OK, I admit to being a bit bored today so excuse my venom. However, this promo has got to rank in at least the top 5 worst videos for social activism I have seen this year, and I have seen a lot of tosh.
You can watch the video here.
Nuru claims to be ‘doing development differently’. Now, development is not my field, and I am not questioning their motivations or even whether they have positive impact, but a quick look at their site shows that they do what most international development NGOs do – community participatory projects. Anyway, that isn’t the point. The point is how bad the video is. It goes a bit like this…
Guy in US military sees how crap the world is whilst on various tours of duty – cue various shots of the ‘terrible Third World’ (plus a bit of ‘terrorism’ in the First World) in super fast edit accompanied by the type of metal that US soldiers listen to in their Hummers. Marine(?) has an epiphany in Iraq and sets up his own NGO. The world is getting better, cue happy people and music . The End.
This video manages to squeeze in overtly negative imagery, using what has been termed the ‘shock effect‘ that looks to stimulate so-called ‘grand emotion‘, firing ‘pity‘ and ‘indignation‘ to create activism. It then goes to the other extreme and blasts us with overtly positive imagery (when the NGO arrive), firing ‘empathy‘ and ‘gratitude‘, in the ‘commodification of solidarity‘. In doing so it suppresses the complex dimensions of development and thus distorts the limits of such interventions.
Too harsh? Maybe. After all it is just a promo video, and these tend to be the most easy to criticise. But personally speaking the world I see, sitting in one of the Least Developed Countries, is not like this. I think we would all be better off with a far more nuanced and realistic picture of the world. But maybe the guys at Nuru have it right, maybe an MTV style approach is what is needed to get through to their target audience? The trouble with looking at audiences in this way (pitching at what they know) is that we never move on to a more informed way of looking at the world, and that is a pity.
For more on humanitarian communication I recommend ‘Post humanitarianism: Humanitarian communication beyond a politics of pity’ by Prof. Lilie Chouliaraki at the LSE / POLIS (UK).