KONY 2012 is perhaps one of the most viral online activist campaigns we’ve seen to date. It is absolutely remarkable, to say the least, given that in less than 48 hours, over 7 million people have taken the time to watch this 30-minute film in a world where 43 per cent of Internet users won't wait more than six seconds for a webpage to load.
The campaign, compiled by Invisible Children Inc., is acting as a catalyst for global action, encouraging people to organize and partake in local events like Vancouver's "Cover the Night" on April 20th, 2012 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The campaign primarily "aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” -Invisible Children Inc.
The video implies that Kony, "one of the world’s worst war criminals" is active in Northern Uganda. But what if I were to tell you that Uganda is in a more peaceful state today than it has been in the past 10 years? What if I were to tell you that Kony's LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) is more active in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic than it is in Uganda? And what if I were to tell you that much of the footage from KONY 2012 was acquired nearly 10 years ago? To tell you these things would be to tell you the truth, according to sources such as Justice in Conflict.
Now I'm not writing to tell you that supporting the KONY 2012 campaign is a good thing, or a bad thing. I, like you, feel that the campaign tries to make people feel that everything it is saying is correct. And I, like you, feel that its critics try to make people feel like everything KONY 2012 is saying is incorrect. I'd like to offer something new.
We are living in a fascinating moment in time, in which the forefront of the globe's collective attention can shift over the course of mere minutes. Rebecca Black’s "hit" song, Friday, for instance, caught the attention of millions of people in a few short days. The joys that kicking off the weekend can bring may never again quite be the same.
Similarly, KONY 2012 has gone viral, and what's exciting about this is that it preaches human rights – something for which raising awareness is truly worthwhile. And although it's exciting, there is a fear factor associated with just how quickly these viral campaigns can alter society's views. Our job is to be well-informed so that we can decide which seat to take.
When you hear about something exciting and inspiring, such as KONY 2012, I encourage you to spread the message among your peers. But before doing so, I urge you to try your hand at playing the devil's advocate. Research opposing views. Question the legitimacy of the information you acquire. Do whatever you have to do to hear more than one side of the story. Then, form your own opinions. It's easy to be swayed by powerful campaigns, especially those that appeal to social media channels. But keep in mind that you do not have to succumb to the extreme influences of persuasive opinions.
For example, instead of fully supporting KONY 2012 or its critics, I support a combination of views. I believe that it's critical for light to be shed upon the corruption that exists. I don't think making Kony famous is the most effective way of doing so for a few reasons, but I think it is a viable strategy nonetheless. That said, the environmentalist in me also feels that given the power of the online campaign, "[covering] the night" with posters that will eventually be torn down is an unnecessary use of resources and time. But this is my opinion, and I formed it by questioning the legitimacy of the information my Facebook news feed fed to me.
At the end of the day, I feel inspired by the power of the Internet and simultaneously determined to do whatever I can to ensure this power is not abused. It is a luxury to have such vast channels of information at our fingertips; it is a responsibility to navigate these channels with an open mind topped with a critical thinking cap, if I may revert to childhood metaphors. If you agree with me, that's cool. If not, that's cool too – so long as you've done your own research and formed your own opinions accordingly.