What’s Up With Kony 2012?

One of my kids came to me all worked up about the rapidly-going-viral, must-see video Kony 2012 (here’s the link on YouTube. Warning: half-hour length).

In short, this video is part of an orchestrated campaign to bring an unsavory African guerrilla leader (Joseph Kony) to justice. He is the one you may have heard about that kidnaps children and turns them into his soldiers. His track record as a scourge on the earth is well-established, but according to Invisible Children (the organization who made the video), he is not nearly well-known enough. The campaign aims to fix that.

I almost never watch 30-minute on-line videos, but I did see this one through. It is well-made, with solid production values, a well-constructed story-line, emotional appeal, and a big dose of aspirational involvement – viewers are urged to become part of something big, something ground-level. My guess is that it’s going to work as an attention-generating campaign.

So – is there a downside?

I’m not sure yet. Who could be against capturing Joseph Kony? Sounds like a noble cause – but the storyline of the video seems just a bit slick, the hype level a bit over the top. My vague unease about the whole thing finds some reinforcement in a few scattered Internet postings about the organization (go ahead and Google it), and with this level of exposure, I’m sure that the goals, and practices, and people behind Invisible Children will be much more intensively vetted in the coming days. There will be fact-checking. I hope that they won’t be found to be (mere) attention-grabbing mercenaries of media promotion. I don’t want to be cynical, but I’ve been around the block a few times. Where there’s fund-raising, there’s always potential danger lurking. And sometimes, when we jump very quickly on a convincing-sounding bandwagon, we later realize that a bit more prudence was advisable.

The little blond son (Gavin – see picture above) of the filmmaker makes the production, by the way. Very cute, and very effective.

As far as effective media production and promotion – give these guys a high grade. Another high grade for a creative campaign concept. As far as what we’ll see in the full light of day as more information comes out – here’s hoping.

And it’s doubtful that anyone will mourn if Joseph Kony is actually captured!

Update: The Invisible Children folks respond to a number of the criticisms/questions that have arisen.

Update: The campaign is now making news in traditional media outlets, like the NY Times.

Update: My friend Amy Fitch touches on one aspect of this phenomenon that has been quite remarkable – how many of us learned of this video from our kids.


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3 Responses to What’s Up With Kony 2012?

  1. Rick Simoni says:

    Great post Steve, I think this is a very important topic. I’ve also been seeing a lot of very well done, yet half-truthful, misleading campaigns. I’m highly suspect of any clip/movie that starts with a lot of “Emotional Bonding” Moments and a view of the globe from space :-).

  2. meticulouslyclean says:

    Steve, that video was making it’s way around Google + today and yesterday so being my usual contrarian self, I researched it before sharing it with my own circles.
    One particular anti-Invisible Children site was http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/ which started out as one guy trying to get his 30 or so friends to understand why he didn’t support Invisible Children.

    The best, most well researched article I’ve seen on the issue was back on Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/110422080214945443369/posts/D3Cu1AaCkfi
    “In reality, things have changed a lot since back then. Back in 2005, on July 8th, Joseph Kony was named the number one criminal in the world by the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of his crimes in Uganda. Not long after, Joseph Kony fled Uganda and he has since been in hiding. Because Joseph Kony has been in hiding outside of Uganda since 2006, his influence in Uganda has been extremely limited. After Joseph Kony went into hiding, the LRA signed a peace accord resulting in northern Uganda being almost free of LRA violence and war for the past five years. Due to efforts of the Ugandan military and the ICC, the recruitment of children has decreased by 80 % while the area continues to get rebuilt.”

    My own post opposing Invisible Children got the attention to one in my circles who actually lived in the region for a number of years and shared with us his own opinion of the controversy. His comments brought another with valuable input as well.
    excerpt from one of the comments:

    Al Cris JustCris Heffe – There was a US Sponsored African alliance that was begun in late 1990’s and was active by year 2000…ACRI- African Crisis Response Initiative. Probably by 2002-2003 it dissolved as there simply is no infrastructure or sense of African unity to make such a alliance work. Some countries were scared to use the equipment for fear of loss and it literally corroded away in humid warehouses or others, the equipment had non-existent accountability and was sold on black market.
    I worked the certification piece in Malawi back in Spring/Summer of 2000. They were a fair force and reasonably honest but just one country out of many that had to work together (or at all) and others fell out. I have spent a considerable portion of my life in this area of the world (as in years) and know the problems only too well.
    A great deal of the problems would NOT be happening if the French and Portuguese colonial powers had not raped and pillaged the country for resources, certainly the French, that once a country was given independence, they systematically destroyed infrastructure in retaliation. In Mozambique, the Portuguese cut the main sewer discharge line in Maputo that previously dumped a couple miles off shore and as late as I was there in 1999, dumped just a few hundred meters off shore. French were the worst….removed anything that could be removed and destroyed anything that could not be. Until adequate and honest leadership can be brought into any of these countries and use the power of their natural resources to improve the lives of all (instead of the Mugabe few), nothing will ever change. In any case, Kony needs to die a most gruesome death.

    (Sorry that was so long but I couldn’t figure out where to cut some of his post because it was a first hand account.)

  3. sam says:

    wow, thanks for taking the time and effort to explain this to those of us who miss the news more often than we catch it. i’ve heard just a little about this Joseph Kony so far, but when people in my town started driving around with “Kony 2012” displays on their vehicles, I honestly didn’t know WHAT to think! I mean, with all the red, white and blue, they looked like presidential campaign displays !!!?!!! so thanks much for clearing this up for me. i will definitely take a look at this video to learn more.

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