Commentary: What Happened to Kony 2012?

Invisible Children's Kony campaign fizzled into oblivion because movements are born, not created.

Posted: 11/09/2012 12:30 PM EST
What Happened to Kony 2012?

All social media activism campaigns aren’t created equal.

After the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin spread via the Internet, a New York City graphic designer made a flyer, put it on Facebook and within hours, hundreds of people gathered in New York’s Union Square donning hoodies to show support for the teen’s family. If that was possible on such a modest scale, why couldn’t a cause that received millions of views on YouTube get people to don T-shirts and tell their communities about a notorious Ugandan warlord?

Invisible Children’s Kony 2012, the largest, most popular digital push for peace in recent times, went from omnipresence to oblivion in just a matter of weeks. And as the months go by, it becomes clearer that the problem with the Kony campaign was not the madness of public apathy but rather the method of Invisible Children’s approach.

Or, maybe it's because the idea didn’t make much sense to begin with.

While its easy to blame the failure of Kony 2012 on the very public and very bizarre naked meltdown of Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, that’s not the only reason why the passionate appeal didn’t hold our attention.

Kony 2012’s original clarion call to make Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony a household name was even rebuffed by many Ugandans who rejected the idea of military action. Invisible Children wants more involvement from the U.S. and other western nations in trying to find the elusive Kony, but according to a recent report on the status of U.S. involvement in the Kony manhunt, Ugandan army spokesman Col. Felix Kulayigye said that the country does not want nor need any help from the U.S. in the matter.

“I am not against it, but this is not a war for the Americans," Kulayigye said. "It's not feasible."      

Now, Invisible Children has a new campaign that seeks to bring thousands of young people to Washington, D.C., to pressure world leaders on the issue of the LRA. While the last video was all about shock and awe, this one crafts the Kony brand into the event for the young and concerned.

“It is going to be so hugely epic,” the new video says of the gathering.

There will be speakers, places for folks to lay down their sleeping bags and best of all — a rocking party — because, somehow, changing the world just makes you want to dance, right?

The issue with Invisible Children organizing the country’s largest field trip is the simplification and the merry-making of an intensely complex issue. The group doesn’t seem to want to inform people of all the realities of the LRA/Kony situation, nor does it seem to be engaging its young supporters in any dialogue about how they feel or how the issue correlates to their experience as Americans.

Unlike the Trayvon Martin protest or the social movements in the Middle East born out of true frustration, Invisible Children is spoon-feeding activism to young people.

Just send in the $10 for your “I’m Concerned About Kony Kit” and you’ll fit right in.


The opinions here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Invisible Children)

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