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KONY 2012

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I hadn’t even heard of Kony 2012 until my inbox started to be flooded with requests for me to say something about it. Interestingly, no one wrote to say, “You need to support this!” Rather, people wrote to say, “What are we supposed to think about this?” The campaign has exploded into the international consciousness and it is demanding of us some kind of response. So what do we do?

Here is my take on it: Just wait and catch your breath. Breathe. Count to 100. Or 100,000.

Kony 2012 is a campaign put together by Invisible Children, a social activisim organization that seeks to bring peace and stability to Uganda. They released a film in 2004 and just recently began this new campaign designed to destroy one of the worst criminals in the world. Wikipedia offers some useful background.

After the film, Invisible Children Inc initiated a successful campaign, petitioning the United States Government for support. Invisible Children Inc in 2012 started a social media campaign to garner support and awareness of the LRA and Joseph Kony. The campaign focuses on the website that features a roughly 30 minute video and sharing tools, and a plan for encouraging activism and bringing public awareness for the end goal of capturing Kony in 2012. The 30 minute video was uploaded to YouTube on the March 5, 2012 and went viral immediately. After three days, the video received over 38 million hits on YouTube. As part of the campaign, 20 celebrity “Culturemakers” and 12 Policy makers were targeted as individuals to pressure to publicize the campaign. Among those targeted were Mark Zuckerburg, Lady GaGa, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and Harry Reid. The singer Rhianna has tweeted about the issue.

This is a campaign designed to take advantage of the power of social media. What’s more, it is working to perfection, at least when it comes to the way it is spreading. There are several terms related to this campaign that are trending on Twitter and the YouTube video has almost 53 million views so far, quickly making it one of their most popular videos of all-time. It is all over Facebook and now all over the mainstream media as well.

Social media campaigns tend to be dependent on one thing more than any other: speed. Do not think about it, just do it! Don’t get the facts, don’t wait a few days to consider it, don’t ask someone who knows more–just click Tweet or Share or Post or whatever else it is that will spread the word. We’re all in this together, we need your vote, we need it now! Go! Go! Go!

Still, we tend to react by clicking first and thinking later.

Added to the need for speed is our own ignorance. I have trouble enough keeping up with politics here in Canada. When it comes to politics in Uganda and nearby countries I really have no knowledge at all beyond a very few bits and pieces gleaned from videos like Invisible Children. The same is probably true of you. This is not to say that Joseph Kony is actually a good person who has been misunderstood, but simply that you and I know almost nothing of what is really going on over there. Still, we tend to react by clicking first and thinking later.

So again, here is my advice. Just breathe. Stop and think. You can jump on Twitter and Facebook and press all of your friends and followers to do something. But don’t you think it would be better to first stop, to research, to read, to get the facts? What harm can come by waiting a few days?

Meanwhile, read an article like this one and wait for other informed opinions and editorials. They will come and they will tell us if this really is the best way to destroy a criminal and bring hope to a nation. Breathe.

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