For those of you living under a rock during the last three days, human rights advocacy group Invisible Children launched a campaign video to raise awareness of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony in Uganda—and the video garnered an unprecedented 40 million views in just 72 hours.
As we learned from last nights’s Tubefilter Hollywood Meetup, publicity and organic viewership are closely related and highly sought after by marketers. The press for KONY 2012 has been tremendous indeed, but if someone were to ask me about what all the KONY 2012 hype is really about, I would say it’s more about the campaign’s performance than the cause itself. All the attention surrounding KONY 2012 seems to focus mostly on the magnitude of the campaign’s virality and the wonders of social media—a huge distraction from the campaign’s goals.
Thus, the story that emerges is the extraordinary amount of attention that three Americans were able to raise about some issue in Africa. Headlines focus on view counts, hits, shares, mentions, and likes—the cause is incidental; the real achievement of KONY 2012 has already occurred, its heroes already identified.
The KONY 2012 campaign itself further obscures the actual cause by thrusting the filmmakers—not the victims of the atrocities—to the forefront of the story. And this was a crucial aspect to the campaign’s success.
The massive public outcry—whose duration spans the length of one mouse-click—is at the same time a celebration of these young innovators (and the new generation of armchair activists they represent) who seem to have discovered the silver bullet for world peace: publicity and merchandising.
I think the KONY backlash stems from a reaction to the popular notion that technology (along with its innovative and ingenious application) is the preferred solution to big, complex social problems which formerly required great effort to overcome. It comes as no surprise that two of the most sought after virtues in American culture, money and fame, are lauded as the solution to the world’s problems.
The magnitude of the public reaction surrounding #StopKony cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, to me it comes across as some kind of desperately organized assertion of relevance from a generation completely robbed of a voice for change—it is as much about generating hope for ourselves as it is those victims in Uganda.