Kony 2012 risks becoming a triumph of social networking rather than social consciousness.

On Monday I’d never heard of Joseph Kony. For most of Tuesday too, he was still a mystery. Then, last night a video titled ‘Kony 2012′ started appearing on my newsfeed.

This morning he was inescapable. Facebook and Twitter were filled with Kony’s name. As of writing, there have been over 250,000 tweets mentioning Kony in the past day.

For those who still haven’t seen ‘Kony 2012′, it launches a campaign to put pressure on governments worldwide to find, capture and try Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan guerrilla group who forcibly abduct children to use as child soldiers.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Kony 2012

It’s a powerful film, featuring images of children mutilated by the LRA and a harrowed victim, Jacob, describing his ordeal. Understandably, it has provoked a strong reaction from the online community.

But the success of ‘Kony 2012′ doesn’t mean people care. In fact, it shows how little we care. It took a flashy, social media savvy 30-minute film to make us care. I put my hands up, I didn’t care before seeing the film.

Of course the argument is that Kony has escaped justice precisely because of his low profile. After all, how can we care about the capture of a man we don’t know for crimes we’ve never heard of?

Joseph Kony

But there are many examples of widely publicised war crimes that many don’t seem to care about. Most recently, an article in the Independent described Syrian children huddled in rooms waiting to die at the hands of Assad. We care about the brutality in Homs, but it’s rare to hear of someone you know trying to help.

And why? Because no one has made an engaging video about these problems that makes social networking part of the solution. People don’t care until it’s ‘cool’ to care. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Exploiting people’s desire to fit in for charitable causes is much better than doing it to improve Nike’s image. But it doesn’t show real commitment.

It’s too early to tell whether the ‘Kony 2012′ campaign will really generate the kind of mass action it aims for. Over 14,000 have signed up to the London ‘Cover the Night’ event on Facebook, but that’s no guarantee of actual numbers.

I fear ‘Kony 2012′ will become just another fad, fading fast and leaving only a small core of those who really care. Remember the anti-racism bands that swept the nation in 2005, and the cancer bands that came shortly after? We didn’t cure cancer or eradicate racism, but nobody wears them today.

‘Kony 2012′ risks becoming a triumph of social networking rather than social consciousness.

What’s more, while raising awareness of the issue is commendable, Invisible Children, the charity behind the video, aren’t necessarily the best people to solve the problems.

Several concerns have been raised about the organisation, most seriously that they’re funding the Ugandan army and Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, both of which have been accused of rape and looting.

And while Joseph Kony’s capture would obviously help matters, we should also to kid ourselves into thinking it would ‘solve’ the problems facing East and Central Africa.

Decades of ethnic and religious tensions and competition for so called ‘conflict minerals’ have created much deeper problems in the area. A study last year found that 48 women are raped every hour in Congo. Clearly the country has more problems than just Joseph Kony.

I’m not saying ‘Kony 2012′ isn’t an incredibly worthy film, nor that Joseph Kony’s arrest isn’t a worthy goal, and I think doing something is better than nothing however big the problem.

But if people really care about human suffering I hope they realise that Africa’s problems are more complex than just one evil man and it will take more than just sharing videos online to make a difference.

  • Fantastic

    Great article

    • Totes

      Definitely – its such a strange phenomenon.

      Obviously its great, but so embarrassing that it takes a 'cool' video to provoke this response.

      Where are the cries about the thousands of other horrific human rights abuses that need to be addressed?

    • Ranting Cuntabrigian
    • But…

      …all we know now is that it's cool to not support Kony.

  • scary picture

    the guy's who made this video, with the weapons they bought:
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_-PnDZmngAhM/Sa_KBGNySiI

    sometimes doing nothing *is* better than doing something

    • Phil

      Yes but not when raising awareness is the *something*. Reposting the video, putting up posters, talking about Kony, none of it means you have to give money to Invisible Children but it does make steps towards a world where people don't just care about suffering when its on there door step. It's important to know both sides of the story, granted, but it doesn't make the whole exercise redundant.

    • anon
    • I swear

      Kony's hiding behind the guy in the brown shirt

    • Ali

      you are all over all the message boards posting this crap. Give it up. This solution is not a perfect solution but I dont there is such a thing in a situation like this.

    • scary comment

      Firstly, shit research and lazy response because that is not the case, anyone who looks in to this picture will see that is not the case. Secondly, anyone that goes to an African state where they ask if you want to hold some massive weapons the likelihood of anyone saying "no" even those against military action is unlikely, the chance to examine something capable of the power of the weapons they are holding is interesting to most and either way having your picture taking holding them does not remove the base of a very good argument/cause, "Must try harder" comes to mind when throwing out such statements, but then it is probably no coincidence you think doing nothing *is* better than doing something you lazy troll

  • Good article

    The whole point of the campaign is that it is short – the video 'expires' at the end of this year so they are trying to get as much attention to his capture fast, before as you say it inevitably fades

    • video isn't short

      It could make it's points about the terrible history of Kony and the movement in 10 minutes. Why waste time idiotically filming your son?

      • Mate

        I think it says something if your attention span is so short that:
        a) you can't be bothered to watch the whole thing on youtube, unlike millions of others;
        b) you can't be bothered to read the above comment to see it says the campaign is short (i.e. less than a year), not the video.

        • Re point (a):

          More likely that a Cambridge student doesn't have time to waste 30 mins watching someone idiotically filming their son, but would rather they got to the point.

          I'm quite happy to say that millions of other people have nothing better to do with their time than watching a 2 yr old point at big photographs. Happily, I do.

  • ffs

    Invisible Children is bad news. see http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/post/1889094743

    • ccc

      Do you actually have any idea how a charity works?
      Of course only one third of the funding is going to uganda – if it all went then they wouldn't have anything with which to help raise awareness else where and thus would render the entire project DEFUNCT

    • jkg

      "Only 32% went to direct services"

      Yes this sounds bad but to be honest most charities operate in the same way.

    • Ranting Cuntabrigian
  • great article

    A really well written article, it gets a lot of the different vantage points across effectively.

  • Good article but

    I guess the thing about using facebook is that it does get the word out, even if people are doing it because of their friends…Surely bringing the issue to thousands of people for just a short amount of time is better than it remaining under wraps? It won't solve the problems of a country but it does take one step to making some people's lives better and surely that's worth a cause?

  • HMS Bandwagon

    All Aboard! Let's all post this oversimplified issue on facebook and show how much we care!

    • I love

      a good mixed-metaphor

  • agree

    Agree. Though I know many people scorn or mock them, student occupations and protests in London have, at the very least, shown that there is a social conscience still in society. It is sustained and, bar a couple of notable exceptions, has been consistently and peacefully continued for the past couple of years.

    However, you think back to the boycotts of companies involved in apartheid Africa and you look at the present, and you realise how woefully apathetic society has grown. The problem is, in some respects, we're bombarded so constantly with atrocities and disasters that we become quite inured to it. Shock videos like this do wake us from a temporary state of stasis, but only before we return to our content slumber. We seem to lack the collective willpower, and outrage, to maintain a sustained protest action, like we did against apartheid, and like, to an extent, is done through the protests of the past couple of years.

    And there are still things we, as consumers, can do. One of the driving forces behind the Congo war was, and still is I believe, the coltan rush for gadgets like mobile phones. Coltan can be mined elsewhere, just not as cheaply. We can, as with apartheid, boycott companies and build up financial and political pressure to help, at least in some small way, to try and bring relief there.

  • rowdy caian fresher

    crackin article. read here too http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/

    • senior caian

      you and your associates are debauched thugs

  • jlm

    it's all well and good getting cynical about the use of a flashy video and social networking but it's naive to think that these aren't powerful tools for gaining support. would anybody spend half an hour watching a video of a person in front of a white wall explaining the things joseph kony has done? some but not nearly as many. it's a question of creating something that will connect with people and make them understand. it is true what you say about this potentially becoming the next fad but that core of people will be much larger than before the fad began. it is also true that there are far more problems in africa than just kony but it has to start somewhere, if people get behind this then change might actually begin to happen, it will be slow but surely we've got to try?

  • Mario

    If you can't do something as simple as catching one guy, then how the hell do you expect to ever do anything more substantial.

    You gotta start somewhere, start small and if that fails, then frankly there is no hope…

    • well…

      nobody is arguing that this guy shouldn't be caught – the point is more about this organisation and their (very questionable) methods

  • Ok, but…

    no government will ever try to tackle the wider problem. None of the major powers will get involved unless it threatens them. So these sort of small step solutions are the only option if people genuinely want to help countries like Uganda.

    • Erm…
    • Bullshit

      "these sort of small step solutions are the only option if people genuinely want to help countries like Uganda."

      The government doesn't care if you act or you don't, especially outside of America…

  • Freddie

    He should be captured and tried, but the amount of links being published are ridiculous. Saw a Fitz Engineer (you know who you are) posting on his girlfriend's wall this morning – she lives a few blocks away. Think a lot of it is done by people who desperately want to show that they care when they pretty much know s*** all.

  • sceptic

    seems like the UN war crimes peeps/USA have been after him for a good few years now… somehow i don't think he's gonna say 'ah crap, facebook knows now, maybe i should rethink my life' and jump onto the next plane to brussels.

  • I agree that

    It will take more than a video. But do you see any of the world powers making genuine efforts to help? This video has raised more awareness than the whole of the West has over years in a couple of days. Who are we to criticise that? It doesn't show how we don't care, but how major powers don't give a shit unless a problem effects them.

    • Clues in the name

      Beneath the facade that you see around the world, there are 'secret'. They do jobs that chumps like you don't see, because if you did they wouldn't be any good at their job. MI6, CIA, a few guys like that, you get the drift.

      The violence problem in Africa has been around for decades now, and has been observed for decades. America jumped in in Somalia in 1990s because they bowed to pressure, and it only worsened the problem because they didn't understand the situation.

      I agree that a lot of the time decisions are made by elites based on what would be beneficial for them, but how many people were able to contextualize the video and see that while it has highlighted the problem, it has not come up with a viable solution.

      Its been going on for longer than you've been alive, its a bit more complicated than what it looks like

      • I agree that

        It's more complicated than what it looks like. That's exactly what I'm saying. And don't be patronizing, I sincerely doubt you know any more than the average person. Your claims about the CIA etc are nothing more than guesswork,

        • but

          you're also just wrong, see 'what baffles me' below.

  • Also interesting
  • My Little Kony

    Putting the ‘infant’ back in ‘infantry’

  • what's the problem

    People sharing the video aren't claiming to be activists making a huge difference..
    For most it's a choice between not watching/ignoring the video, or sharing it to allow others to see what's moved them, raising awareness of what's going on in the world.

    Supporting IC doesn't mean supporting military rape, it's about supporting the fundamental point of getting rid of Joseph Kony.

    And of course there are other atrocities going on in Africa and the rest of the world- but that doesn't mean we should ignore the attempt to publicise this one.

    Chill out, stop picking holes and let it happen, Kony 2012 haters.
    Stop trying to be controversial just for the sake of it!

    • YEAH

      exactly.

    • Completely

      agree.

  • Prepare for a rant

    I literally don't understand what some people's problem is with this KONY thing. I can't decide whether its just because they're so indie they literally have lost the power to do anything if anyone else is doing it or if they actually have thought about this at all.
    Invisible children isn't perfect ( http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/ ) but does it matter? They're NOT asking us for money to fund their campaign, they're NOT asking us to fund military intervention. The military intervention that they've got the US to provide is in an ADVISORY capacity, to me it seems unlikely that the Ugandan army will be raping and looting under american command.
    I've seen a number of people mocking "Watch a 30 min video on internet.. become social activist", people are sharing because THAT'S THE POINT, the whole campaign revolves around normal people, especially youth talking, sharing, putting up posters, raising awareness.
    Whatever your problems with InvisibleChildren as an organisation raising awareness like this is powerful and important, people need to know if they are to care and if the people care then those in power will do something about it.

    Rant over, this was actually a very good article, two-sided and poignant…

    • Re-Rant

      Oh yeah. The American Military have never done anything bad or degrading.

      Not that that's the point. There's a reason that people whose job it is to fix these things haven't done it yet. The idea that a social network is a sensible forum for these things is ridiculous. Social networks are used to highlight injustice in the world. If they were there would be barely any time left to rant about relationship statuses or last night's photos. People will watch, feel bad, share and move on. Maybe they'll care for a week. Maybe two. None of them will actually do anything to change these things. There are plenty of ways to change things. Actions one can take that can make a real difference. Clicking share isn't one of them.

      • Re-re-rrrrant

        All that sharing is the reason that you actually know about this issue. So many injustices go unnoticed and unpunished, the one single point of this campaign is to raise awareness of the issue so that someone might just do something about it.
        There's no point saying that "clicking share" doesn't make a difference because it already has. Stop being cynical and appreciate how amazing the response to this has been. Few of us are in a position to help with our money or time but we were never asked to. All they wanted was for people to know what was going on so that the people who were trying to stop him had some support. AND THEY DID IT! Well done facebook/twitter/etc users, you can go back to your lives now, but you HAVE made a difference.

        • Malcolm Tucker

          very average rant.

        • Bill

          I think there's a big problem actually with most people knowing about an issue via a film that misrepresents the truth, that supports action that isn't supported by the organisations actually doing work in Uganda rather than spending it on expensive films and salaries. If this whole thing leaves a positive legacy, I hope it will be that people decide to listen to the people who know the most and are most involved in positive actions on the ground, rather than at best naive, at worst cynical Americans.

    • Bill

      I don't think anyone's suggesting US military advisors are in COMMAND of Ugandan troops. I think Ugandan troops will probably go on doing what Ugandan troops do.

      And yes, American troops are far from clean on human rights.

  • Yeah, but

    I don't think the fact that we haven't yet cured cancer is because no one cares. It's just quite hard… but ongoing!

  • Guest

    "I’m not saying ‘Kony 2012′ isn’t an incredibly worthy film, nor that Joseph Kony’s arrest isn’t a worthy goal, and I think doing something is better than nothing however big the problem."

    So why sit and bitch about this video as if it's causing the world great harm? If it does fade and leave only a small core who really care, at least there's the core there that didn't exist before. Your argument seems to boil down to this is only one of the issues facing the world, and because it doesn't seek to solve all of them, it's pointless. That's wrong. We should have MORE campaigns like this, for MORE issues. You do more to solve pressing problems across the world by focusing on one rather than doing nothing about any of them.

    • Because…

      why sit and bitch about this video as if it's causing the world great harm?

      Because if you go on Invisible Children's website http://invisiblechildrenstore.myshopify.com/ you realise how the whole thing is based on profiteering.

    • hmm

      I think people are upset not because awareness is being raised, but because they're asking us to sign up to THEIR petition, do what THEY say, and, most importantly, donate to THEM. Them being invisible children.

  • "I fear ‘Kony 2012′ will become just another fad, fading fast and leaving only a small core of those who really care."

    If only 5 more people get involved in trying to stop the chaos that is going on in East Africa then surely thats still a good thing?

    Evil thrives when good men do nothing…

    • ……

      What if five people get involved and violently overthrow Kony and assert their own brutal regime. Will that be for the better still?

    • Confused

      And those five people cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to recruit? Sounds like a shit use of all that money raised to me.

  • Cynic

    I guess it's cooler to be cynical

    • Read below…

      No, legitimately Fuck You. You're the fool for being taken in.

      I'm sure exterminating Kony is the best course of action – but the USA have been attempting to do just this for years. This latest meme is an attempt from a charity to get money. read here: http://invisiblechildrenstore.myshopify.com/produ

      • jkg

        "an attempt from a charity to get money"

        jeez when did charities start trying to get money?

  • Kaiser Chiefs

    I predict a riot (of comments)

  • The Facts.
  • what baffles me

    the us government has been actively helping the ugandan army to capture and or kill kony since 2008, and in 2011 one hundred us soldiers were sent to central africa for that very reason. why do people think that international governments aren't aware of this guy? the LRA has been a declared terrorist group since 2001. i reject the argument that us not knowing about him has led to his evading capture. the people who actually are his would be removers have known about him and have been trying to for years.

  • ISpeakForTheStudents

    WHOA WHOA WHOA! What you are dissing here is my whole philosophy of life. You are wrong, small things do make a difference. For example, look at what I have done together with my buddies over at Cambridge Defend Education:
    1. We occupied the Senate House for some time last year and it really had an impact. The university had to pay shitloads of money to sort out the mess we made out of the place. That'll show them what government cuts lead to!
    2. Also, last term we stopped Willetts from exercising his right to free speech (because he doesn't really need it, Geuss told me so) and on top of that we occupied a shitty lecture hall for a couple of days. What did that lead to other than other students becoming alienated from our cause? Well, LOADS of things, it would take me too long to write it down.
    3. Now DSK is coming and we're going to irritate loads of people again and through these small measures we can slowly work towards a socialist utopia!

    • haha

      Out of all the crappy repeat usernames that people use on the tab, I find this one genuinely funny.

  • Art

    This is from a student that has worked for Invisible Children: http://www.stand-news.co.uk/kony-2012-the-worst-c

  • i thought

    everyone was talking about ivory coast stalwart bakari kone

  • Lorna

    I have to say, I thoroughly agree with this. Throughout my own network on Facebook, I have noticed a tiny minority who I can honestly say do care. For criticising the methods of "campaign" in this apathetic modern day I have so far been decried by a fair number of people, btu I have a few who back me up. Ironically, I am the only one of many of them who will be taking a gap year for the purpose of carrying out relief work in countries like Uganda. Society does care, but only for 5 minutes. When the next thing comes along, people will care about that for 5 minutes. the Kony debate will be forgotten within a week, by people who pretend to care so they feel good.

    • Erm

      Using your gap yah as a means of self-righteousness is no better.

      • Why not?

        Because someone made another popular internet meme about it? Or did you just feel a bit jealous and as though someone who mentioned their gap year unselfconsciously needed a snide comment? This is exactly my problem. People who took a gap year tend to be far less ostentatious about their "spiritual and cultural awaarness" then the kind of idiot who blindly jumps on internet bandwagons like Kony 2012 without any more evidence than the fact everyone else is doing it.

  • JayD

    I beg to differ on one point at least, lot of people still wear wristbands to show support to a charity they care about.

    Having lost two relatives to cancer I haven't been without a Livestrong band since 2005 and doubt I ever will be.

    No doubt there are plenty of other sweeping statements in your article but I'll leave those to other people to dissect.

  • Christine

    Why would anyone want to stop encouragement for spreading peace and ending international injustice?
    KONY 2012 #makekonyfamous

    I'm not saying that this video will get Kony arrested or that any of the larger problems in Africa will be solved, but it's making people unite towards a goal of peace. What on earth would make someone want to stop that?
    I've been changed by this video. I care about those children, and I can honestly say that if this does turn into a fad, I will be a member of the core group that still cares. I didn't know or care before, and now I do. Mission accomplished.

  • Osama Bin-L

    wasting 10 years of searching and trying to kill me certainly made the world a better place

  • Gloone

    So you're saying that people wearing cancer bands didn't cure cancer because of the inherent ineffectiveness of such campaigns?

    Nothing to do with the fact that curing cancer is impossible with our current level of medical science?

    Derp.

    Removing Kony is possible, and building political awareness and pressure is, in this case, an important step towards it.

    Cancer on the other hand doesn't really care when it gets bad press.

  • too soon?
  • John Smiths

    I don't care

  • mango

    Sincerely agree with this article and the points it raises. But people now seem to be neatly divided into the video-sharers and the nay-sayers.

    A lot of the posting of critical responses on facebook smacks of cleverer-than-thou one-upmanship – at least most of the people who posted the video were motivated by horror at the problem it portrays rather than showoffyness

  • Guest

    STFU you suck

  • It's sad

    While I don't disagree that you raise a significant number of serious concerns, I think it's a shame that so many people are putting their heads together to find fault in the 'Kony 2012' campaign or Invisible Children or UPDF rather than getting their heads together to find a solution to the problem that is Joseph Kony. You're a smart guy Oscar, be constructive, rather than deconstructive.

    • senior caian

      *destructive

  • dohoho

    To catch them is my real test
    To train them is my cause~

  • Ricky Alty

    Being a tee-total-er, I think that Koni is a cunt.

  • Chrissy

    Finally, the youth have been targeted in a way they can relate to! We have a huge voice that often goes unheard. Now, we are speaking up and many have an issue with it. Why can’t we see this as a step in the right direction? Rather, cynical individuals feel the need to belittle others efforts to try to shine the light on the cause. No, I don’t think these individuals are “over night activists” but they watched the video, felt inspired, and did what the purpose of the video was: create awareness. Why not encourage youth to continue to have their voices heard instead of belittling their efforts.

  • Courtney
  • Realist

    It is just as well to criticise the campaign, it looks pretty dodgy. But aren't all situations like this? Look at what we're doing in Afghanistan, we have the long term aim of divulging power to the Afghan government and Afghan National Army both of which are highly corrupt. Yet this seems like the only option, we can't indefinitely stay there. Similarly in Uganda, we have to see what the realistic options are. If the only real option is to support this dubious group, then so be it. It's better than standing at the back telling people not to interfere, and then 10 years later when a different set of warlords are in charge whine that nothing is being done to stop this injustice.

  • Before you share
    • lol 9gag

      the cancer of the internet

  • honestly

    even if this campaign fails because of the media's incessant thirst for drama, we won't just go back to ignoring war criminals.
    The film's not about Kony, it's about how all of us young "connected" people have more power than the moneyed would like to think. Even if I dislike what Facebook's done to my social life, I can't ignore how awesome it's made the prospects for a better, more peaceful future

  • Well..

    They have managed to get everyone talking about atrocities in Uganda…

  • Devil's Advocate

    They have answered some of their criticisms if you can be bothered to read:
    http://www.invisiblechildren.com.s3-website-us-ea

  • Student

    I still don't care. Why should I?

  • Have you..

    Seen the picture of him, he looks an absolute wrong-en

  • Re to re-rant

    All that sharing is the reason that you actually know about this issue. So many injustices go unnoticed and unpunished, the one single point of this campaign is to raise awareness of the issue so that someone might just do something about it.
    There’s no point saying that “clicking share” doesn’t make a difference because it already has. Stop being cynical and appreciate how amazing the response to this has been. Few of us are in a position to help with our money or time but we were never asked to. All they wanted was for people to know what was going on so that the people who were trying to stop him had some support. AND THEY DID IT! Well done facebook/twitter/etc users, you can go back to your lives now, but you HAVE made a difference.

  • Ty

    The person who made this post quit trying to rebel and troll stfu

  • Kelsey

    I understand that youre saying there are many other bad people or bad crimes out there. But if we dont start somewhere we are never going to stop these people. There has to be a start. Just because they live in another country, there is no need to be selfish and not care about them. This man needs to be made aware of so that people know what is happening in the world, what people are really suffering and to make people more grateful for living in their own country.

  • In other news

    I thought Athletic Bilbao were very good tonight

  • Ranting Cuntabrigian
  • Naivety is…

    …thinking that one problem's solution means that all problems not solved condemn humanity by their existence. Cheer up.

  • I lost my Caius

    Good journalese on the tab? Very good article especially the nike comparison. I am very impress

  • http://s.myniceprofile.com/myspacepic/584/58498.gif Hitler

    Kony killed thousands of people….that's cute.

  • Mark

    Miss Anderson: single?