Kony 2012 explodes in popularity

Over three weeks, Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” video has gotten more than 85 million views and sparked massive discussions across all social media platforms.

Invisible Children, an organization dedicated to bringing Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony to justice, posted the 30-minute video on March 5. “Kony 2012” offers a simple breakdown of Kony, his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the more than 30,000 children who have been abducted and forced to serve as child soldiers.

#STOPKONY was consistently in the top five Twitter trending topics during the first week the video was online.  Invisible Children also reached 3 million Facebook “likes” and 415,834 followers on Twitter.

The Kony 2012 campaign advocates a two-step process that asks young adults to spread the word, first to celebrities, or “culturemakers,” and then to politicians, the “policymakers.”

“I think it’s incredible how the younger, more technologically-savvy generation is able to create movements so quickly using tools like social networking,” sophomore Gabrielle Roland said.

A screening of the video will be held on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in UC Ballroom B, followed by a discussion.

The campaign will culminate in a national Cover the Night event on April 20. On that night, supporters will be encouraged to plaster their respective cities with posters of Kony and Invisible Children. Cover the Night events have been planned in Coral Gables and the surrounding Miami area.

Invisible Children is selling action kits with promotional materials, including posters, buttons and wristbands, for $30.

Students like sophomore Meera Nagarsheth are supportive of Invisible Children’s cause.

“Kony 2012 cuts to the core of the issue in Uganda and neighboring countries:  that there is an injustice in the world and we can do something about it,” said Nagarsheth, the co-chair of UM’s Invisible Children club.

Junior De’Shonte’ Brooks  agrees with Nagarsheth but does not believe that the U.S. government can do more than it has.

“We’ve sent 100 troops over to help them, which is more than enough considering the fact that the man hasn’t done anything or been seen since 2006,” she said. “I don’t support sending thousands of troops over to find a guy who has been hiding for six years and hasn’t caused any problems.”

Kony and his LRA disappeared from Uganda about six years ago, but have been active in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Invisible Children has faced some backlash in the weeks after the “Kony 2012” release. According to the organization’s 2011 financial statement, it spent $8,894,632, of which $3,156,876 was used for travel, film costs, and compensation. Although it is a nonprofit, $2,810,681 was spent on direct services. The remainder of the expenses covered operations.

“I oppose the organization because of its shady financial records and use of money,” freshman Andre Naranjo said.

On March 15, San Diego police detained Kony 2012 film director Jason Russell for disrupting traffic and running around outside in his underwear, screaming profanities.

“I was shocked when I first saw it and even now I’m still just trying to understand how he even got to that point,” Naranjo said. “I feel people are going to start questioning him much more since the incident.”

Ugandan citizens have also spoken out against the video. The video seems to portray the entire country of Uganda as being at war with the LRA. However, according to Edmund Abaka, a UM professor of Africana studies and history, the army was mostly active in the northern portion of the country.

“The people in the east, south, and west feel that the image of country has been changed by this,” he said.

However, Abaka believes that thanks to the video, the African Union (AU) has been forced to allocate more of its resources to countries afflicted by the LRA.

“Now, there is more vigilance and more AU soldiers,” Abaka said. “The video has put the LRA on notice. The eyes of the world are focused on them and their capture. If they come back, the AU forces will have the resources to apprehend them and bring them to justice.”

Roland believes that these side issues detract attention from the real problem.

“It’s a shame that the real issue is being overshadowed by this unfortunate event,” she said. “I don’t think it should be ignored, but people should not lose sight of the real effort being advertised, which is advocating for the children being taken advantage of.”