Invisible Children’s Joseph Kony 2012 Video Goes Viral
‘Stop Kony’ video puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord
Originally published March 8, 2012 at 8:38 a.m., updated March 8, 2012 at 2:27 p.m.
We talk to San Diego-based Invisible Children about their online campaign and criticism about their organization
Chris Carver, Chief Operating Officer, Invisible Children
Rebecca Nee, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Media, SDSU
Invisible Children Financial Statements
As a local advocacy group’s viral video, “Kony2012” about the leader of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army, continues to spread across the Internet, the nonprofit has come under some criticism.
Writers at TheAtlantic.com said the video made by Invisible Children “has turned the myopic worldview of the adolescent – ‘if I don't know about it, then it doesn't exist, but if I care about it, then it is the most important thing in the world’ – into a foreign policy prescription.”
But Chris Carver, the chief operating officer of Invisible Children, said sparking awareness in young people is the point.
“First and foremost, you can change the world,” he told KPBS Television’s “Evening Edition.” “I think young students, young people get that. They get it more than ever because they are connected, they’re connected throughout the world.
“What you can do is you can continue to put a positive political push, positive momentum, awareness towards this, so our political leaders, whether it’s in the United States or around the world, will continue to go after him, abduct, capture Joseph Kony, so we can actually see his trial put on at the International Criminal Court, so that will be an example for future criminals like him.”
The group's 30-minute video, which was released Monday, had almost 40 million views on YouTube by Thursday. The movie is part of an effort called KONY 2012 that targets Kony and the LRA.
Kony is wanted for atrocities by the International Criminal Court and is being hunted by 100 U.S. Special Forces advisers and local troops in four Central African countries.
Experts estimate that the LRA now has only about 250 fighters. Still, the militia abducts children, forcing them to serve as soldiers or sex slaves, and even to kill their parents or each other to survive. The LRA now operates in Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
Uganda, Invisible Children and #stopkony were among the top 10 trending terms on Twitter among both the worldwide and U.S. audience on Wednesday night, ranking higher than "New iPad" or "Peyton Manning." Twitter's top trends more commonly include celebrities than fugitive militants.
Carver said before the video there was “no political interest, no economic interest to stop him or anything that’s supporting him,” which is why his group made the video.
“It’s a matter of putting more pressure on our political leaders to go after what we think is important, and what is important is no child should live in fear of their life,” he said. “What’s happening is that young students who may not be able to vote now have a voice, and they can use that voice to tell their political leaders there is something we can do. That’s what we’re explaining, that’s what’s resonating with students, with young people.”
While Carver told “Evening Edition” he knows there are many issues to focus on, his group has chosen this one because Kony’s atrocities have gone on for so long.
“What we’re saying is when there is no political interest, no economic interest and something like this has gone on for so long, it needs to be stopped,” he said.
Ben Keesey, Invisible Children's 28-year-old chief executive officer, said the viral success shows their message resonates and that viewers feel empowered to force change.
The burst of attention has also brought with it some criticism of Invisible Children's work, including the ratio of the group's spending on direct aid, its rating by the site Charity Navigator and a 2008 photo of three Invisible Children members holding guns alongside troops from the Sudan Liberation Army.
Invisible Children posted rebuttals to the criticism on its website, saying that it has spent about 80 percent of its funds on programs that further its mission, about 16 percent on administration and management and about 3 percent on fundraising. The group said its accountability and transparency score is currently low because it has four independent voting members on its board of directors and not five, but that it is seeking to add a fifth. The group said the three workers in the photo thought it would be a good "joke" photo for family and friends.
Host Joanne Faryon asked Carver if, now that his group has garnered so much interest and power, they are worried about choosing their alignments.
“We need to work with all organizations that are focused on this issue, because each one has different pieces of the puzzle, different pieces of information,” he said. “If pundits want to use the word ‘align,’ then I think the fair thing is we are talking with or aligning ourselves with all organizations that are focused on trying to solve this one problem.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.