‘Kony 2012’: A game-changer for non-profits

As Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russel asserts early on in the non-profit’s recent video, “Kony 2012,”  the rules of the sociopolitical game have changed drastically due to the advent of the Internet and social networks.

The rapid diffusion of “Kony 2012” highlights this observation. With more than 80 million views on Youtube and 12 million on Vimeo, it is probable that “Kony 2012” will be used as a template for organizations looking to replicate Invisible Children’s success.

Although I more than support the spirit of Invisible Children, I’m not sure whether to be encouraged or repulsed by this possibility.

I am no fan of children being conscripted for war and sexual slavery, but as a history major, I could not help but suspect that the conflict was not nearly as simple as it was portrayed in the video.

Being commanded early in the film that “the next 27 minutes are an experiment, but for it to work, you have to pay attention,” I’d expected a bit more content toward which to direct my attention.

An integral scene in the video featured Russel explaining the problem to his young son, Gavin, in a mind-boggling simplified manner. The rhetorical value of this sequence is obvious in its appeal to emotion, however its lack of content forced me to  see it as a metaphor for the shallowness of the video as a whole.

My dissatisfaction with the video led me to wonder why it has had such amazing success, which is evidenced by the fact that their action kits are presently sold out.

While I realize that the smooth graphics and eye-candy draw and maintain the viewer’s attention, part of me couldn’t reconcile the message with the means by which it was being conveyed. I just seem to have a mental barrier that prevents me from associating atrocities in Africa with dubstep and Mumford and Sons.

Rather than entertaining me with catchy music and nice visual effects, I would have preferred for the video to include more content and context for its cause.

The conclusion that I’ve come to is that Invisible Children ingeniously executed “Kony 2012” with its young, Western audience in mind.

We are a generation that has grown up in an advertising-saturated world where we are constantly bombarded with propaganda, as the film itself recognizes.

While I was disillusioned by the way the message is conveyed, the sad reality is that this entertaining, sensationalist approach is what is needed to catch the attention of our generation.

As much as I am bothered by its simplicity, I have to admit that I would be completely oblivious to Kony were it not for this video.

Also in its favor,  it has gotten people talking, inspiring a broader dialogue in which Invisible Children has more than held its own against its critics. I was encouraged to find that the representative who visited our campus had solid answers to the tough questions he was asked.

That said, I can’t help but cringe at the idea that we are being marketed social justice in a way not too dissimilar from how McDonald’s advertises a hamburger.

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Nick Hahn/Copy editor
Nick Hahn can be reached at linfieldreviewopinion@gmail.com

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