The big viral success of 2012 so far, has to be the Kony 2012 video, despite defying the rules of successful viral marketing by opting for a long length (almost 30 mins). Not only that, but it transpires that this is actually Invisible Children‘s eleventh video attempt in the last 8 years. None of the others were successful. This version was successful, more successful than I believe they expected, and this was in spite of the high production element which makes us wonder where the money is actually coming from, let alone how much of this is spin. Over 76 million views on YouTube later, I think we can however call this a success.
I’m not saying it is wrong to want to pull the world’s attention to something as horrific as the crimes happening in this instance, far from it, but at what point does watching a video and perhaps pressing the ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons actually make us activists in any way? How can this help?
I saw an interesting quote recently:
“Kony 2012 is a masterpiece of simplification. They boiled a massive, heart wrenching, overwhelming problem down into a single man… Finally, and I think most brilliantly, even the target himself was simple. If the campaign had been Mugabe 2012, would it have been as successful? I don’t think so. We know Mugabe. If they were going to get him, they’d have gotten him by now, right? He’s complicated. But I haven’t heard of this guy Kony before. So not only do I get that wonderful social rush from spreading new news, but he feels eminently beatable. If we all got together I bet we could do it. And all I have to do is share. Simple.”
Now instead of helping, we find that the Ugandan screening of the Kony film actually has angered the victims.
Victor Ochen, director of a local charity who arranged the show, said:
“People were very angry about the film….There was a strong sense that the video was definitely not produced for an African audience, and that it was not sensitive enough to the victims. It was very hurtful for them and their families to see posters, bracelets and buttons, all looking like slick campaign ads of the person most responsible for their shattered lives. One young man who lost four brothers and one of his arms said afterwards ‘How can anybody expect me to wear a Tshirt with Kony’s name on it?’
For all the victims, the attempt to make Kony famous so as to prop up public support for his apprehension is laudable, but the way the goal is being pursued in the video is inappropriate and ignores their feelings. The fame is not what Kony deserves for causing so much suffering…”
One man, Mr Jifony, who was forced to fight under Kony for 18 months, said “We expected serious action, Americans fighting Kony like in a real movie” but it seems they are disappointed, being left offended and surrounded by Kony paraphernalia.
Meanwhile in the rest of the world, we all feel nice and smug at having helped the cause by sharing the video on Facebook, or promoting it around the office. Perhaps we even went to town and tweeted. Great stuff, but awareness is one thing, action another. Slactivism is perpetuated by social media as we feel like we can hide behind the Internet and help by proxy, by doing something we were going to be doing anyway – interacting online.
I commend Kony 2012 as a huge viral marketing success, but perhaps not the way to change the world on this one. Sadly, I might be right on this one, as the Ugandan reaction to the video seems to agree.
What next? Well, that will be something I’m eagerly awaiting…
- ‘Phony 2012’: A cynic’s view on the Joseph Kony hysteria (intentious.com)
- Ugandan victims of LRA/Kony break up ‘Kony 2012′ screening, accusing it of white supremacy (redantliberationarmy.wordpress.com)
- Kony 2012 screening in Uganda results in anger, rocks thrown at screen (boingboing.net)
- Love it or hate it, the online phenomenon that is KONY 2012 offers valuable lessons to development communicators. (thoolen.wordpress.com)
- Yes We KONY? Rap News Exposes AFRICOM Invasion (tatoott1009.com)
- Ugandans React To Kony 2012 (buzzfeed.com)
- KONY 2012: Worthwhile Charity or White Man’s Burden? (blogher.com)
- Ugandans Aren’t Thrilled About the ‘Kony 2012′ Video Either – Global – The Atlantic Wire (coffeereads.wordpress.com)
- The digital lies that Israel faces (thejc.com)