By MELISSA SOLAZZO
The Kony 2012 campaign swept the world of social media on March 5.
A video called Kony 2012 was posted on YouTube by Invisible Children Inc. that day. After 25 days the video has received over 104 million views; 1.3 million people who viewed the video ‘liked’ it and 144,000 people ‘disliked’ it. It is evident there are mixed responses to this campaign.
Director and co-founder of Invisible Children Inc., Jason Russell, 33, explains at the beginning of the film his reason for posting the video on the Internet was to help build awareness about Joseph Kony, who is a rebel leader in Africa.
“Social media is changing the way this world works,” says Russell.
Nine years ago, Russell and a few friends visited Uganda, where they first learned about Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). They made a promise to a young Ugandan boy named Jacob. Russell promised to “stop the [LRA].”
The organization plans on doing this by “making Kony famous.” To do this, they are getting 20 “culture makers” and 12 “policy makers” on board with the campaign to help build awareness.
According to the Invisible Children Inc. website, the organization became official in 2006 and its mission is to “use film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity.”
The Invisible Children missionaries have built schools, created jobs and built early warning radio networks in Uganda to help protect them from any other rebel attacks.
In the film, Russell says the goal of the campaign is to stop and arrest Kony and the LRA before Dec. 31, 2012.
Russell claims Kony is No. 1 on the International Criminal Court’s most wanted list. According to the video, Kony has been abducting children for 26 years into his rebel group, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into child soldiers and making them mutilate people’s faces and kill their parents.
Invisible Children Inc., which displays its financial reports on the website, states that 80.46 per cent of earnings are spent on programs that further the mission, while 16.4 per cent is spent on administration and management costs and 3.22 per cent is spent on direct fundraising.
Although the LRA is only in Africa, it has captured the interest of millions of people worldwide, including people in the Niagara region.
Dorita Pentesco, 42, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, is the manager of marketing and new media at Niagara College. She says she first viewed the video about three weeks ago. Pentesco says the thought of children being forced to be soldiers is a “concern and a tragedy.”
Pentesco says that from a marketing perspective, the campaign was successful at drawing widespread attention to the issue at hand, but “it would have been better to see the video and the campaign more focused on the children and the victims rather than Joseph Kony.”
Prior to watching the YouTube video, Pentesco says she had never heard of Kony. After watching it Pentesco says, “The film maker shot in such a way to really grab the interest of the viewer [but] now in seeing further articles about this issue, [I do] agree that the video did gloss over and omit facts.”
“This is disappointing, considering the seriousness of the issue.”
Pentesco says using the cyber world was a good choice to get the word out about the campaign because social media is “definitely where the people are.”
“I wouldn’t be inclined to say that it’s a [cyber] phenomenon.”
Pentesco says the many negative media stories that have surfaced after the launch of the campaign will make it more challenging to keep their own message “front and centre and not clouded.”
Pentesco says using social media was a good approach because, although more traditional methods of marketing would have worked, it would have cost a lot more money and required much more time.
Sabine Dunac, 23, of Ottawa, is a graduate of the Niagara College Journalism program. She believes taking advantage of social media to get the word out about the issue was a smart idea. “It’s a huge stepping-stone for the world and social media to come together to revolutionize the way we see the world.” Dunac says the Kony campiagn isn’t perfect, but “we can learn from their mistakes and use it as a blueprint for other causes.”
Megan Spencer, 22, of Fort Erie, is a student at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus in the Human Resource Management Graduate Certificate program. She watched the video on March 6.
Spencer says her initial reaction was to repost it on her Facebook and Twitter sites and email the video to her friends and family.
Spencer says she purchased the Kony Action Kit for $30 shortly after watching the video and watching trends in Canada and worldwide “skyrocket with tweets about Kony 2012.”
“I believe this campaign gives people an easy way to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” says Spencer.
She adds she plans to take part in the movement on April 20 to “paint the town with Kony’s face.” Spencer has never participated in any other social movement before this one.
She says she hasn’t heard much about the campaign on campus since the day after she reposted it, but she did discuss the campaign with some of her classmates.
“I do believe it is a great cause but, unfortunately, there are too many skeptics that will pick apart any cause because of its flaws.”
Spencer says she thinks Russell and the Invisible Children Inc., made the world’s social media users aware of the unfortunate wars that are taking part in Africa, a result that was the idea.
“It may not be a perfect campaign, but we need to start somewhere to make a difference.”
Selena Landry, 21, of Sioux Lookout, Ont., is a student in the Event Management Graduate Certificate program at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus. After watching the video a few weeks ago, Landry says, “People should not have to be given guns and forced to kill people, children or not.”
Landry says she was initially intrigued because she did not realize there was something people could do to help stop the crimes and killings.
“When I think about Kony and the child soldiers, I feel bad for the families Kony has hurt and made suffer.”
Landry says she did not purchase an Action Kit because, after doing some research about the Invisible Children Inc., “a few fishy items were brought to my attention.” Some of them, Landry said, she discovered were that there is oil in Uganda and it is possible that American and Chinese companies might want “to get their hands on” it. Another thing that stood out to Landry was “[Russell] tells his four-year-old son how Kony killed and mutilated children, and a four-year-old should never be subjected to such horrors. It’s appalling and irresponsible.”
“I do think these children need help and I support the movement, but there is always going to be some negative feedback when you release a video like this,” says Landry.
She says the campaign will be a success to “make Kony famous” and believes many people will participate in the movement on April 20 because “they have tugged on the emotional strings of many people, which is a great way to get people involved.”
For more information on the Kony 2012 campaign and to watch the video go to www.kony2012.com.
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