Since last we wrote about the massive popularity of the Kony 2012 campaign, the documentary video created by the group Invisible Children has gone on to become the most viral video in history. Focused on the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony, the video reached 100 million views in just six days, beating out Susan Boyle, Lady Gaga, and Rebecca Black.
But that massive viral wave has come with criticism as well as global notoriety. Responses have come from all directions — from the government of Uganda to the leaders of Invisible Children. Moreover, it appears that Jason Russell, the co-founder of Invisible Children and the filmmaker behind the documentary, has cracked under the pressure. He’s been caught on video ranting while taking a naked walk on the streets of San Diego.
Al Jazeera has dedicated a whole section of its website to digging in to the “Kony debate” and issues with the campaign. They’re also requesting feedback from Ugandans about the campaign.
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is among those with a response. He has posted a video in which he praises the world’s citizens for reacting so strongly to the brutality that the video discusses. He says he’s “inspired” but the “innate goodness” of people that’s on display. But he uses the video to stress that Uganda defeated the LRA in 2006 and the group is no longer in the country. He has used his Twitter account to reach out to the celebs identified in the Kony 2012 video (Oprah, Ryan Seacrest, and Rihanna among them) and invited them to visit Uganda. Moreover, he has a hashtag to make his point: #KonyisntinUganda. And for everyone else, he stresses that Uganda is a peaceful and modern nation.
The Ugandan people also have conflicting feelings about the film. In the news story available here, there are some people from the region most directly impacted by the LRA who, like the Prime Minister, can appreciate the sentiment. But on the other hand, the lack of local participation in the film and, therefore, lack of resonance, has caused anger.
Separately, the film has aroused contempt over “slacktivism,” those who support a cause, but only in small ways, or ways that are most convenient to them. Evan Bailyn, writing for The Huffington Post tackles this topic, explaining why even small gestures are important ones.
“It is neither admirable nor fair to rail against people who seek convenient ways to act,” he writes. “…Rather, it is the responsibility of change makers — nonprofit professionals, politicians and concerned citizens — to make it easier for people to take action.”
For their part, Invisible Children says that the critique about Kony having moved on from Uganda is an “unnecessary” one as the film makes clear that the LRA has gone to other countries.
Separately, the near-instant fame has taken a toll on Russell, who is under psychiatric observation because of the aforementioned naked episode. His wife said in a statement: “Let us say up front- that Jason has never had a substance abuse or drinking problem, and this episode wasn’t caused by either of those things. But yes, he did some irrational things brought on by extreme exhaustion.”
The organization’s CEO Ben Keesey has also posted a video response, below, that reasserts the organization’s commitment to the message of the film.
“Our commitments are huge and we are going to see them through,” he says. “That’s what is at stake.”