Critics Come Forward As KONY 2012 Hits 30 Million Views

By Megan O'Neill 

Do you know who Joseph Kony is?  After yesterday you probably do, thanks to KONY 2012—the documentary film about violence in Uganda that went crazy viral yesterday, racking up over 30 million views so far between YouTube and Vimeo.  The film, created by nonprofit group Invisible Children, aims to get the word out about Joseph Kony—who tops the the International Criminal Court’s list of the world’s most dangerous criminals.  KONY 2012 aims to “make Kony famous” to draw attention to the crisis and rally support.  However, KONY 2012 also has its critics.

Mark Kersten, a PhD student in International Relations at the London School of Economics whose work focuses on international criminal justice wrote in a blog post yesterday, “As we speak, one of the most pervasive and successful human rights based viral campaigns in recent memory is underway.  Invisible Children’s ‘Kony 2012’ campaign has taken Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and every other mainstream social media refuge by storm.  In many ways, it is quite impressive.  But there’s one glaring problem: the campaign reflects neither the realities of northern Uganda nor the attitudes of its people.”

While Kersten thinks that “Invisible Children have done a fantastic job in advocating for the rights of northern Ugandans, highlighting the conflict and providing tangible benefits to victims and survivors of LRA brutality,” he thinks that the way they’re going about doing it has some flaws (along with their story about what’s happening in Uganda, as well as their proposed solution).  And Kersten isn’t the only one.

A Tumblr blog called Visible Children has popped up, created by Grant Oyston, a sociology and political science student at Acadia University.  Oyston writes, “I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man.  But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.”  Oyston believes that Uganda “arguably needs action and aid, not awareness.”  He writes, “Is awareness good?  Yes.  But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture.”

Personally, I’m feeling pretty torn about this whole situation.  Like many people, I didn’t know much about what was going on in Uganda before I watched ‘KONY 2012’ and I hadn’t heard of Joseph Kony.  When I saw the video I was inspired to share it and to spread the word and stop Kony!  But then I started seeing the criticism of the campaign and asking myself, wait, was I right to share this?

It’s frustrating because I still don’t know enough about Joseph Kony or the situation in Uganda to form my own opinions about it—like many of the 30 million viewers, all I know is what I’ve heard from KONY 2012, the blog posts from the opposition and Wikipedia.  In this case I’m going to have to say that even if Kersten and Oyston are right and Invisible Children’s solution isn’t an effective one they are still bringing a lot of awareness to a very important cause and while awareness isn’t everything it certainly is important.  But I also agree that this situation brings up some pretty scary and important questions about the way that “truth” is spread online.

If you haven’t seen KONY 2012 yet, watch it below and let us know what you think.  What’s your take on the controversy surrounding this viral film?

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.