Since it's spring -- or at least, feeling spring-like -- I'm going to start today's roundup with the announcement of a new feature you'll see sprouting in our blog rail this coming week. It's called "Change My Mind": Two bloggers will debate a topical subject and readers will be able to vote on who won. You can see the American debut of the debate here: Ezra Levant took on Bill McKibbon over whether the Keystone XL pipeline should be allowed in the U.S. Our Canadian debut will pit two prominent Muslim women -- Farzana Hassan and Farah Mawani -- over whether Islamic face coverings should be banned in Canada. More great debates to come.
In other news, it was the week that started -- and ended -- with the Kony 2012 video. Unless you have been living under a rock (or, come to think of it, on the lam in an African jungle), you could not avoid being aware of the controversy surrounding the viral video made by Invisible Children. The video is about the murderous Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, whose "Lord's Resistance Army" recruited (kidnapped) thousands of children from the South Sudan and turned them into merciless soldiers. Kony's been in hiding somewhere in Africa for years at this point, and is now being hunted down by numerous forces, among them U.S. Navy Seals. Which brings the whole Kony video into question, as contributor Glen Pearson points out in an important four-part series of blogs he did for us on the subject (you can read all of them here, and also see the Kony video here):
The 30-minute film by Invisible Children implies that Kony remains a major political and military figure in Uganda, still recruiting child soldiers at significant levels, and destabilizing the region -- none of which is true. I grew increasingly troubled over the video as I spoke with NGO leaders and workers in the northern Ugandan region who have endured ongoing worries over the influence of Invisible Children -- the group responsible for compiling and promoting the video Kony 2012.
Pearson knows what he's talking about. Now director of the London (Ontario) Food Bank, he has worked extensively and continues to work with development projects in Sudan. He sums up the increasing skepticism and misgivings about Invisible Children's work with this:
Watching the Kony 2012 video leaves you with the impression that Kony journeys in and out of Uganda at will, that he has an army of thousands of child soldiers, and that the only alternative is to fund Ugandan military operations in order to capture Kony. We now know that Kony only has a few hundred troops at most, that most of the child soldiers are no longer with him, and that international forces are taking the lead in discovering Kony's whereabouts. Confusion has ensued with the discovery that only 30 per cent of Invisible Children's donated funds goes directly to programming to help the youth.
The growing global skepticism and misgivings about the video clearly reached a tipping point when Jason Russell, the creator and narrator of the film, was taken into custody on Friday after he was allegedly found yelling and harassing traffic in his underwear in a San Diego neighbourhood.
HuffPost contributor Josh Scheinert, meanwhile, was left wondering: Is this the only way we can rally world attention on an issue? By making it into an emotionally manipulative YouTube sensation, shareable on social media?
I see it now, planeloads of students on March break will land in the Entebbe airport boarding buses for northern Uganda to set off on foot into the jungle with a Google Map in search of Kony while sending each other iMessages and BBMs to keep track of where each group has looked. Just think of the Facebook albums.
Skepticism also surrounded the "brave" New York Times' op-ed, penned by a former Goldman Sachs employee, Greg Smith, about the cynicism and corruption that plagued the firm. Contributor Daniel D. Veniez likened the culture at Goldman Sachs to the current political culture in Canada; while younger -- and gimlet-eyed contributor -- Daniel Alexandre Portoraro saw Smith's op-ed as a shameless, Sherman McCoy-esque pitch for a new job. In "The Most Widely Read Resume in the World," Portoraro writes:
Once you get past the novelty of one of the suits criticizing the suits, it is clear that this opinion piece is nothing but a vain, desperate grab for attention in light of current events. It reeks of that scene in "Mad Men" when Don Draper takes out an ad page in the New York TImes and writes an open letter entitled, "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco." Clearly, this is where Smith draws his inspiration from, but it remains to be seen if similar business opportunities emerge as they did in the HBO series.
In other news, it was (complete change of topic) Fashion Week in Toronto, which our Style team was all over like a cheap suit (sorry, couture suit).
Our star Ottawa bureau chief, Althia Raj, reported on the ongoing clashes between environmental groups and a Senate inquiry looking into their foreign funding -- which reached a "level of lunacy" when Senator Don Plett asked ...
"Let me ask you this, honourable senators: If environmentalists are willing to accept money from Martians, where would they draw the line on where they receive money from? Would they take money from Al Qaeda, the Hamas, or the Taliban?"
I didn't know Martians were donating right now! Who knew? I thought they had environmental problems of their own, what with the shortage of water and its barren wastelands of craters, defunct volcanoes, and sand... (wait... is there oil in that sand?!)
As always, contributor J.J. McCullough had sharp and amusing insights on the day's politics, this week comparing the Conservative's (lame) Manning Networking Conference with the (more robust) American version of CPAC. As he said: "The duelling convention themes say it all. CPAC: 'We Still Hold These Truths: An Ode to American Exceptionalism,' and Manning: 'Government as a Facilitator.'"
If you haven't been following our "Fat Diaries" -- a hilarious journal of a software geek desperately trying to drop 40 pounds -- then you missed the week's installment, in which he completely fell off the wagon. Or at least, his feet -- while he was tossing back vodka drinks and stuffing his face with bar mitzvah cake.
And Blog Town welcomed two new contributors: former municipal candidate and writer Jennifer Smith, who confessed to once being a robocaller ; and Gerald McEachern, a city boy and planner who fled urban life for the charms (or lack thereof) of rural Atlantic Canada.
Last, I would be remiss as a mother if I did not mention daughter Miranda Frum's blog on how women perpetuate damaging female stereotypes -- a post that drew great attention in both the U.S. and Canada, for her observations upon how women undermine each other:
Perhaps it's because we feel envy or threatened by women who are different from ourselves, or seem to possess something we don't. Thus women can be cruel to each other, and create ridiculous, arbitrary rules of needing to be one thing or another: You can't be beautiful AND smart. You can't be nerdy AND socially adept or without in need of a makeover. You can't be powerful AND flirt.
I'm glad I can be an editor AND a mother of a daughter AND a writer, of whom I'm very proud.
Follow Danielle Crittenden Frum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/figtreevine