What Happened to the #KONY2012 Campaign?
A year ago last March, Invisible Children, a nonprofit activist group from California, launched the most viral social media campaign of all-time. They made a half-hour video about Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony that reached over 100 million people in 6 days, making Kony — one of the world’s most-wanted criminals — instantly famous. After the video went viral, it received a ton of immediate backlash until eventually the attention started to fade. The Viral Media Lab was covering the spread of this video as it was happening and we created a repository for articles from every perspective.
The viral activity of the Kony video also created a debate about clicktivism vs activism (some were calling it slacktivism) and whether or not the video did anything more than create awareness (and is creating awareness enough?). The video raised the very important question of how to handle viral media that moves fast, sweeping the ‘net before we have time to properly process and research the information we’ve received (we’re a global community with a still-developing global brain). This is a question we can start to address a year later, after the initial sweep of the video, and the subsequent aftermath of backlash and controversy. So how does the most viral video of all-time create long-term change? How has the #StopKONY campaign held up and evolved over time, and what have Invisible Children accomplished since the release of their amazingly viral video?
Lucky for us, Mashable did a comprehensive follow-up to their initial Kony campaign coverage (apparently they received a lot of tweet-prodding from so many of Invisible Children’s core followers/free PR team).
from the Mashable article:
“…. were the films’ goals achieved? Yes and no. While Kony is certainly famous, and perhaps can be considered among the most wanted men in the world, he still hasn’t been captured.
According to a joint study from Invisible Children and another non-profit Resolve, more high-ranking LRA officials left the group in 2012 than in the previous three years combined. Two high ranking officials, Major General Ceasar Acellam and Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Binansio “Binani” Okumu were removed from the battlefield. LRA killings decreased 67% from 2011 to 2012. What’s more, 51 civilians were killed by the LRA in 2012, compared to 154 in 2011 and 706 in 2010. While these numbers may not sound too significant, the U.N. estimates that 400,000 people have been forced to relocate, fleeing LRA activities.
Read the entire Mashable article here for a full IC progress report.
& Invisible Children posted this video with an update 5 months ago:
IC released another stirringly well-edited new video on March 6 to fill us in on what they’ve been up to and what they’ve accomplished over the past year (the video has only received a little over 75,000 views in 3 months):
Fast Co.Exist pulled this important quote from the video’s narrator:
“Joseph Kony became the most wanted man in the world. People got on board by the millions. But because the story spread so quickly and there were so many voices, the message got confusing. But our voice and our mission never changed.”
Again, a viral message that spreads so quickly through a global community is perhaps difficult to understand and process, especially when everyone is initially ill-informed but well-meaning and all of the many Internet voices are talking at once. The Co.Exist article mentions that the IC charity is high-rated, legit, and they have been busy over the past year. Read the rest of the Co.Exist article here.
IC also posted this longer video called “Move,” as commentary on their record viral video, aimed at Millennials:
It seems like all of these newer videos have around 70,000 hits each after a few months, so perhaps this represents the core devoted crowd and the people who follow the story religiously. This is a fairly large and active grassroots global community, especially considering the relatively small size of the Invisible Children nonprofit. The most recent video is interesting because it’s a little more rough and transparent, looking back at the first video and viewing it critically this time for the flaws in storytelling that led to the initial backlash, and how this affected IC’s Chief Creative Officer, Jason Russell (in a lot of ways the face of the campaign), and contributed to his emotional breakdown. This video is also an attempt to mobilize the community and get supporters to gather in Washington DC on November 17th to attend the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit for students. The deadline to apply was May 1.
Click here to read about “How Storytelling Is at the Heart of Making Social Change” from Alternet. Do you think Invisible Children’s story has instigated major social change over time? Have you been keeping up with their campaign? Did you #CoverTheNight last April, or did you stop listening after the confusion and backlash that followed the success of the very viral video last year?
Personally, I love IC’s passion and I think it’s heartening to see so many people working together as a global community to spread awareness. But there is perhaps a larger issue at hand here and this is something we should consider longterm because we’re going to see more of this in the future (important messages that get flattened by the speed of the medium). We need to find a way to adjust to the new speed of viral media as a unified global community with a functional and communicative global brain. We need to process the information we’re receiving in a productive way. Marshall McLuhan said that “the new science of communication is percept, not concept.” Perhaps we should try to pace and sync our communal perceptions and reactions until we have time to check the facts and fully understand the concept of what we’re passing along. Milan Kundera talks about the “ecstasy of speed” in the era of new technology:
“…. man delegates the faculty of speed to a machine: from then on, his own body is outside the process, and he gives over to a speed that is non-corporeal, non-material, pure speed, speed itself, ecstasy speed.”
Viral media is beginning to work like Kundera’s motorcycle, taking us out of our bodies and working faster than our minds through this highway of chaotic information that is a highly stimulating rush. It initially brought us together as a global village and then we started to ride our information, juice it up, pass it along at an alarming rate. The vehicle of our information moves so fast now that it has become ecstatic and addictive. It’s a non-corporeal, ghostly ride, an exciting global out-of-body event that (in the case of IC initially) confused us and left few perceptible — or communally decipherable — tracks.