Well, Invisible Children has set out to do exactly what they wanted to do. They’ve made Joseph Kony famous. More than 52 million people have watched their 30-minute video since it debuted on YouTube earlier this week.
The IC’s 30-minute video explains how Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, has performed horrible crimes to humanity for over 25 years in Uganda and Central Africa. He’s rounded up thousands of children and brutally assaulted and killed them as part of his military regime.
In the video, the IC calls out for viewers to use all social media channels to help spread the message of finding and taking down Kony. What makes it such an interesting phenomenon is how quickly people jumped on the Kony 2012 bandwagon. Judging by its initial success, bloggers and pop culture writers have been all wondering if social media is really the way to go to ‘change the world.’ Residents in countries such as Libya and Egypt started the trend in 2011, when they communicated via social media websites to topple the dictatorship regimes in their country. So could it be possible to really change things with a click of a mouse?
While the immediate reaction to the video was favourable, a backlash began on Wednesday as critics began to ask viewers to take off the rose-coloured glasses and watch the movie with a more well-informed eye. Bloggers, academics, politicians and African news correspondents said the video oversimplified a complicated issue and promoted direct military intervention with the aid of the Ugandan army, which has had its own history of problems.
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One of the most widely circulated critical blog posts came from Tumblr’s Visible Children, which detailed the IC’s troubled past:
“As a registered not-for-profit, [Invisible Children’s] finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.”
It’ll likely take some time for everyone to determine the true credibility of the IC and the true impact the group’s video. Regardless of who you agree with it’s interesting to consider the potential power of the borderless ‘social media citizens’ of the world. Perhaps Kony 2012 is just the start of more