Politicial Activism, Social Media & KONY2012

 “KONY2012 is an example of the shallower, low-risk cousin of traditional activism, as seen in the Civil Rights Movement” (Gladwell)

Promotional poster for the video, featuring stylized forms of the donkey symbolizing the Democratic Party and the elephant symbolizing the Republican Party, overlapping to form a white dove of peace.

“The negative reaction to the unprecedented success of an advocacy video about the murderous African warlord Joseph Kony can be summed up in a word: envy” (Goodman, Intenational Herald Tribune, Paris, 17 March 2, 2012). The Kony2012 campaign is one of the most noteworthy socio-political crusades of our time.

On March 5, 2012, Invisible Children Inc. released a short film entitled Kony2012. The film immediately went viral, unearthing the potential of online platforms to facilitate political activism. As of September 19, 2012, Kony2012 had over 92 million views on YouTube and over 16.6 million views on Vimeo.

Joseph Kony is a Ugandan war criminal and International Criminal Court fugitive. The film aspires to make this villain ‘famous’, and promote the charities “Stop Kony” movement. The enormous success of the film, in terms of audience size, publicity and public and government support, exemplify the potential of social media to engage the masses and potentially create radical change.

However the film is not without its critics. Many feel the video has simplified a very complex issue.  Others feel this is a lazy way of engaging with activism suggesting the movement is an example ‘slactivism. ’ Davies claims ‘slactivism’ is: “a portmanteau combining the words “slacker” and “activism”. This term [describes] the act of passively supporting causes in order to tap into the satisfaction that accompanies philanthropy, without having to do any heavy-lifting (or heavy spending).” Miller declares, “Linking to a video on Facebook is one thing. Getting off the couch is quite another,” this notion mirrors many critics thoughts on the Kony2012 effort.

Politics and sociology graduate Sarah Cooper, has been involved with Invisible Children’s campaigns in the past and says despite her previous positive experiences she was shocked when she first viewed the Kony2012 film: “I could really see the deception in it, if anything I was really disappointed that they took this conflict in Uganda out of context, they completely dehumanised African people, and to also use a child in it seemed really abusive and just wrong.”

Kony2012 supporters were asked to participate in ‘Cover The Night’ on April 20, 2012. The event saw activists involve themselves in some sort of charity work during the day, then overnight plaster  Kony2012 merchandise all over there local area to spread the ‘Stop Kony’ message. The turnout for the event was smaller than expected with Hager stating a gathering in Vancouver had merely 17 people and one in Brisbane saw fewer than 50 participants. Cooper states: “It’s just proof that people might have good intentions, but good intentions can also be fleeting. It’s just the way of our world now, unless things are consistently backed up, or its something that people personally feel a deep motivation to help with, often there not going to back up there words… as far as the campaign being a failure I think it was poorly planned in the first place.”

This body of work will endeavor to examine the strengths and vulnerabilities associated with the communication practices employed by Invisible Children Inc. to promote the Kony2012 campaign.




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