'Kony 2012': World Connects to Smoke Out Evil Warlord
A video gone viral is making Joseph Kony famous. The goal is to bring the Ugandan criminal to justice and end his decades-long violence against children. "This is how people have become accustomed to lobbying for change now," said Fordham professor Paul Levinson. "There is a call to action in social media, and it spills over into the real world. It will be difficult for the world to let him to continue to do what he is doing."
"Kony 2012," 30-minute online video spotlighting the atrocities of Joseph Kony, head of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, has garnered support around the globe for his removal.
In 2005, Kony was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, after decades of brutal actions against people -- children in particular -- in several countries, including Urganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Sudan.
News story after news story has chronicled his horrifying deeds -- namely the abduction of boys to fight in his army and the kidnapping of girls to be sex slaves. His army has mutilated an untold number of victims and reportedly has even sunk to cannibalism.
Never, though, was the outcry for his capture as great as it is now -- and that is thanks to the video, made by Invisible Children, a little-known advocacy group that has been working for nine years for his removal.
57 Million Views
The video, posted on YouTube, has been viewed more than 57 million times. It is a masterful work, starting with images of the filmmaker's own son -- a device that effectively draws in viewers to connect with the plight of the children in Africa.
However, it took more than just good filmmaking to cause this video to go viral. Socially savvy celebrities were recruited to talk it up, and the company launched the video supported by a content-strong website and perhaps, mostly importantly, a call to action for the viewers.
The video asks viewers to put posters up calling for Kony's removal on April 20. It also asks people to sign a pledge to bring him to justice in 2012 -- hence the name of the movie, "Kony 2012."
'An Astonishing Start'
Kony's capture is actually possible now, thanks to the video, said Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University.
"It has gotten off to an astonishing start," he told TechNewsWorld. "Thirty million of the 57 million views have occurred in just the last day. The speed at which it is being viewed is amazing."
The call to action was an important piece, and it will likely have much to do with his capture, even though the posters are likely going up in places such as San Francisco, London or Frankfurt -- hardly locations were Kony might be spotted and turned in.
However, that is not the point, Levinson said. "This is how people have become accustomed to lobbying for change now. There is a call to action in social media, and it spills over into the real world."
The video and the posters, he said, will put pressure on politicians and leaders around the globe to actually do something about Kony.
"It will be difficult for the world to let him to continue to do what he is doing," he said.
The director putting his 5-year-old son, Gavin, in the video has been criticized by some, but Levinson thinks that was the most effective part of the campaign.
"There is nothing more appealing than a child to give a message," he said.
It also highlights that much of the world's populace, despite the somber news stories over the decades, have been unaware of Kony's actions.
"In a way, we have been as ignorant -- like 5-year-old children -- about these events," commented Levinson.
So Much for Big-Budget Story Telling
The success of the video points to social media's core strength: It can trump big-budget advertising campaigns with a poignant story of its own, Ananda Mitra, chair of the department of communication at Wake Forest University, told TechNewsWorld.
"It is now not only the case that visual stories can be told at a low budget," he said, "but more importantly, the stories can be distributed at a fraction of the cost of what it took the institutional stories to reach a global audience."