Kony 2012 — What Next?
Posted on March 24, 2012
Our design editor, Pete Saunders, weighs in on the recent Kony 2012 campaign and gives his thoughts on what Invisible Children could do next.
Unless you have been living in the deepest of caves, you would no doubt be aware of probably the biggest social media campaign of all time: Kony 2012. The video hit the Internet all of two weeks ago and in that time, has been viewed by close to one hundred million people on Youtube and Vimeo. It was shared around Facebook and Twitter, endorsed by celebrities and featured on most major news networks. The initial reactions were mostly positive, with a vast majority of people sharing the video, calling for support, telling people to get involved and generally doing their two minutes of feel good, hassle free social activism. But, as is always the case with the sheep like mentality of social media sharing, it was only when other people started to point out the flaws in the campaign that widespread questioning and discussion began.
Financial motivations aside, the most concerning part of Invisible Children’s video is its fundamental failure as a documentary. It glossed over important facts, like the actual location of Kony and his army, the size of his army and neglected how the Ugandan people — those affected the most — felt about the campaign. Many people disliked that the video presenting a long term, complicated issue in an incredibly simplistic manner. These are all valid criticisms and they started to quell the fury of sharing and support. It should be pointed out that if anybody bothered to do even a modicum of research, the campaign would have gotten nowhere near the traction it did.
However, criticisms of the campaign and its supporters aside, the question needs to be asked: what should Invisible Children do next? Kony 2012 did prove one thing: it speaks to the fact that young people want to be global, informed citizens. It shows that we are still capable of spending half an hour watching a video about something we had no prior knowledge of. It shows that we are open and willing to discuss and debate topics beyond our own backyard. Invisible Children has managed to set the benchmark for reaching an audience and, in my opinion, needs to use this newfound global audience to build the foundation of education about the situation not just in Uganda, but also the entirety of Central Africa. Their ability to produce and market videos is unquestionable, but there exists the opportunity to address the very complicated and long-term problems that Central Africa faces. Budget is not a problem for Invisible Children: they have sold more than 500,000 action kits, meaning their annual income will exceed US$15 million this year. But they need to treat their audience for who they are: young people wanting to know more about the different shades of grey, not ones who can only comprehend simple black and white notions.
The ability of Invisible Children to make provocative media cannot be denied, but, for all their slick production skills, their next video needs to rely on cold, hard facts and evidence to promote educated and informed discussion, not one that relies on rhetoric to garner an ill-informed, emotional response.
Do you have any thoughts on the Kony 2012 campaign or what Invisible Children should do next? Comment below.