As another busy year draws to a close, we University of Toronto students can reflect on the moments we’ve shared together this year. There have been plenty of highs and lows, and I’m not just talking about abominable grades.
On the Internet, we were asked to stop a Ugandan warlord by watching a 20 minute video of vague accusations. And we mourned the death of two major musical talents in the only fashion the Internet knows: by making them more popular than ever — to the point where they begin to annoy us.
The Kony 2012 campaign is really quite phenomenal. The video itself, a 22-minute piece about a Ugandan warlord and criminal, tells the harrowing story of all the atrocities the man has committed, using vague statements, bright colours, incredible self-praise by its director, and charts that simple health adverts use to make people aware of problems they were never concerned with before and will quickly forget. Personally, I have not watched the video past the part that states that there are 200 million more people on Facebook than there were 200 years ago — as if nobody realizes the internet has only been around since the ‘90s. Still, disregarding its lack of political nuance, I suppose the video’s sentiment is correct.
As for the music industry, the passing of Whitney Houston and the earlier death of Amy Whitehouse has transformed both singers’ careers. Prior to their respective passings, people would not have felt apprehensive about mocking their infamous addictions. But with the need to fill up a 24-hour news cycle, we were forced to learn all the intimate details of their tragic lives and then endure their beatification. Once they had passed, nobody dared insult their talent, and instead we gave them more airplay to remind ourselves of the incredible potential that we’d lost. This type of reaction is not unprecedented; record companies were equally thrilled at Kurt Cobain and Michael Jackson’s respective deaths.
In terms of mockery, it’s a little bizarre that the death of a celebrity will change their entire status. I’m not trying to excuse or lighten the negativity shown to celebrities, but it’s peculiar that if someone has enough talent, they’re exempt from scorn.
Despite the many forms of communication available to us, we have confused messages for ourselves. It’s impossible to stop a warlord if nobody really knows the facts first-hand. Although many have watched the video, few seem to have acted on it. The discussion is no longer about what cause is being addressed but how we address it. Couldn’t those who live on the Internet make a video to stop Stupidity 2012?