A documentary film aimed at exposing the inhumane acts of Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony, including the recruitment of child soldiers, has exploded online, drawing praise and contempt from millions of viewers.
The half-hour film, made by the U.S. charity Invisible Children, was posted on YouTube and the charity’s website less than 48 hours ago and by Wednesday morning, had been viewed more than four million times. It tells the story of a child soldier named Jacob and the charity’s push to have the U.S. intervene to stop the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The social media campaign kicked off just as the LRA, led by Kony which has terrorized parts of Africa for decades, launched a new spate of attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kony was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005, although he has yet to be captured. The hashtags #StopKony and #InvisibleChildren are trending on Twitter.
“Dear Joseph Kony, I’m Gonna help Make you FAMOUS!!!! We will stop YOU #StopKONY! All 6,000,000 of my followers RT NOW!!! Pls!” hip-hop icon and fashion mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs said on his Twitter feed.
“KONY2012 Spread the word!!!” tweeted Rihanna.
Online praise has been heaped on Invisible Children for their film, but critics are also questioning the effectiveness of the awareness campaign, and the charity that made it.
PhD student Jack McDonald from King’s College London wrote that while he supports the desire to raise the profile of the “heinous nature” of Mr. Kony’s crimes, he considers the Kony 2012 campaign dangerous.
“The idea that popular opinion can be leveraged with viral marketing to induce foreign military intervention is really, really dangerous,” he writes. “It is immoral to try and sell a sanitized vision of foreign intervention that neglects the fact that people will die as a result. That goes for politicians as much as for Jason Russell.”
This is such an interesting campaign. From a PR perspective, it’s great to see a campaign go viral in such a short space of time, however, the controversy surrounding the campaign can be seen as both damaging but also an asset to the campaign as more and more people are talking about the campaign. Invisible Children are asking people to donate to their cause. With recent claims that the charity are not who they claim to be, this will definitely be an interesting case to watch unfold.
Love Niamh x