Mar 18, 2012

Invisible Kony: A Noble Cause Or A Marketing Campaign?

Unless you have been living in a cocoon in the past few days, or have just woke up from hibernation, you must have heard of the viral "Stop Kony" campaign, and must have watched its 30 minutes short movie on YouTube. This article's goal is to raise awareness about the inaccurate and misleading aspects of the campaign. So if you haven't watched the movie, you can safely stop reading now.

Frankly, I didn't watched the movie until a few days ago. I'm a bit resistant to everything viral. But when I finally watched it, I immediately felt that there was something wrong. Hence, here I am writing this post to help you become more conscious about how you should respond to viral campaigns, especially online.
"Kony 2012 is a film created by Invisible Children, Inc. The film's purpose is to promote the charity's 'Stop Kony' movement to make indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony internationally known in order to arrest him in 2012. 
The film has spread virally. As of 17 March 2012, the film had over 80 million views on video-sharing website YouTube, and over 16.6 million views on Vimeo. [...] On April 20, 2012, as part of the campaign, supporters will put up posters promoting Kony 2012 in their hometowns. Invisible Children offers posters from an online shop in an attempt to gain wider recognition. They have also created action kits to help spread awareness that include campaign buttons, posters, bracelets, and stickers." Wikipedia

Invisible Children or Invisible Kony?

In what follows I'll be presenting quotes and pictures from the movie and making short comments on each part.

The movie starts with citing a key fact:
"Right now there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago."
Then there's some visual excitation to share the video:

kony visual excitation photo

"The next 27 minutes are an experiment." 

kony 27 minutes counter photo

What kind of experiment? How viral can a video or a campaign go? Or how much money they can make from it?
"But in order for it to work, you have to pay attention." 
Keyword: attention
"And if we succeed, we change the course of human history." 
"In November of 2011, while Kony 2012 was in production, Foreign Affairs magazine published an article stating that several organizations, including Invisible Children, had 'manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders' and was 'portraying Kony – a brutal man, to be sure – as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil'." Wikipedia
"Russell: Joseph Kony, he has an army, okay? And what he does is he takes children from their parents and he gives them a gun to shoot, and he makes them shoot and kill other people. 
Gavin: But they're not going to do what he says because they're nice guys, right?"
The kid said it all...
"For 26 years, Kony has been kidnapping children into his rebel group, the LRA, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into child soldiers. He makes them mutilate people's faces and he forces them to kill their own parents. And this is not just a few children. It's been over 30,000 of them."
kony 30000 kids army photo

"Since the video's release, the campaign has come under criticism for oversimplification of events in the region. While the campaign promotes global activism, it has been criticized for providing a black-and-white picture rather than encouraging the viewers to learn about the situation. One criticism is that the film gives a misleading impression of the whereabouts and magnitude of Kony's remaining LRA forces. Kony's followers are now thought to number only in the hundreds, and Kony himself is believed to be in the Central African Republic rather than Uganda--a fact that receives only a passing mention in the video." Wikipedia
"The only way to stop Kony is to show him we're going to arrest you."
Does that even makes sense???

kony 2012 logo photo

KONY, two syllables, simple and marketable.
"The criminal here is Kony. Stop him and then solve other problems."
Yeah, like the world doesn't have other, MUCH BIGGER, problems to solve... (hint: Al-Assad)
"The problem is 99% of the planet doesn't know who he is. If they knew, Kony would have been stopped long ago."
Again, this doesn't make any sense...
"And they will only know if Kony's name is everywhere."
Marketing much?
"Here's the biggest problem. Do you want to know what it is? He's not famous. He's invisible. Here is how we're going to make him visible. We are going to make Joseph Kony a household name."
"We are targeting 20 culture-makers and 12 policymakers to use their power for good*."
*i.e. marketing
"Everything you need is in a box called the Action Kit."
Priced at $25

(a few dollars a month) * (80M Youtube viewers + 16.6 Vimeo viewers + 3M Facebook likers + 400K Twitter followers + Politicians + Celebrities + Bill Gates) = $$

kony 00 counter photo

The movie ends here, but our investigation isn't over yet!
*feels like an investigator xD*

A look at their twitter account reveals some of their sponsors:

invisible children twitter sponsors photo
Also on Facebook:
invisible children facebook sponsors photo
 They even have their own shop!
invisible children shop facebook photo

But what's driving me crazy is how could they take so many Full HD photos of Joseph Kony but couldn't arrest him?

Kony HD Photos

You be the judge.

Calming Down

Of course, no one can deny that the movie has a good intention beneath many layers of marketing. I'm not saying that Jason Russell is a bad guy, or that Joseph Kony shouldn't be stopped. My intention is to make you conscious about how some "companies" turned this whole thing into a worldwide campaign to make money.
"On March 15, 2012, [...] Russell was held by San Diego police after they received reports that he was running through the streets unclothed. The police said he was not arrested but detained and hospitalized for dehydration, exhaustion and malnutrition. His wife explained that he was adversely affected by criticism of the film, 'because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.'" Wikipedia
This is very sad, I personally believe that Jason had his heart into this cause and the criticism shouldn't be directed to him.

Overall, it is a great movie and if you can watch it without falling to its marketing side, it would be a great tool for motivation and inspiration.

Now before you go back to your daily errands, I just want you to share this post with as many people as you can so we can spread the awareness about this fraud campaign.