Kony 2012 – a determined few bring awareness to a “man” and his army, and in turn put criminals the world over on notice.
It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote anything on my blog - the last story focusing on how the world of social media was banding together in support of the victims of the March 11 Great Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami, and the nuclear catastrophe that tragically followed. My disappearance from writing was easily excused by focus in other aspects of my life, but in the time since we’ve seen social media bring awareness to so many important issues. And frequently we’ve seen how citizen journalism – in many different forms – has trumped traditional media in breaking stories (not the least of which was the first news of Osama Bin Laden’s expiration with a single tweet).
The idea that everyone around the world could become a “journalist” in his or her own right is hardly a new phenomenon. The advent of the Internet decades ago just made the process a whole lot easier. And today we continue to bear witness to a constant evolution of ordinary people making extraordinary differences through the global village that is the Web and all it has to offer.
This past week I largely ignored the running commentary on Facebook about Joseph Kony and his atrocities. Not because I didn’t care, but because I was more concerned with the fact that one year on, much has been said about the victims of the March 11 events, yet so much more needs to be done – and not in words, but in practice.
Yesterday I sat down and watched the oft cited Kony 2012 video that has been the subject of both applause and controversy.
At first I was stunned by the impressive production quality of this 30-minute piece. And as I watched, listened, and learned, I was equally (and oddly) struck by how the director regularly refers to the project as an “experiment”. As I paused for a coffee break, I thought about what kind of experiment I was viewing, and how a campaign aimed at putting an end to a tyrannical and oppressive being could in anyway be dubbed an “experiment”. As of this writing, nearly 77 million people around the world have viewed the video, with 1.3 million giving the production a thumbs up. But somewhat inexplicably, more than 92,000 have disliked the video, with plenty of dissenters suggesting that the campaign is a fraud. Some have suggested on Twitter and in mainstream Web media that the video is more bark than bite, professing that it’s ridiculous to assume that a viral campaign can bring an international criminal to his knees.
As the video came to its dramatic end, I concluded my day and went to sleep in my warm and very comforting bed – just like I do on every other day of the week. Waking up this morning and heading off to work, I gave little thought to Kony and his “Lord’s Resistance Army”. But frankly, the video – and more importantly, its message – has increasingly nagged me since seeing it’s final message, “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time is now”.
Isn’t it about time that the world wakes up to the genocide that goes all-too-commonly unnoticed around us? It’s a simple, and yes, rhetorical question. But the question’s answer speaks volumes about how much we don’t actually know (or in some cases, like Tokyo’s governor recently proved, we don’t care to admit). Forgetting for a moment about how more than a few have suggested that this campaign will serve the world little in capturing the Hague’s most wanted man, or how one young Ugandan woman opines that Kony is dead or has disappeared, this “experiment” has real value.
With a virtual show of hands, how many of you had heard about Joseph Kony before this last week? I for one had not, and that’s troubling to me since the founder of the LRA has allegedly been responsible for abducting many thousands of children from their homes, turning them into soldiers that mutilate and kill (or both), and displacing 1.5 million in the process. The Hague was literally established for people of this kind, making Kony their most wanted when the Court was first established in 2002. In a seemingly unrelated parallel that I’ll address in a moment, how about another virtual show of hands of how many of you knew that 52% of Mississippi Republicans believe President Obama is Muslim?
Is it hard to believe that we as globally concerned citizens cannot effect change simply by being in the know? When did an educated populace suddenly become disabled? If social media can use a three-word campaign slogan to greatly help in getting a President elected, can we not assume that the same kind of awareness and grass roots initiative can put an end to atrocities? Shouldn’t we be proud of knowing right from wrong and doing something about it?
Whatever your thoughts on that, the experiment of this campaign teaches all of us an invaluable lesson. Knowledge is unmistakable power. And with that power comes responsibility. Irresponsibility is going to war on false knowledge (it’s also criminal, but that’s a topic for a different blog post). And so I can understand some of the backlash the Kony 2012 campaign has caused. But responsibility is doing the right thing. Character is doing the right thing, even when no one else is looking.
The world is finally looking. This experiment has gone right. We have put every criminal on notice – gone are the days when you can hide your atrocities. We the people are watching. We are one. And we will take action.