The social media IR story of the week was without doubt KONY2012, the 25 minute-long video produced by the NGO Invisible Children to draw attention to the use of child soldiers by the Lord’s Resistance Army in the conflict in northern Uganda. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying it has been a truly remarkable example of viral marketing. In the space of less than a week it was viewed by 112 million people. It prompted a KONY2012 drinking game and even Shane Warne tweeted about it!
What does any of this actually mean? How should we judge the work of Invisible Children? Have they succeeded in their mission simply by raising awareness of the war in Uganda? Or have they perpetuated a myth of a helpless child-like Africa, dependent on the assistance of the white, liberal, rich world to save itself? Do they send a message that the conflict can best be simply solved through military means, or that “saving Africa” can be done one wrist band at a time? Even if you think it’s well-intentioned, does Invisible Children actually make more difficult the work of people on the ground who have to deal with the LRA and the Ugandan government?
Did you get bombarded with KONY2012 stuff this week? What did YOU think? What does KONY2012 say (if anything) about the way the international agenda is shaped? How does it frame the conflict and the range of possible responses? I’ll keep my own views to myself for the time being, but must say I thought this particular Invisible Children Glee-inspired video was a crime against humanity all of its own.