Social media campaign turns notorious warlord into household name
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, is seen during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations in Congo near the Sudan border, July 31, 2006. (AP)
Published Wednesday, March 7, 2012 8:22AM EST
Last Updated Friday, June 22, 2012 8:22AM EDT
To say Kony 2012 has gone ‘viral' is an understatement… even it's critics are calling it an unprecedented online campaign, perhaps the most successful of its kind.
If you're active at all on Facebook or Twitter, you've seen calls to #StopKony and to #MakeKonyFamous. Over the last 48 hours I have received dozens of tweets and emails about this campaign... all of them directing me to watch a 30-minute video. Today, I did.
It's produced by a charitable organization called Invisible Children. The aim of the non-profit group behind the campaign, is to expose Ugandan war criminal and rebel group leader Joseph Kony. To raise mass awareness of atrocities committed by Kony and his murderous Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The only way to do that, argues Invisible Children's Jason Russell, is to make everyone know who Joseph Kony is. The only way governments will devote the necessary resources to put a stop to this man, Russell suggests, is to get a critical mass of people pushing their governments to act -- and the only way people will bother to push is if they care -- deeply.
Russell produced a slick, effective and very moving 30-minute film. He begins by talking about the power of social media in connecting the masses, in showing us our humanity. In the film he talks of his beautiful boy Gavin, the life-changing experience of becoming a father, then about his trips to Africa in which he met Jacob – another boy who changed his life and inspired this movement. Jacob, a former child soldier from north Uganda whose brother had his throat slit at the hands of the LRA, and who told Russell he would rather die than continue living in such a horrible world.
Russell made a promise to Jacob: "We're going to stop them." And thus he began his nearly decade-long campaign, and his film. Watch it below if you haven't seen it. Russell uploaded it on Monday. Since then, it's been seen over 7 million times on YouTube.
This film is in fact just part of a series produced by Invisible Children, and it's become the main calling card for a campaign that includes events being promoted in cities around the world on April 20. Called ‘Cover The Night', it's an appeal for everyone to plaster Joseph Kony campaign-style posters everywhere. Facebook pages are set up inviting people to take part, including in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
The reaction to the campaign on Twitter was, in a word, enormous.
Despite the earnest efforts of the movement, it's important to note it has its critics..
Notably, making the rounds is an article on a blog called Visible Children, saying Invisible Children's push for military intervention and to work with Ugandan and Sudanese forces -- themselves riddled with accusations of various atrocities -- can hurt the very people the campaign is trying to save.
Mark Kerstein, a PhD student in the International Relations Department at the London School of Economics, argues along the same lines. In the article "Taking Kony 2012 Down A Notch" Kerstein points out that massive regional military solutions -- with backing from the U.S. -- have so far failed to dismantle the LRA. These operations include, most recently, Iron Fist and Lightning Thunder. "These failures have created serious and legitimate doubts that the ‘LRA question' is one that can be resolved by military means," writes Kerstein.
Notable experts in the field including War Child Canada's executive director and founder Dr. Samantha Nutt seem to agree with Kerstein's argument.
But even among the critics, no one seems to doubt the noble intentions of Invisible Children. And no one argues that they're failing to achieve their mission, to make Joseph Kony a household name.
Our Washington Bureau Chief Paul Workman will be filing on this skyrocketing movement tonight on our 11pm newscast.
What's your reaction to #StopKony2012? Watch the video if you haven't, read up on it, and feel free to comment on this blog.