In the span of only a few days, the Kony 2012 video produced by the Invisible Children organization has been viewed more than 100 million times by people around the globe. This video about the atrocities committed by African warlord Joseph Kony over a span of almost three decades has set off a tsunami of feedback. Supporters, skeptics, and critics have all cast their words on the surface of the waters that continue to lap onto digital shores around the globe. I’m not sure the producers of the video ever imagined the range of opinion that Kony 2012 would generate. It seems that everybody has an opinion about what the producers did right, what they did wrong, what they should have done differently, and how they could have done it all better. As I have thought about the Kony 2012 video and read assorted responses over the past few days, these are a few of my observations.
On Thinking | Regardless of one’s opinion about the video, it has challenged people to think a little deeper about how Kony and his cronies have cast a pall of fear over Central African regions. I applaud any effort that gets folks thinking about global problems and generates discussion about possible solutions.
On Awareness | As someone who helps to mobilize thousands of volunteers to engage in serving others and meeting needs around the globe, I am a firm believer that awareness always precedes action. This video was designed to create broad awareness about Kony in the hope that doing so would set in motion actions that will bring the brutal warlord to justice in 2012. It remains to be seen if that will happen, but I am hoping for the best.
On Focus | In a day of decreasing attention spans and millions of two-minute YouTube videos to entertain restless, bored, and shallow minds, I am encouraged by the fact that more than 100 million folks spent half an hour watching the Kony video. In spite of the criticism that the video oversimplifies a complex issue, I have talked with young and old alike that were inspired to dig deeper on their own. That’s a good thing.
On Slacktivism | Slacktivism is a new term that describes the simple actions that people take in support of a cause — things like wearing a wristband, liking a Facebook page, signing online petitions, and other similar actions. However, lest we toss out all slacktivists with the bathwater, according to a Georgetown University study entitled “The Dynamics of Cause Engagement,” slacktivists are more likely than non-social media promoters to take practical steps in support of their favored cause.
On Agenda | Some of the criticism leveled against the Invisible Children and the millions who have watched the Kony video fall into the “there are other more important global issues” category. Many have been quick to question why they have not addressed this or that issue or why the masses have not been as moved by other atrocities. I lay that one at the feet of the critics and urge them to take ownership of whatever it is they think is a more important cause. The Invisible Children have focused for years on the plight of children. That is what they are about. That is their slice of the global issues pie.
On Sympathy | The Kony 2012 video struck a chord that resonates in the hearts of the masses and reminds us that people really do care about the plight of those who suffer injustice. The question of why these masses have not been as collectively moved by other issues is one that I cannot answer. But, I am grateful that millions have expressed outrage after viewing the Kony meme about what has been happening elsewhere in our global neighborhood.
On Judgment | Many have already passed judgment on both the message of the video and those who produced it. I think it’s far too early to do that. Time will tell whether the hopes of supporters or the fears of critics are realized. On a good note, two Representatives introduced a resolution today that spotlights “the atrocities of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army and supporting U.S. efforts to counter the LRA.” Let’s see where that leads in the days and weeks to come.
On Naiveté | As much as I support this initiative to bring Kony to justice, the reality is that neither the video nor Kony’s arrest will end violence in Central Africa. But, it will certainly help to have one less madman on the loose. And, while working to bring evil men to justice, we must also support the efforts of those who are working to help the victims of atrocities to rebuild their lives. As our world becomes smaller, we must continue to care about what happens in other people’s neighborhoods and cooperatively work to make our world a better place.
On Bigger Picture | When you consider the millions who have watched the Kony 2012 video, I think it’s safe to say that there will be a few who will reorder their lives to take a more direct and active vocational role in addressing issues of injustice. Perhaps a champion of justice in years to come will look back and say, “I became interested in helping the victims of injustice when I sat and watched a 30-minute video about a guy named Kony.” This is another reason why I like to look at the positive side of the Kony 2012 initiative. Who among us can truly know what may happen in the heart of a boy or girl or any individual who watched the video and felt a mixture of compassion and outrage.
Regardless of how you may feel about Kony 2012, I personally applaud the Invisible Children for causing us to think a little deeper, talk about things that truly matter, and consider how we will engage in making a difference in our world.