George Clooney, who has praised the Stop Kony campaign aimed at ridding east-central Africa of warlord Joseph Kony, is trying to make sure our focus on such efforts isn’t too singular.
The actor and human rights advocate has long been focused on the ongoing atrocities in Sudan and recently testified in Congress to draw attention to the killings, conflict and suffering. He recently snuck into a dangerous part of the country and produced this powerful, disturbing video.
While there’s no denying the criminality and terrible legacy of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, Kony’s ability to inflict death and destruction is fairly limited these days. Clooney’s efforts in southern Sudan should serve as a reminder that there are many fronts in the war on those who commit crimes against humanity.
Clooney has been leveraging his celebrity to get people to care about something more important than celebrity. South Sudan’s January referendum for independence was quickly followed by uprisings that toppled North African and Arab dictatorships, with power moving away from centralized political bureaucracies and toward broader popular engagement. In this new environment—fueled by social networking—fame is a potent commodity that can have more influence on public debate than many elected officials and even some nation-states.
The New York Times’ Nick Kristof is taking questions from readers on malaria with actor George Clooney while simultaneously criticizing the media for being too celebrity-focused. Says Kristof:
We in the news media aren’t always very good at covering issues of global disease like malaria, which kills about 850,000 people every year (about one every 38 seconds). But we’re amazingly proficient at covering celebrities.
But then Kristof (or should it be Hypocristof?) simply wheels on his heels and engages in this same media proclivity he criticizes. He even has a photo of him and Clooney waving (and oddly, wearing sort of matching outfits) while hanging out together in Chad.
Yeah, you can argue — as Kristof does — that he’s making the best of our tendency to ignore stories about malaria and focus on celebrity.
But is the solution to simply pander to this distorted focus? Are two celebrities (Kristof is really as much a celebrity these days as he is a journalist) who happened to get malaria really the best to be fielding questions on malaria?
I’d really like to know if this kind of thing helps or hurts. Thoughts? I’m not sure, and I actually think Clooney did help draw attention to Sudan’s referendum, but I also know hypocrisy when I see it.
Starting next Sunday, citizens living in the southern half of Africa’s biggest country, Sudan, are expected to vote to split into two countries.
The BBC gives a good overview of what has prompted and preceded this vote, and what’s at stake.
I’m usually not a big fan of celebrities inserting themselves — and their usually simplistic strategies — into the public dialogue around such issues or events. But chances are, many of you have paid attention to Sudan partly due to the fact that actor George Clooney has been helping draw attention to what’s going on there. Continue reading →