button really create world peace, though? Is technology the solution to every social injustice or do we further segregate those who don’t have the money to address the real concerns? Maybe if we give those who live in the shadows of social media a chance to speak, instead of making it someone else’s duty to speak for them, they might have something else to say.

To read more about a different perspective of the Kony initiative, please follow the link to see Patrick Kigongo’s article, Don’t Reduce Uganda to a Meme. This article addresses the issue of Kony 2012 campaign.

Viel T.

  1. z says:

    I do not agree that the Kony 2012 campaign is or wasn’t successful. One has to take initiative and start somewhere right? We have to praise the Kony 2012 short film since the “superior” white marketers of the West very well produced it. On our side of the globe, Canada and America jump into the sea of disputes always acting like “super heroes” of the world. That’s because we have political systems that are not perfectly corrupt and we obey laws. We have do not live in places where one maniac can go on a killing spree or dictate a state. I understand Viel’s perspective as she mentions that eventually Russell’s friend Jacob is shown to be disadvantaged and ends up relying on a “white” man to deliver his story. Citizens of these countries do not have the equal means (technology) and freedom to express themselves along with their concerns. Therefore we are in a way the voice of the less fortunate. Would it have been even poltically or personally safe for these kids to take a stand for themselves?

    In more recent history, think about the crisis in Rawanda! The mass murder in the East African state is still fresh in my mind. Was there any action taken back then? I just remember that the American troops pulled of the country when they were most needed. The story had been covered widely across the world by the media but there was no trend or platform of expressing support like today. It has been noted that Americans knew and tried to negotiate with the leaders to end the violence but no solid action was taken. Bill Clinton was in office at the time and underestimated the relentlessness of the circumstances.

    The entire Kony campaign helped to raise awareness about the issue even though it further illustrated the terminology used by Hobson to depict “blackness “such as savages, primitivism and backwards. We all need to understand that currently we live in a very globalized and tech savvy world. What one initiates in country can be spread into other greater parts of the world using the platforms we have today. I know that Kony has not been arrested but at least now the world knows about him. So why not use these new forms of media and social networking sites to raise awareness about distressful issues?

    (Check out this Kony-related meme section: )


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