Can the “KONY 2012” video change the world?

It seems like over the past few months, we’ve seen an increased pace of online activism, an onslaught of campaigns. There was the SOPA campaign, the Occupy Wall Street social media meme, and last year the Arab Spring. Recently, Rush Limbaugh has been feeling the heat of a social media campaign stemming from his inflammatory remarks about a woman.

But over the past 24 hours, the latest social media campaign to explode is called “Kony 2012.” The centerpiece is a 30-minute video posted by Jason Russell. The goal is to raise awareness, and create international pressure for the arrest of Joseph Kony:

Since 1987, Joseph Kony has abducted more than 30,000 children in Central Africa and forced them to be child soldiers in his Lord’s Resistance Army. The KONY 2012 campaign employs film, social media, street art, and face-to-face interaction to make the case that the arrest of Joseph Kony this year is one thing we can all agree on.

In the video, Russell says he intends to use the power of the Web, via this video, to create a groundswell for justice: “If we succeed, we change the course of human history…Its only goal is to stop the rebel group, the LRA, and its leader, Joseph Kony,” Russell says. “And I’m going to tell you how we’re going to do it.”

Russell records himself explaining to his son what he does in Africa, and who the “bad guys” are. In this case, Kony and LRA. But he ultimately can’t bring himself to detail all the horrors: abduction, rape, prostitution, kids being forced to mutilate each other and kill their parents.

It’s gripping and disturbing. “It’s obvious Kony should be stopped,” Russell said. “The problem is that 99.7 percent of the world doesn’t know who he is.”

Russell said he and some friends attempted to lobby the U.S. government to get involved, but the issue went nowhere at first. They were told it just wasn’t on the radar of the nation’s foreign policy. But eventually, President Obama acknowledged Kony and agreed to dispatch advisors to Uganda to help find him.

But Rusell is still worried it isn’t enough. He wants to spread Kony’s name so that it’s everywhere, convince thought leaders, celebrities and policymakers to ramp up pressure for his arrest. He wants to make sure the advisors are more than just a token effort, that they have the resources they need, and feel the public pressure to gets results. Make it a priority, until he’s captured.

The campaign also has an offline component. People are putting up yard signs, posters, and driving around vans with Kony’s name.

The culmination will be April 20, when there is a “Cover the Night” event designed to coordinate all the efforts around the world for one moment. The goal is to spend that entire night blanketing every street and yard with posters with Kony’s name.

And of course, he made the film. Watch it. It’s pretty extraordinary stuff.

But the real question is whether it can have sufficient impact to galvanize popular awareness and action. There’s an ongoing debate about the role the Internet and the Web can play in organizing people and creating movements. And already, the campaign has triggered a backlash, with critics saying that the group should be spending more on direct aid rather than staff; shouldn’t be advocating military action; and is grossly simplifying a complex situation by not highlighting government atrocities.

Foreign Affairs magazine, for instance, offered some context for the campaign and in particular noted:

“Have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil. They rarely refer to the Ugandan atrocities or those of Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army, such as attacks against civilians or looting of civilian homes and businesses, or the complicated regional politics fueling the conflict.”

This promises to be an interesting experiment that will, one way or the other, give us some insight into the relationship between the Web and popular movements. But it’s also likely to continue to inspire a robust debate about how the rest of us sort truth from propaganda when consuming digital media.



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  • Michelle
  • http://none SEAN

    Thanks for publishing this. Keep spreading the word.

  • http://none SEAN


  • Ava

    Kony needs to be stopped ASAP. These poor kids don’t have a choice, & its up to us to help them out.

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  • Jasmine

    Ihave posted thisss tu my facebook. Iam a African American&iwill help&put thiss every where!

  • Chris

    Propaganda or not it’s raising global awareness for issues no one gives a second thought to. It’s also giving media outlets such as this the opportunity to report on the atrocities of not just the LRA but everyone else in the region. Without pressure from the masses the policy makers have no incentive to do anything. We need to realize how small the world is and that we are a global community. It’s not ok this is happening in our world.

  • Gabriella

    I just wanted to say that this video is inspiring and that after I watched it I sent it out to 14 contacts in my email. I dont have a Facebook sorry but… one of the people I sent it to was a friend of the mayors in my town hopefully people will start to raise awareness. Have you guys ever tried to add OovoO or Skype to send this video to people. Thanks for sharing this video cant wait till April!! :)

  • Ashley

    I just watched this and when i saw what was going to happen on april 20 I saw myself in those group of people. I will spread the word

  • Justin

    Thank you for posting this! Please everyone share to Facebook and Twitter spread the work at work or school! Everyone has potential to make a difference!

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  • 11 year old hannah

    Im going to make a group on facebook and see who cares

  • 11 year old hannah

    Cause i do

  • Tabbie

    You know.. this stuff is really upsetting. This breaks my heart. – STOP KONY.

  • Ryan

    Armchair activists. You’re accomplishing NOTHING by spamming this shit across the web. You only make yourself feel good. This has NOTHING to do with saving kids in Africa but everything to do with making white kids in America feel good about themselves because they spammed a link.scumfag armchair activists. Get your clothes and shit from china sweatshops but suddenly care about african kids. Fuck you.

    First of all, of the $8.3 Million that Invisible Children spent in 2011, only about $2.8 Million (roughly 31%) actually made it to Uganda, and that amount was likely further whittled down by the government, meaning the actual children got much much less. In contrast, Invisible Children spent about $2.8 Million just on the filming and producing the Kony movie (and movies like it). Essentially, they spent more charity money making a movie about their charity than they actually gave to the children.

    Now, the goal of this video isn’t necessarily to bring in money to go directly to the children, but to help indirectly by pressuring the US government to get involved. we should not be policing the world, we should stay out of it and not pointlessly waste excessive amounts of money. its not our job to police the world and it needs to be stopped.

    Think about what IC wants and decide if that is what you want. They want us to basically use our military to fix Africa. I think everyone can agree that what Kony has done is absolutely horrific and it should be stopped, but do you really want us to get militarily involved in Africa?

    if you feel the need to support this pointless hippy movement you should atleast do some additional research and figure out what exactly it is that you’re supporting, because all of the information needed to determine that is not going to be found in this video.

  • http://facebook MICHAEL

    Joseph kony you wish your going to rule the world matter in fact nobody can. You think your hitler well your just gonna be surrrounded
    and kill yourself just like him nobody cares about you kony thats why you doing this burn in hell like hitler,laden,and gadfi.Look what happened to them there dead and so will you.All these poor little kids don’t deserve this nobody does matter in fact you will lose all your useless power.This would have never happened if everyone wish they can rule the world all those kids would have been alive and there parents to.Kony you will go down by tri and everybody supporting them i know i am.

  • Evering E. Hall II

    Change can only happen when the consicious mind awakens the unconsicious heat. We are a new people. A botherhood of nations. Yes this video will change the world, but only if we change how we view each other. Change what we value. We must emprace life, love and respect freedom. Life and librity for the world over.

  • Laura


  • The Mommy Psychologist

    Was I the only mom who was disturbed by the narrator’s discussions of a “bad man who kidnaps children and makes them kill people” that he had with his four year old son? This just seems really inappropriate. Check out all of my thoughts about it on

  • michelle

    I am upset with my teenage children.. some one from your organization came to their school.. and never told me about it..and worse they did not get involved.. i am going to lead by example!! thank you for bringing this to our attention..

  • J.S.Livacich

    I knew who he is–I was surprised to find that he is continuing to do it though.
    It is past time for his removal. I support the movement–by all means lets
    see to his trial. Steve Livacich

  • Kim

    So, on April 20th. Will it happen like, in Colorado Springs too? Please.

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