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Humanitarian Aid and the Impoverished Rhetoric of Celebrity Advocacy

Marouf A. Hasian, Jr.

Providing a comparative study on celebrity advocacy – from the work of Bono, George Clooney, Madonna, Greg Mortenson, and Kim Kardashian West – this book provides scholars and readers with a better understanding of some of the short-term and long-term impacts of various forms of celebrity activism.
Each chapter illustrates how the impoverished rhetoric of celebrities often privileges the voices of those in the Global North over the efforts of local NGOs who have been working for years at addressing the same humanitarian crises. Whether we are talking about the building of schools for young women in Afghanistan or the satellite surveillance of potential genocidal acts carried out in the Sudan, various forms of celebrity advocacy resonate with scholars and members of the public who want to be seen «doing something.»
The author argues that more often than not, celebrity advocacy enhances a celebrity's reputation – but hinders the efforts of those who ask us to pay attention to the historical, structural, and material causes of these humanitarian crises.
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Chapter 5. The Ambivalent Power of Social Media and the Indigenous Paths Not Taken in Kony 2012

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· 5 ·

THE AMBIVALENT POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE INDIGENOUS PATHS NOT TAKEN IN KONY 2012

Kony 2012 is a thirty-minute film that was produced by Invisible Children, an NGO based in San Diego and Central Africa.1 By October 2012, there were archival records of around 111 million views of this activist video.2 Using crowdsourcing techniques and convergence technologies that brought together celebrities and many lay publics, this visual artifact obviously garnered unprecedented attention. It also turned Jason Russell and other members of Invisible Children into celebrities who were critiqued,3 and emulated, by countless members of several different generations. Some theorists and journalists went so far as to argue that now, instead of just studying the importance of the “CNN effect,” we all had to take into account the persuasive power of the “Kony 2012 effect.”4 “Stopping” Kony became another performative example of image events, those staged acts of protest that are designed for media dissemination.5

As I note in more detail below, though some would dismiss this work as an example of ineffectual clicktivism that did little to help the people of northern Uganda,6 others defended Kony 2012 as a heuristic example of aesthetically pleasing imaging that would appeal to 21st-century youngsters who had no interest in participating in traditional types of pickets, boycotts, or ← 123 | 124 → marches that were such a part of the civil rights movements, antiwar activism, and feminist marches of the 1960s...

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