Kony 2012 video goes viral in spite of Internet criticisms | Print |
Written by Justin Crann and Mehreen Khan   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 13:06

A video highlighting wanted Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and the militant group he leads went viral this week, in spite of sharp criticisms from the Internet community.

Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony, the target of the Invisible Children campaign, has been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2005.

The video, entitled Kony 2012, is part of a campaign launched by non-profit organization Invisible Children that “aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice,” according to the video's description on YouTube.

Since it was uploaded on Monday, it has received more than 30 million views, according to YouTube statistics on the video page.  

Many of those views were the result of referrals from and reposts to social media sites Twitter and Facebook.

“I saw it first on Tuesday evening. My Facebook suddenly got flooded with the video,” Britney Darmanin, a social media marketer and radio and television student at Ryerson University, told thedailyplanet.com.

“I saw a screenshot of it and there was nothing to pull me in, and then as more and more people started posting it, I thought, ‘OK, I’ll give it a try.’”

But only a day after the video was published to YouTube, concerns were raised about Invisible Children’s legitimacy and methods.

One blogger, Grant Oyston, raised questions about the non-profit’s finances, rating with non-profit watchdog Charity Navigator, and stance on the Ugandan military.

It also challenged the methods by which the campaign sought to achieve its goal.

“Is awareness good? Yes, but these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by pestering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture,” Oyston writes in the post.

Another blog post harshly criticized the narrator’s use of his own son as excessive and unnecessary.

Darmanin, however, said that the narrator's son was used to evoke emotion and make a connection with the viewer.

“I thought it was an amazingly well-produced film,” she said, “it definitely draws the viewer in with the narrative and the use of children, especially the use of the narrator’s son.”

On Thursday, the non-profit replied to many of the criticisms it had received on its own blog.

“We have never claimed a desire to ‘save Africa,’ but, instead, an intent to inspire Western youth to ‘do more than just watch.’ And, in Central Africa, focus on locally-led long-term development programs that enable children to take responsibility for their own futures and the futures of their countries,” the organization said.

However, the actual impact of the video on the public’s awareness and involvement remains to be seen, Darmanin said.

“It’s hard to know what’s going to happen on April 20 when this whole campaign is supposed to happen,” said Darmanin. “These campaigns have come and gone before, just like SOPA, and I don’t know if there’s been lasting impact.”

“We’re talking about what’s happening in this country, and this man named Kony, and that’s something we weren’t talking about a week ago,” said Darmanin, “it’s sometimes easier to be cynical than positive about something.”

Kony has been wanted (PDF) by the International Criminal Court since July 2005.

A film student from Vancouver's film school, Ali Virk, told thedailyplanet.com he hasn't bought into the Kony 2012 initiative because he is skeptical.  He said the documentary genre should educate viewers, not ask for donations.

Listen to Ali Virk's interview with Mehreen Khan:



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