The week of March 5, Joseph Kony was trending on Twitter. If you didn’t see him there, he was plastered all over Facebook. You may have seen Kony’s face on MSNBC, Fox News, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, ABC News, the Huffington Post, The New York Times, and countless other media outlets. If you still missed him, you could join the tens of millions of people who have watched the Invisible Children documentary Kony 2012 that reveals his horrific war crimes and the terrorist activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group in central Africa.
The Invisible Children organization has been working since 2003 to end this war and rehabilitate war-affected areas of central Africa. With the Kony campaign in particular, Invisible Children’s massive display of social media prowess and catchiness of slogans and hashtags serves to beat you over the head with this message: Stop Kony by getting active.
The critics and general ignorami that slap the “slactivism” label on the campaign are clearly missing the point. It’s true that the main objective of the organization is to use film and social action to help end the use of child soldiers and restore war-torn communities to peace and prosperity; it says so right on the home page of their website. So after you’ve watched the video, tweet about it. Post it on Facebook, Tumblr, blog about it. The point is to shout out to the entire world that this situation is not acceptable.
When the Kony video went active on March 5, it garnered more than 100 million views in the first week. It broke the record of the fastest spreading viral campaign in Internet history, according to a Mashable report. That means that the war in Africa and the crimes of the indicted war criminal Joseph Kony have finally come to the public’s attention, especially the American youth, who are arguably the hardest demographic to motivate.
At the heart of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign, obscured by the criticisms and negative reactions, the goal remains the same: to raise awareness and educate people about a horrible injustice that has been going on for more than 20 years. The organization urges the world to “stop at nothing” to apprehend Kony and make his arrest an example for injustices throughout the world. This works into the larger picture of ending the war in central Africa.
It’s not meant to serve as the solution to the problem, rather, it’s simply the catalyst for a chain of events that could lead to direct results. The documentary aims to raise awareness by educating people about the issue in order to gather public recognition. It’s easy to ignore the suffering of millions of people when you don’t know about it, but it becomes harder once you know it exists. That is exactly what this campaign aims to do: make people uncomfortable with the status quo.
What follows is that the general popular opinion increases until there is a general consensus to “do something.” Using that momentum and public support, it is crucial to take active steps in persuading people with agency in our society – Congresspeople – by writing letters, attending events and rallies, and lobbying at their offices. People should urge their representatives to introduce and cosponsor legislature that aims at destroying the LRA. The final step is the complicated process of restructuring and rehabilitation of the war-affected areas.
The Invisible Children organization does not pretend to have the solutions to ending this violent conflict. If anyone thinks they have all the answers, call Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and please enlighten him. Instead, this organization is attempting to raise questions and get the issue out there, so someone with political power can find the answer to ending Africa’s longest running war.
Disclaimer: Jamie Hill is the president of the Quinnipiac chapter of Invisible Children. Her opinions do not reflect the chapter’s, only her own.