Dislike Kony

Let’s all get outraged over the Ugandan warlord — until the next viral video

Written by The Indian Express | Published: March 13, 2012 3:25:49 am

Let’s all get outraged over the Ugandan warlord — until the next viral video

A 30-minute video about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his paramilitary group,Lord’s Resistance Army,has dominated online conversation over the last week,after US-based charity Invisible Children smartly used social media to get its point across. The video — an attempt to raise awareness about Kony and the LRA,which has been accused of recruiting children as soldiers — has had more than 73 million views on YouTube in a week. Celebrity endorsements are piling up and #StopKony was the number one trending topic on Twitter. Before the Kony 2012 video was released,few knew about him,even though he was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005 and the US pledged 100 soldiers to aid in his capture just last year. Now,Kony is notorious,and the internet is calling for his blood — at least until the next cause celebre captures our attention.

As a tactic to create awareness,the video is a success,an excellent example of marketing in a networked world and proves that the internet can get excited about more than lolcats. But is the video any more than that — a slick,emotionally manipulative documentary that suggests a rather simplistic solution to very complex problems? Yes,people are talking about Uganda. But what will they do with their newfound awareness,and of what value will this be to Uganda? The fact is that Kony is in hiding,Uganda has moved on,and its north is no longer violent — information that those responding to the plea made by the video might be forgiven for missing entirely.

The campaign shows the efficacy (and randomness) of social media in spreading a message while exposing its limitations equally well. Complexity is not well-served by the internet-shortened news cycle — the Uganda in the video is stripped of both history and context — and support for these causes rarely goes deeper than a “like” on Facebook. As an attention-grab,Kony 2012 works — until the next viral video.

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