KONY 2012 and the Prospects for Change

Examining the Viral Campaign

Earlier this month, more than 30 civilians were killed during armed attacks in South Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those killings were committed not by the Lord's Resistance Army but by one of the many Congolese militias operating in the area. In recent months, those groups have been responsible for a marked increase in violence, but in most cases, such attacks go unnoticed by international media. So it was in this case: as usual, it is only thanks to local sources that we know about such events at all.

The lack of attention is ironic at the moment because of the sudden popularity of the KONY 2012 video campaign. Invisible Children, a nonprofit, has focused the world on Joseph Kony, who heads the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group established in the mid-1980s to fight the government of Uganda that has gained a reputation for its extreme acts, including the mutilation of victims and the forced enlistment of children. Six years ago, the Lord's Resistance Army left Uganda during a peace process; it is now operating in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. 

With more than 70 million views so far, Invisible Children's documentary on YouTube, coupled with a stupendously successful viral media campaign, has achieved its aim of reaching a mass audience. In addition to the attention it has attracted on social networks in the United States and Europe, it has garnered mainstream media attention: nearly every major Western news outlet ran some kind of story last week on Kony or on Invisible Children's campaign.

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