Kony 2012. If you haven’t heard the phrase yet, I’m betting you will soon. “Kony 2012” is the tagline of a Youtube video about Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord who is known for kidnapping children and turning them into child soldiers or sex slaves. The video, which has already gone viral, was created by an organization called Invisible Children. The group aims to help publicize the current struggle in Uganda through social media and “make Joseph Kony famous” in order to force international organizations to bring him to justice. What is perhaps most interesting about the campaign is the organization’s faith in the power of social media. Invisible Children certainly is placing all its eggs in the social media basket and it seems to be working. After being uploaded two days ago, the video has already been viewed over 20 million times. Invisible Children and #stopkony are currently trending on Twitter. What is it about this particular social media campaign that has made it so effective?
The most compelling aspect of the movie is that Invisible Children has a cause that can be universally supported. The video states that Kony kidnaps Ugandan children and forces them to commit horrible atrocities. One example given is children who are forced to murder their own parents. This is a universally abhorrent and appalling idea. Besides presenting us with these atrocities, the film puts faces to these “Invisible Children.” The filmmaker befriends one Ugandan child in particular, named Jacob, who is introduced and continually brought up throughout the 30-minute film. This child and the clips of the other Ugandan children really make the situation personal for audiences hundreds of miles away.
The organization also clearly thought about their potential audience. The film was intended for Youtube and to be passed along through Facebook so it is aimed at a younger population. In the portion of the video urging people to get involved there are number of shots of teens chanting and holding banners for the cause. The film really drives home the point that you (yes, YOU!) can make a difference and gives you ways to do so online. This perfectly targets 13 to 25 year olds who are happy to participate in trending social activism as long as they don’t have to get off Facebook to do it. The “Cover the Night” campaign, which proposes that on the night of April 20th everyone plasters their city with “Kony 2012” posters, is also definitely appealing to twenty-something’s who love any excuse to go out at night in a cheering mob.
Although there is no denying that Invisible Children’s cause is just, I have to wonder about a campaign that so artificially panders to its audience. The film did an excellent job of making helping Uganda seem “cool,” but did little to inform audiences what is actually going on. Yes, Kony is bad and should be stopped, but the video presents only one way to do this, while in reality there are hundreds of possible ways to reach this goal. Many people have criticized the entire premise of the video as well, stating that by publicizing Kony, we are only giving him more power. Invisible Children’s financial history has also been delved into and the results have not been too positive. I really hate to put down anything promoting such a good cause, but people should really think and learn more about the situation in Uganda for themselves and come to their own conclusions about how Kony should be stopped, instead of letting Invisible Children think for them. Now that we’re all aware of the situation thanks to the video, lets become better informed and THEN do something.