Daniel Finkelstein in The Times, republished today in The Australian:
Almost 10 years ago, idealists young and old congregated in capital cities all over the world to protest against the forthcoming invasion of Iraq. “Stop the War”, read the banners. “Not in my name”, called out the demonstrators. Kony 2012 is, essentially, a “Start the War” march. Millions of idealists are gathered on the internet shouting “not in my name” at Kony and calling on the US to send military advisers. Just advisers? That’s what John F. Kennedy sent to Vietnam.
The emotional impact of the campaign is achieved by linking the film-maker’s young son with a young boy in Uganda who was a victim of Kony. The two children, the film points out, are the same, and deserve the same protection. It is hard – impossible – to argue with that.
The internet and television make friends out of strangers, bring foreign people in faraway places into our bedrooms and lounges, and make it unbearable to watch them be starved or murdered right there in our houses. The “Start the War” movement – Libya, Syria, Zimbabwe, Kony – is going to gain force as every year passes. Politicians will spend their time explaining to idealists why it’s too hard, expensive or dangerous to do anything.
That is why Kony 2012 is a “moment”; why it matters, for all its rather gooey emotionalism. Calling on people to become “advocates of awesome” sounds silly – all right, is a bit silly – but the impression of silliness recedes when one reflects that it has already prompted President Barack Obama to send advisers to Uganda.