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Kony 2012: 6 days, 100 million hits

Camille A. Padilla '13, Assistant Online Editor
March 21, 2012
Filed under News

The “Kony 2012” video is arguably the most viral video the world has ever seen. In just six days, it reached 100 million views on both YouTube and Vimeo. The short film was made by Jason Russell and is part of Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the need to arrest the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader, Joseph Kony.

The LRA is a rebellious group that started in Uganda in the 1980s. They are infamous for kidnapping children and training young boys to be soldiers, and using young girls as sexual slaves. Civilians began implementing “night commutes,” a term used to refer to the movement of children from their villages at night to sleep in the city, where it was safer.

Invisible Children started to work in Uganda in 2005. They are a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose mission, according to their website, is to “stop LRA violence and support the war-affected communities in East and Central Africa.”  

However, the video’s prominence has also evoked a significant amount of criticism. Blake Lambert, who was a journalist in Uganda for The Economist until he was banned from the country in 2006, believes that although Invisible Children has good intentions, the video simplifies a complex issue and should have integrated more history within it.

Lambert warns people who see the video to be aware of the Civilizing Mission undertones it might have. He also considers “Kony 2012” an anachronistic campaign, considering that the LRA is no longer in Uganda.

In light of the criticism, Invisible Children has responded with a series of official statements clearing up their mission. Their websites states, “Some organizations focus exclusively on documenting human rights abuses, some focus exclusively on international advocacy or awareness, and some focus exclusively on on-the-ground development. We do all three.”

The way a campaign works is by appealing to people’s emotions and “Kony 2012” is no exception. The campaign is clearly targeted to young adults and endorses the premise that “there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago.” Russell embraces how fast things can be shared and by using his own personal story, promotes change in Uganda.

Brynna Rao, ’14, is an activist for Invisible Children and put Saint Joseph’s University on their map during her freshman year, with the help of Students for Peace and Justice (SPJ) and the University Student Senate (USS). With her help, Invisible Children has had two screenings at Hawk Hill (Spring 2011 and Fall 2011) and is going to have a third on March 28.

“The reason that the ‘Kony 2012’ campaign came about is because change does not happen until there are people that care about it. Invisible Children has gone on for years without there ever being a huge response like this, because their films have previously only targeted specific stories on the people in Uganda and never this much about the man [Kony] behind it all,” she said. “It takes a fan base for a movement to spark change.”

Rao believes that it is natural for the world to question the video, but encourages people to research the organization’s previous work, overall goals, and “prominently published financial breakdowns.”

Rao said, “I heavily believe that if we stop caring about this atrocity then we will repeat history and will one day have to apologize for not ending this like we did with Rwanda.”

She recommended that students go to the meeting on Mar. 28 and be respectful but not afraid to ask the hard questions.

As if 100 million views is not enough attention, Invisible Children has also received backlash due to filmmaker Russell’s detainment and hospitalization for a mental breakdown as he was caught  for a mental   running through the streets of San Diego in his underwear. His wife, Danica Russell, stated, “While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason—and, because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.”

She also assured that he, “has never had a substance abuse or drinking problem, and this episode wasn’t caused by either of those things.”

Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, released a statement after Russell’s arrest. “Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.”

Fame always brings critics, and it’s good that we live in a world where things are questioned. Even if three million out of the 100 million people who watched that video researched Kony or Invisible Children, then at least there are some people more knowledgeable about the subject. Young adults spend so much time on the Internet watching YouTube videos about random subjects; Kony 2012 has proved that they are willing to share a story that they find inspiring. One can choose if they want to help through Invisible Children or another NGO, but before this video the possibility wasn’t available because many people didn’t know who Kony was. “Kony 2012” might be the beginning of a new trend of individuals changing the world by using social media.

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