Invisible Children’s newest campaign, titled “Kony 2012” aims to raise awareness about the atrocities committed directly and indirectly by Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). This approximately thirty minute video basically follows Invisible Children founder Jason Russell as he contrasts the childhood of his son Gavin with the experience of Jacob, an Ugandan child who escaped the LRA about a decade ago. The video has caught the attention of millions as people have been posting and re-posting the video, per the request at the end of the short film to “make Kony famous.” In typical grassroots fashion, the video empowers the individual to join their cause in hopes that banding together will force the hand of the government to act in favor of their interests.
Taking a firm hold of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many other social networking sites, the organization spreads its message at exponential rates. Within one day, the video had about 4 million views. At 6 pm today, it had about 7 million. Three hours later, it has over 11.5 million. Not to mention “Uganda,” “Invisible Children,” and “#stopKony” were some of the top trends on Twitter.
Even more astounding than the fast rise to public attention is the turn-around and spread of responses to the video from those against the campaign. The two most note-worthy articles “taking Kony down a notch” and a tumblr titled “visible children” call into question the validity of the Invisible Children organization, specifically the management of their funds and their support of military intervention in Africa. The video claims its purpose is to inform the massively unaware public about the atrocities going on in efforts to induce government intervention. However, the counter-arguments chastise the public for being so easily manipulated by a video gone viral.
Both of those perspectives play upon a widely held theme of media analysis: third party syndrome. This “diagnosis” asserts that “other people” fall victim to and are heavily influenced by the media because they are less intelligent or educated. Yet, the media does not have an effect on “me” because as the viewer since “I” am a clever human being and thus immune to such trickery. There lies the conundrum. Am I smart enough not to fall prey to the African children propaganda? Or am I astute enough to evade the government’s falsities?
To be honest, I don’t believe I have sought out enough information to make an absolute decision on the issue. Is their call for aid reminiscent of the White Man’s Burden of the early 20th century? I think so. Does that mean we should turn a blind eye to issues that severely alter the lives of others in an increasingly global community? I don’t think so. More importantly, I don’t think either of those opinions equate to supporting or going against the Invisible Children movement.
Despite what I think, I know that this video has already had an enormous impact, if only adding fuel to the fire of the technological determinism vs. social construction technology debate. We had an Arab Spring. Now an African Winter. Despite the trend, it seems politics are always in season.
Addendum: Even though this looks like your typical “take a serious issue and make it into a drinking game” post, the article does point out serious flaws in the video regarding the film’s vagueness, especially generalities that imply serious stereotyping. Yet another facet of the Kona 2012 movement.