The questions we should be asking about the Kony Invisible Children viral

Over the past 24 hours, my Facebook newsfeed has been swamped with a single subject: Invisible Children’s Kony 2012  / Stop Kony campaign.

The campaign film was uploaded to Youtube on the 5th of March. Since then, #StopKony has been a trending topic on Twitter – both in Australia and worldwide, for several days. At time of writing YouTube listed the number of views at 11,624,969, which is likely to be shy of the actual total.

This is a phenomenal success by anybody’s standards. But what has made this single issue – which I think it’s fair to say was relatively far from most Australians’ minds until a day or two ago, such a hot topic – and why is the campaign such a viral hit?


Typically the videos that generate the most hits are short and funny. The Stop Kony video is just over 29 minutes long, and it’s heart rending from start to finish.

According to YouTube’s Karen Stocks, one factor in viral success is  “think popular, not premium”.  Invisible Children has enlisted the support of celebrities like Justin Bieber and Rihanna, amongst others, and it’s clear that the campaign is using these celebrity endorsements as a key component of its publicity drive.

So if the film breaks what we’re coming to understand are “the newest rules of web marketing”, what is behind its success? I’d argue it’s a triumph of marketing, but I’m afraid there are some aspects of this that may make Kony 2012’s supporters feel uncomfortable.

1) It’s all about us. The film begins with the line “right now there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet two hundred years ago”. So statistically correct, so what? Well, it’s this statement that positions the entire campaign; the backbone is that we – you, me, our friends- can take action and make a difference simply by doing something we do every day: interacting online. Within the first four-and-a-half minutes of the piece there are seven calls to share, like or engage in other social media actions – all this before we’ve heard a single mention of the reason for all this action.

Is this “slactivism” at its most damaging? It gives us a sense of having made a contribution, having taken part in a movement for real change, clicking ‘share” or “like” or “tweet” or even buying a bracelet as a revolutionary act, thus assuaging any guilt we may have about our relative privilege – but what real difference do we make, beyond joining together in moral outrage?

Charity Navigator rates Invisible Children two out of four stars. Last year’s fundraising efforts, “only 32% went to direct services (page six), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production”, according to the critical response to the campaign on Visible Children. In other words, what we’re funding is largely the publicity for Invisible Children as an organisation.

2) Scar(city) tactics: 8 minutes into the film, we learn that this initiative has a shelf life. I’ve watched it twice and I’m still unclear as to what the legitimate reason for this is, but we’re told this campaign will end by December 31. This is a time-honoured marketing tactic to create urgency, playing to the fundamental human fear of missing out. Why a campaign seeking to deal with an issue thirty years in the making should expect resolution in ten months is, to me, somewhat troubling.

Stop Kony 2012

3) The call to action is clear, direct and often repeated. We’re asked to do three things: sign the petition, buy a bracelet and”action kit” and donate to the cause. Underpinning all of these activities is the strong directive to use social media; to discuss them using the hashtag, upload photos, change our statuses and profile pictures etc etc.

These are all excellent ways of getting people to feel involved in a campaign and harness the amazing power of the social web – without costing us very much in terms of effort. To play devil’s advocate, could it be the case that the greatest benefit of this activity is Invisible Children (the organisation) itself?

4) It takes a complex issue and makes it incredibly simple. Not only this, it offers a tangible outcome we’re not accustomed to seeing in aid efforts. The campaign enlists support not to end poverty, or the vague and nebulous business of helping people in general; rather we know what success looks like: Kony in chains.

It’s a clear and compelling image, and as such, much easier to get behind for the public.

“We know what to do. Here it is, ready? In order for Kony to be arrested this year, the Ugandan military has to find him. In order to find him, they need the technology and training to track him in the vast jungle. That’s where the American advisors come in. But in order for the American advisors to be there, the American government has to deploy them. They’ve done that, but if the government doesn’t believe the people care about Kony, the mission will be cancelled. In order for the people to care, they have to know. And they will only know if Kony’s name is everywhere – Jason Russell.

Worryingly, this call to action is built on two flawed premises: one, that the US is threatening to withdraw its advisors in Uganda – no such suggestion has been mooted by the government. And two, that Kony is in Uganda. He isn’t, and he hasn’t been for six years.

My understanding of the situation in Uganda was almost nothing before I watched the Stop Kony video; it was virtually zero afterwards, and after spending three hours researching the subject, all I really know is that the situation in Central Africa is bewilderingly complex, and the combined efforts of numerous foreign agencies, NGOs and NFPs are making only small and gradual improvement.

“Choosing to simplistically define Congolese women as “The Raped” and Ugandan children as “The Abducted” constrains our ability to think creatively about the problems they face, and work with them to combat these problems”. Kate Cronin-Furman & Amanda Taub, Wronging Rights 

For me, the most troubling aspect of the entire campaign is the way it demonises a single human being. By making him the object of hatred, it’s certainly easier to feel that we’re united in a single objective, but as Primo Levi wrote after the Holocaust in his fervent plea to humanity not to repeat the mistakes that allowed Hitler’s act of genocide to take place:

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.”  (If This Is A Man)

Ugandan Warlord meme


Cathie McGinn

(By the way, I am certainly not advocating taking no action at all. If you’re looking at alternative ways to support the Invisible Children,  Visible Children has a list of established charities active in Central Africa.)

Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes discusses the issue on Sunrise:


  1. richie
    8 Mar 12
    2:35 pm

  2. great post Cathie.

  3. David Olsen
    8 Mar 12
    2:46 pm

  4. Good analysis.

  5. Melissa
    8 Mar 12
    3:00 pm

  6. Thank you!!! I have been watching this unfold for 2 days now with no clear understanding on who the hell ‘Kony’ is. I try to be careful not to buy into the hype of social media fads (remember planking anyone?) and as this media hype unfolded I realised not a single person ‘sharing, liking, posting’ about this issue actually knew what it was truely about. I’m all for supporting awareness of charities, most especially in Africa, but I’m not so sure creating a witch hunt is the best way to go about it.

  7. MikeZed
    8 Mar 12
    3:10 pm

  8. Great article Cathie – Invisible Children have posted a response to most of these questions here (in terms of their integrity) – in terms of us feeling better simply from hitting the “like” button – i agree that it’s not ideal, but the alternative is that no-one does anything, or is at all aware of the issue – and the first step to dealing with a problem is talking about it – so at least it’s starting the conversation and asking the questions. The issue of child soldiers in Africa has been around for many many years – if focusing on a single person helps ensure it gains some attention and traction in the broader community, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  9. Lance Richardson
    8 Mar 12
    3:12 pm

  10. Is this “slactivism” at its most damaging? It gives us a sense of having made a contribution, having taken part in a movement for real change, clicking ‘share” or “like” or “tweet” or even buying a bracelet as a revolutionary act, thus assuaging any guilt we may have about our relative privilege – but what real difference do we make, beyond joining together in moral outrage?”

    Thought-provoking stuff Cathie.

  11. Tiki Godzilla
    8 Mar 12
    3:16 pm

  12. I am reminded of teddy Roosevelt’s famous oration that it is “not the critic who counts, but the person in the ring who errs and stumbles” or Ian MAckaye from Minor Threat who wrote more aggressively “you tell me I make no difference, at least I’m f**king trying, what the f**k have you done?”.

    This morning, I didn’t know who Kony was. This is a campaign that may actually unify the w

  13. Tiki Godzilla
    8 Mar 12
    3:18 pm

  14. **following on… And achieve untold good. Sure it’s too earnest and too simple, but hey, means and ends right?

  15. Aaron
    8 Mar 12
    3:34 pm

  16. To be honest, I was really disappointed this wasn’t about cheap TV models.

  17. Sue
    8 Mar 12
    3:44 pm

  18. regardless of everything or anything you say – and there are some interesting points raised, not long ago the world was mostly ignorant that these types of atrocities were happening .
    Media coverage was basically non existent (another issue entirely – why??). Kony2012 has done nothing if not to raise awareness of Central Africa on a level not seen before. How can this possibly be a bad thing – why are we waiting to even talk about a down side of this. Why not just celebrate the upside knowledge is power and brings action.

    Who cares if some of the donated money was used to fund that video – Id have gladly dontated to it if I knew what it would achieve….

    Is not the point of this exercise to incite people to be emotional and angry that this is happening? Are we not all united in the fact we want him caught and those kids returned to their families? Has not Kony2012 been a catalyst for finally getting the world to take notice? People power will make those who have the ability to fix this take action as it did in the US with the advisors being sent to Uganda when put under pressure.

    I for one applaud him for getting out and doing something – may Kony2012 be the first of many campaigns to bring justice to the world – as demanded by a united world

    Melissa – I suggest the people you are talking to donate 29 mins of their precious time to the lives of tens of thousands of children – not a big ask surely!!

  19. annon
    8 Mar 12
    3:50 pm

  20. A few days ago I had no idea who joseph kony was… Now, his name is everywhere – I would say that this is a success in regards to highlighting an issue and bringing it front of mind for everyone.
    I don’t think they have ever claimed that every dollar goes to Africa, from what I understand, that isn’t their charity model. Although it is interesting to look at the other side, I don’t think that they should be slammed for simply trying to raise awareness about an issue that many of us don’t think about or (worse) live in.

  21. Eric
    8 Mar 12
    4:03 pm

  22. Charity Navigator rates them at 3 out of 4 stars.

    It’s a misreading of the scoring system that is behind the widely reported “2/4” score.

    I’ll leave it to you to decide if the misreading is deliberate or not.

  23. AJV
    8 Mar 12
    4:20 pm

  24. Absolutely.
    so relieved that my feelings about this campaign are reflected in your article Cathie. Brilliant stuff.

  25. Lizza
    8 Mar 12
    4:28 pm

  26. There’s another brilliant analysis and the possible impacts of Kony 2012 by Jack McDonald from Department of War Studies, King’s College London.

  27. Jess
    8 Mar 12
    4:29 pm

  28. cathie…one thing that is good about your article is that whether or not you think this campaign worked, the fact that you wrote an article critiquing it means that it did work to a certain extent. You, writing this article for a media driven web magazine in Australia, covering the topic from what was once a very small charity organization from the States would be a win in my eyes.

    I think everyone is entitled to their opinion, and to debate something is what these videos and pieces of content intend to drive.

    I may seem biased as i am from the States, and I do know quite a few personal, close friends who are a part of Invisible Children, and who are working on this campaign. I think what people forget about a film like this is the realness. The people involved in this are not “manipulating,” unlike most of us working in media who wear a skeptical hat when sizing up a new piece social phenomenon, these people make no money. They have devoted their entire lives to this cause, and most of them are young, in their late teens, twenties, and early 30’s. They have spent months in Uganda, Central Africa etc risking their lives recording this footage. They have relationships with people from the villages that are pure, and ongoing. Unfortunately a lot of organisations around the world devoted to this similiar cause are larger, less personal, and dont offer real opportunities for an average college student to go and actually make a difference.

    i think it is a real shame that you have propositioned the idea that Invisible Children are the one’s who are trying to benefit from this campaign. If you really did more research and delved into the makeup of this particular organisation you would find that it is very unique. differnt to amnesty international, and save the children etc. And to be honest, say what you may but no other campaign for this cause has even come close to creating a buz as this one has. And if people are talking about it now whether or not they knew about it, well wouldnt you say that at least awareness across the globe is the first step in success?

    also i am not sure if you are familiar with the American government, but if you were, you would know that unlike Australia, it is very hard for smaller sectors and lobyists from smaller initiatives to even get a peep in. It is a crucial step to put this campaign on the radar of our senators, and house of rep officials. again, you should really check your research before writing quite a negative opinion piece.

    finally i just feel sad that you have turned this into more of a media spectacle and critique, and perhaps the fact that you feel this is a question of the morals of these people at Invisible Children, is more sad about your ability to trust people’s work and intentions.

  29. Adrianne
    8 Mar 12
    4:33 pm

  30. Thanks for this. I first heard of Kony from my 16 year old son. My biggest concern with this is that the creator of the film appears to be happy to make himself and his son the main stars of the show. Is this more about self promotion than the cause itself? I sincerely hope not.
    Having said that, the plight of the Ugandans is disturbing and I’m more than happy to pass the word along if it’s of help (be it slack of me or not).

  31. Dim
    8 Mar 12
    4:42 pm

  32. By far the best article on Kony 2012… definitely sharing this.

  33. Jess
    8 Mar 12
    4:56 pm

  34. @Adrianne. . . i agree that perhaps the video could create some skewed perception about who the story is about, but how can you honestly believe that this organisation who is not out there pushing for money, would really be self-promoting?

    they are trying to create awareness of something clearly a lot of people dont know about (Kony). now that people do know about them, and it has blown up over social media, isnt that the point? if we didnt utilise the effects that social media and guerilla marketing (as they plan to do on 20th April with taking over the cities) then why are we all in media??

    furthermore this campaign (if you interpret it correctly) is not about Kony! he is the masthead, the figure for this cause, the image that people all over the world now resonate with this cause, rather than a brief read of an article hear or there.

    to me, they have done exactly the right thing. I would trust a person who is grassroots and real, and filming himself then some ad agency, production manipulated film from many other charity organisations.

  35. JNM
    8 Mar 12
    5:01 pm

  36. I understand where the author is coming from here, but the amount of money that was spent on the movie will surely turn into a large profit in no time. Re-posting a video won’t change the world, a lot of people can agree on that, and yes maybe the troops weren’t going to leave but overnight we have got all of Australia talking about one topic. It’s covering all news programmes, its unstoppable at the moment. Ideally a lot of world issues could be treated like this, the Syrian war is more of an issue and needs more publicity to be shut down but for the first time in a generation full of self-centred, rude, and spoilt people can we revel in the fact society is standing up for something?

  37. Janelle Yates
    8 Mar 12
    5:03 pm

  38. I find the cynicism in this piece and in other pieces I have read quite disappointing and destructive.

    Why is liking a status or retweeting something any different to standing outside and holding a candle or a placard in a protest?

    I would like to ask if people that are cynical towards this campaign would dismiss the value of those that marched through the streets during the Vietnam War era or voice such pessimistic views towards women who burnt their bras in a fight for equal rights?

    These people, like those becoming involved in the Kony 2012 campaign are joining a collective movement. Sure, not all will have the ways and means to physically make a change, but they are ensuring that through power by numbers, those that can make a change, will because they have seen how important it is to so many people.

    This campaign is about giving people the power of knowledge to take further action if they are able to.

    Wherever you stand on Kony 2012, it is a bloody good example of an exceptional social media campaign and I would put money on the fact that any brand or business would be thrilled with this kind of response.

  39. Anna
    8 Mar 12
    5:47 pm

  40. This is a petty and irritating article about a video which could have a huge impact on a lot of lives.

    The video raises awareness of child soldiers in central Africa, an atrocity that is not ever covered despite continuing year on year. It raises awareness of the leader of these atrocities – a name no one will have heard of before this campaign kicked off.

    So whether you personally like his style or want to pick at details, the end result – that is raising awareness of this issue onto a global level is being achieved.

  41. JG
    8 Mar 12
    5:50 pm

  42. And sadly all done in the name of the Lord’s Resistance Army with the objective of theocratic government. Religious extremism at any end of the spectrum is clearly a terrifying thing.

  43. Mia Jane
    8 Mar 12
    6:08 pm

  44. At the same time I have been working hard for children in Nigeria … nothing to do with this campaign. When you believe that something is that wrong you get on the phone, speak to everyone you know that might care, have political influence and a voice and you won’t be shut down. I’m not sure that social media changes much unless it inspires powerful advocates and even if it only inspired one. That writes the letters, that turns up everyday then … that useless campaign of likes was a winner. My Father reminded me “if you look you will find the worst of the worst in your own backyard.”

  45. Megan
    8 Mar 12
    6:56 pm

  46. I’m increasingly dumbfounded at this way of thinking regarding Invisible Children’s Stop Kony campaign. You said so yourself that your knowledge of The conflicts in Uganda were absolutely zero before this campaign was launched, and yet now you attack it?

    A few points:
    1) Oversimplification of the conflict IS the strategy. It didn’t happen that way by accident. IS did that because simplifying an issue makes a solution more tangible, making people feel as if their small actions can have a bigger impact and by doing do they take action. And those small tweets shares donations and DO create the larger impact we’d all hope to see.
    2) no one is claiming that IS is perfect. But what they’ve done to raise the profile of this crisis literally overnight is nothing short of extraordinary. And you shouldn’t belittle the contributions every person who has been involved in this have given. It’s that negativity and ‘slacktivism’ attitude that discourages people from making small contributions in the first place.
    3) this may be news to you, but ALL philanthropy is a tricky business. Whether they have a budget of $10k or $10B funds are often misappropriated, business run inefficiently, and even terrorists inadvertently empowered. This happen across orgs of all shapes, sizes, & missions – no matter how well-intentioned. If the finger is to be pointed at IC, it should be pointed everywhere.
    4) and this one bothers me most of all – what are you doing to make a difference? What have you done? It’s one thing for an org on the ground in Uganda to criticize IC’s mission – maybe they have discovered something first hand that is making the biggest impact in the 55,000 plus child soldiers lives. They have a right to raise their hand. But someone who didn’t even know about this crisis until Invisible Children got them talking. There’s no failure in that – only hope for a better tomorrow.

  47. AdGrunt
    8 Mar 12
    7:45 pm

  48. Nice post. You effectively highlight the issue of playing “the man” and not the underlying issues.

    Though it’s effect in raising the issue now has to be matched by a cohesive plan of metaphorical attack. That seems lacking, or simplistic at best.

  49. Mirren Lee
    8 Mar 12
    8:43 pm

  50. I am not only weary of the negative backlashes to positive stories, but filled with great sadness at all the “mean” on the Internet, which is usually anonymous at that. Why does there always have to be a backlash? Why ARE people so mean on the Internet? If you’re being negative about people trying to good things, what’s your alternative? Did you not hear him say on the video that he was trying to connect his son in people’s minds with the fact that if it was him being abducted and brutalized, there’d be an outcry? Do you not take on board that they’ve been going for 10 years, accomplishing great things, and even losing one of their own in the Uganda stadium blast? Do you not BELIEVE that governments won’t do anything for just a humanitarian result – only for security or financial benefits? How can you be nothing but supportive for a wonderful example of People Power? Don’t you think an end to apathy in general about the world’s suffering would be a wonderful outcome? How do you reconcile criticism about not helping places such as Rwanda with their genocidal war to criticising people who ARE trying to help a terrible situation? Aren’t you sick of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t? And finally, how can you not be filled with awe for a group that has, miraculously, managed to overcome “compassion fatigue”, one of the biggest problems for any aid organisation? Inquiring minds want to know.

  51. Chappy
    8 Mar 12
    8:44 pm

  52. A social media success story? Absolutely.
    An enlightening narrative on a criminal who deserves to be captured. Certainly.
    A cause that deserves moral support. You bet.

    Unfortunately, it’s also a naive approach to a problem that even the International Criminal Court finds hard to prosecute because of the logistics, the politics and the resources required to hunt such a criminal down.

    Giving money to militarise a band of rebels to fight another band of rebels is dangerous. There was some press on this today and I do agree that asking the public to fund a hit squad is not necessarily the best approach. Bringing such a terrorist to justice requires international co-operation, and as global as this social media campaign is, there is no such thing as a Facebook jury (just yet).

    Like it on Facebook. Tweet about it. Share the story. But think twice about parting with your money for a wild goose chase like this one.

  53. Aaron
    8 Mar 12
    11:01 pm

  54. Whilst I agree this video is simplistic and demonises one man when i have no doubt there are plenty more, can you imagine this being such a success if it explored the complexities of the situation and made the villan a faceless organisation with a complex name? How boring would that video be?

    From a foreign affairs aspect im sure this video and campaign is flawed in countless ways, but from an advertising & marketing perspective it is a brilliant piece of storytelling that, if the goal really is global awareness and to put the issue on the national agenda, then these guys are nailing it.

    If this was an an ad agency for a brand, they’d be laughing their way to every award on the planet…..

  55. Ciaran
    8 Mar 12
    11:08 pm

  56. Interesting stuff. I’m guessing that many of us are troubled by the idea that people might actually think a YouTube video is going to stop a murdering warlord. I had also read an article just prior to seeing the Kony stuff for the first time which talked about what dictators, and I’d call a warlord a dictator, hate most – being laughed at. Would a better campaign be to make this man ridiculous?

  57. David Jackmanson
    8 Mar 12
    11:51 pm

  58. I find it interesting that civilly-expressed doubts are called “negative”. Even if you accept that hunting down Mr Kony is a good idea, what makes Invisible Children the best organisation to donate to?

    I note that Charity Navigator says the maker oid the film, Mr Russell, is paid $US 89K a year by Invisible Children.

  59. Paul
    9 Mar 12
    12:01 am

  60. There’s been a few negative comments around this but I;’m genuinely for it. Some other commentators have mentioned that ‘rich white men travelling around the world’ are not of interest and we should ignore their views – this is pretty inflammatory and basically racist. What we shouldn’t listen to Bill Gates or to Steve Jobs? Obviously the situation is more complicated than the organisation is making out – but isn’t that the point sometimes – you just need to get the message across? I think its decent – i’m not convinced that all the proceeds are going to ‘film making’ – they may be going into marketing to get the message out there – and it seems to be working. it was fairly we’d be getting contrary posts/viewpoints and that a good thing – but I’m not sure this one adds much to it essentially saying ‘learn a little more about Kony’ – wel isn’t that the point? we’re now talking about it – when before we weren’t. I think in terms of ‘getting things done’ – a lot of charities could focus more on smarter marketing – essentially getting a mind share equal to the brands that are fighting for our attention every day.

  61. vivienne bruce
    9 Mar 12
    1:34 am

  62. whether it be the social Media or whatever do any of you exponents remember Hitler? How long may I ask was he ignored before the social media of “the day” brought this matter to the world in general? I rest my case!

  63. Craig
    9 Mar 12
    7:04 am

  64. Invisible Hand was made now because someone thought of it and some people made it. This type of campaign was impossible 30 years ago, impossible ten years ago and only barely conceivable two years ago due to the range of media options and their penetration available.

    What I hope is that this approach is recognised as a new tool in the not-for-profit toolkit to bring the world’s attention to atrocities that don’t get coverage in traditional media (or get pushed rapidly off the front page by domestic political spats, celebrity news or the latest cute animal).

    I think the criticism of the organisation is more reflective of jealousy amongst not-for-profits who would have loved to have done this first in their competitive quest for funds. It saddens me that rather than supporting the approach for many their first instinct has been to criticise. Respect the work, even if you don’t respect the organisation.

    Why did it go viral? Because it told a story that shocked and horrified – something many westerners were unaware of that has caused untold misery to people they could emphathise with. And because they had the tools and the impetus to share it, coupled with the support of controversy around the motivations for the video.

    And why were westerners unaware? Because our traditional media fails us, every day, by focusing on the trivial and entertaining. Poor moral judgement justified by profitability – as Kyle Sandilands and The Circle have demonstrated all too well lately.

  65. More Than Marketing
    9 Mar 12
    7:48 am

  66. I am awaiting the marketing boff’s to begin dissecting and spelling out why a 30 min YouTube Vid has gained over 20 million views in 24 hours…

    The reality is; this isn’t clever marketing. This is a movement. It is a just, ethical movement. Blood sweat and many, many tears have gone into this for years. Due to the “what’s in it for me” factor, countries have preferred to send troops into zones that benefit their cause, as opposed to purely others.

    Well, over time, popstars, rockstars, filmstars, politicians have been lobbied good and propper

  67. More Than Marketing
    9 Mar 12
    7:50 am

  68. “proper” for this just cause.

    Central Africa has been forgotten. Not anymore. Will the world speak in April? The World has been informed in March.

    This is a movement not marketing…

  69. darkdirk
    9 Mar 12
    8:57 am

  70. Discussion of the financial side of things is misinformed. Only 30% of funds go to direct help? Direct help is only part of what they do. This concern reflects the archaic view of charities as just “helping people” and not working for change. Invisible Children are quite upfront about their work being split between on-the-ground “helping” work and building a public profile of the issue to help change the situation.
    Plus the whole ‘terrible’ thing about money going to administration, travel, and salaries. The Non-profit sector always gets this criticism, and it’s nonsensical. If IC are going to Uganda to spend that 30% of money on direct help, they have to get there. That costs money. And if they are going to do all this stuff they need people to do it. You can’t do work like this with only volunteers. People are entitled to be paid for what they do, otherwise how do they live?

  71. darkdirk
    9 Mar 12
    8:59 am

  72. And you know, people on Mumbrella complaining that someone earns $80,000? That’s all kinds of funny. In my utopia, people earn more for work that makes a positive difference to the lives of oppressed and impoverished people than designing ads to sell the latest car or jacket

  73. John Grono
    9 Mar 12
    9:26 am

  74. I note with interest that last night Network TEN ran “The Project Special: The Kony Phenomenon” to an audience of 647,000. Knowing how long it takes to get commerical television play rights, for this special to appear so quickly after Kony has gone viral seems like there is a lot of marketing surrounding this movement, or a lot of prescience or quick work by TEN programming.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am as appalled by Joseph Kony and the LRA as the next person and wish for him to be brought to justice, and for peace and sanity to be restored to Central Africa, and especially to the beautiful people of Uganda who have suffered for far too long at the hands of numerous lunatics.

  75. Rachel Nolan
    9 Mar 12
    11:16 am

  76. Who cares how Charity Navigator rates them anyway? I’m pretty sure they didn’t position themselves as a charity. This is a campaign. Their goal is to raise awareness to a) get enough voters caring, then b) get policy makers concerned enough to do anything that doesn’t serve the ‘national interest’. That requires film making, (luckily distribution is free), and of course travel. They didn’t already live in Washington.

    Their goal was never to go in and solve the whole complex problem themselves. I for one would be way more concerned if they were collecting our piddly dollars to do what is far more effectively achieved by government funds anyway – which otherwise go to far more questionable causes.

    If this works, by getting one evil mass murderer on the political agenda, then perhaps the others could be challenged too. So far they’ve felt pretty free to do whatever they want, simply because they don’t have what the rest of the world wants.

    For what it’s worth, since the heavy lifting’s already been done, I wasn’t actually planning to donate. Funds can go to experienced charities on the ground. But how on earth could you question adding your name to the list of those finding these atrocities unacceptable?

  77. beezlebub
    9 Mar 12
    12:18 pm

  78. is this a marketing/comms blog or a human rights/social justice blog?

    as a piece of viral communication the Kony campaign has few peers

    it is incredibly clever (and unfortunately deeply cynical) in its exploitation of slacktivism to spread a simple message worldwide in a couple of days

    take what’s a worthwhile cause but an otherwise unnewsworthy topic, shoot a hard-hitting little flick, give it a mysterious, ambiguous but punchy name and watch social media status seekers glom on to the trend, forwarding, linking, retweeting etc in order to appear to have a sense of social awareness and justice

    it’s bloody brilliant

    whether anyone does what they’re told is quite secondary to the phenomenal reach and key message that has been driven home

    of course, what it really shows is just how much social media is a platform for vacuous interaction

  79. Mary Fisher
    9 Mar 12
    12:48 pm

  80. Your post lacks integrity…three hours research and you have decided you know what it is all about. I have followed the situation in the Northern Ugandan area for about 12 years. I have personally known someone working with IC for 5 years. Good friends of mine live in the area of Northern Uganda for 12 years. Amnesty International and Micah Challenge are similar advocacy groups who do not spend money on the ground but are famous for their advocacy work. I find your attitude that after three hours you think you know enough to write such a post simply unbelievable.

  81. mumbrella
    9 Mar 12
    1:02 pm

  82. Hi Mary,

    At the time of writing, I see that 377,127 people have commented on the Kony 2012 video on YouTube. My guess is that not all of them have followed the situation for 12 years. Do they lack integrity too?


    Tim – MUmbrella

  83. AdGrunt
    9 Mar 12
    1:18 pm

  84. Mary – any chance you could share some of your wisdom and insight from knowing the Northern Ugandan area for 12 years?

    You’ve noted a vested interest in IC, but perhaps you can provide an objective view anyway.

    Notably on:
    – Is Kony really the World’s Worst War Criminal? I can think of a few worse – George W springs to mind. But none who are currently sitting on some nice, fresh oil fields I suppose.

    – IC’s unique NFP stance in advocating a directly-supported military intervention (an act of aggression, if you will)
    Its just military action costs money and isn’t really the traditional NFP approach to *civil* war. Money which Uganda could spend on stabilising its economy and security – or on buying arms to fight a ghost – you know, like how Vietnam was an amazing money pit for arms firms, but did bugger all in reality.

    Just wondering if the recent shift in Ugandan oil production has anything to do with this…

  85. Alana
    9 Mar 12
    3:33 pm

  86. Great article! You summed up just how I was feeling and now I know why!

  87. beezlebub
    9 Mar 12
    3:51 pm

  88. enough already

    Kony 2012 is so 8/3/2012

    next meme, please

  89. Sophie
    9 Mar 12
    3:59 pm

  90. “It’s all about us. The film begins with the line “right now there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet two hundred years ago”. So statistically correct, so what?”…..So what? Perhaps have a think about the power of Facebook in relation to the Arab Spring? People in Yemen, Egypt, Libya have removed despots; people in Syria have executed mass protests; a man self-immolates in a Tunisian square, starting a revolution; the West is sitting up and taking notice. All because people communicated, shared, organsied and mobilised through social media. I think that is the point here, that Facebook can have a very powerful function because of it’s reach.

    “All I really know is that the situation in Central Africa is bewilderingly complex, and the combined efforts of numerous foreign agencies, NGOs and NFPs are making only small and gradual improvement”…… ONLY small and gradual improvement? Tad belittling don’t you think?

    “Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.” …..KONY 2012 has provided a catalyst for question asking.

  91. jp
    9 Mar 12
    5:12 pm

  92. you won’t post my comments………typical Australian cocksuckers

  93. Andrew
    9 Mar 12
    5:17 pm

  94. Anyone who criticises traditional media for ‘ignoring’ the child soldier story in favour of ‘shallow entertainment’ is clearly not a frequent media consumer or a media student. I have known about the child soldier tragedy for some time – all thanks to traditional media. The function of the internet / social media and its technical differences (limitless space, endlessly ‘on’, etc) makes comparison impossible.
    Different functionality.
    The point really is that social media enables worlwide communication instantly, enabling many voices to unite around a theme or idea (or video).
    The sheer enormity of the numbers here speaks to the subject striking a chord: the more people respond, the more it becomes possible for political action to be motivated.

  95. But...
    9 Mar 12
    5:52 pm

  96. Have any of you stopped for a moment and though to yourself “Hey, have I become that skeptical old bastard who tried to tell me my cause was wrong when I was young”?

    The irony of this debate, and the thousands others like it, is while you’re all sitting here squabbling about the merits of this campaign the children of the 90s are taking up this cause in their millions. Why? Because rightly or wrongly, they believe they can make a difference. They can influence change.
    You know, those same ideologies that many of us had in our university days.
    Instead of joining a march or holding a placard they’re using today’s communication tools to incredible effect, penetrating the very core of their target audience.

    I have have little interest in the cause but I am genuinely fascinated about how this campaign will unfold. This is some of the simplest yet savviest cause-mongering I’ve seen for quite some time and the pressure this is causing is being felt at many levels of government world wide.

    At the very least the bar has been raised by some measure and I have no doubt that we’ll be reading/seeing case study after case study about this for a long time to come. Can the collective power of a few million keyboard warriors in the western world reach in to the depths of the African jungles? We’re about to find out.

  97. MTM
    9 Mar 12
    9:12 pm

  98. Well said “But”.

  99. gt
    10 Mar 12
    11:00 am

  100. I can’t condone criticising this Kony 2012 campaign. They have done an amazing job at spreading the word about an issue that so few knew about. Are there more causes to follow? – sure! They chose one issue and pursued it with vigilance. They are making a difference and have consolidated and presented a general consensus to the power’s that be, that we all do care! We care more than just when our military or financial positions are threatened as a whole. We care about social justice and we want to do something for people less fortunate than ourselves. They have proven that when we have a voice together, as people who care, we can turn the hierarchy upside down and create change. I don’t think we should criticise this, I think we should encourage this and ask ourselves what cause is next! By the way…. of course the “powers” don’t want us mere mortals to be influencing decisions to this extent. It diminishes their control!

  101. MTM
    11 Mar 12
    11:11 am

  102. Kony is first, the criminal courts list ranks many more bad guys. Once Kony is down keep going through the list?

    Is there a list of corporates who do little to nothing for society? Go through these too?

    Blimey there is a lot to do!

  103. oh old school
    11 Mar 12
    1:58 pm

  104. And to think it didn’t become really big here until it ran on old school TV as an old school TV program. And ‘But’ join the queue buddy – we thought we’d change the world in the 60’s too. Unfortunately, we did, and now everyone is paying for our selfishness and sense of entitlement.

  105. MTM
    11 Mar 12
    5:23 pm

  106. @oh old school

    It ran on the traditional channels once it had gained around 20 million views in 24 hours on YouTube.

    The “traditional channels” reported about the event, once it was already an event.

    Media power is shifting too…

  107. JG
    11 Mar 12
    7:12 pm

  108. 20 million views in 24 hours on YouTube GLOBALLY. And 1 million views on a “traditional channel” just in Australia (22m out of 7 billion people – do the maths) in a single hour. Traditional channels are doing just fine MTM, especially since Kony will probably be the slickest online marketing for the year.

  109. MTM
    11 Mar 12
    10:10 pm

  110. @JT

    I didn’t say that the traditional channels were not doing fine. I would say they have had better days all the same.

    Traditional channels did not rally the rioters in London, nor the uprisings in the middle east. The masses can now communicate, share ideas and come together to take action, without the use of traditional channels.

    Media consumption is changing.

  111. oh so now
    12 Mar 12
    10:28 am

  112. You’re right MTM. But here’s another thing.Today people don’t stick with anything. It’s like everyone has ADD. They’ve already forgotten about the uprisings in the middle east and Kony is almost old news already. So, what’s my point? Simple.Today,it’s not that hard to get noticed for anything [God knows the media has so much space to fill its desperate for anything to fill it]. But getting noticed isn’t the objective here [no matter how well its done]. The real question is, can movements like Kony 2012 last for long enough to do any good. I doubt it. Instant solutions is the name of the game nowadays. If we can’t fix it in 5 minutes we give up on it and move on. By the time Kony has disappeared off the front page of the Campaign Brief blog 99.9% of us will have forgotten about it as well. The social movement that will change the world is the one that gets people to commit to years of activism and ensures they remain active.
    [This is not a criticism of the purpose of the campaign].