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The Kony 2012 Phenomenon

You’ve all heard about it by now. It’s the social experiment that’s spreading like wildfire worldwide. The Kony 2012 movement began with a 30 minute video  posted online earlier this week and has become one of the fastest spreading social campaigns in the history of the Web. With more then 38 million views on the video, the organization Invisible Children has gotten their name and mission out to almost everyone within an arm’s reach of the Internet.  

However, there is a great deal of skepticism over the legitimacy of the organization, Invisible Children. In fact, according to a U.S. based charity evaluator, the organization only receives two stars out of four in the categories of “accountability and transparency”. This is partly because Invisible Children has only four board members, as opposed to the usual five. Also, critics are questioning if a movement like this is even able to solve any of the large issues that Uganda has. There is an immense amount of political corruption in the country, including on the side of Uganda’s security forces. The LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) has been accused of worse abuses than the government, but the country’s military has also used children to fight as warlords in the army. Kony has abducted and forced around 66,000 children to fight in the past two decades alone. The question is, is this issue to large for this organization and movement? A critic blog called “Visible Children” said, “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”.            

Of course, with a movement this large, there are bound to be skeptics. People question the validity of this sudden surge to help the Ugandan children who are forced to become warlords and sex slaves. This is not by any means, a new issue. Children in the African state have been forced into these armies for years. The main criticism, however, is the fact that the organization has provided such a simple cure to such a demon of an issue. Also, critics question the percentage of funds that are going directly to the cause, and not just towards the efforts put into the project.

The cause of this mission is unlike any other philanthropic cause. The main point is not about the money. It’s about awareness. It’s about getting the name of the leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, out there. It’s about “making him famous”. The idea is to bring so much negative attention to this man, that the idea that he needs to be stopped cannot be ignored. The movement is one hundred percent through the efforts of the people. The focus is on using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to share the video and bring this situation to light to not only the public, but important policymakers as well. The filmmaker and creator of the suddenly famous documentary hopes to use the Internet as a tool to allow this issue to blow up everywhere.

The public has certainly responded. The Invisible Children Facebook page has more than 2 million likes. Newsfeeds and timelines are filled with video “shares” and “retweets” by celebrities, college kids and the general public. Celebrities like Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift and George Clooney are on board to help Invisible Children, as well as a number of policymakers that can really make a difference. George Clooney said, “I’d like indicted war criminals to enjoy the same level of celebrity as me. That seems fair.”

There are plenty of ways to support Invisible Children beyond posting the video on your Facebook page. If you go to the Kony2012 webpage you can sign the pledge to “help bring Kony to justice in 2012”. Also, there is merchandise that you can purchase, and the funds will go to Invisible Children. There is a Kony 2012 Action Kit, which includes a t-shirt, bracelets, and a number of posters and stickers. At midnight on April 20th, there is going to be a mass movement in all of the major cities in the United States. Posters will be hung everywhere, to the point where you will not be able to get the image of this awful man out of your mind.

This is a movement that could quite possibly make history. If this is pulled off, an age of virtual-obsessed young people will have helped set a precedent for international justice. It’s a phenomenon that simply cannot be ignored. I’ve pledged to stop Kony, have you?

Rachel is a senior at Hofstra University where she majors in journalism with minors in fine arts photography and creative writing. The Rochester, NY native is involved in several organizations on campus including the Hofstra chapters of Ed2010 and She's the First. She is also an RA in a freshman residence hall. Rachel has interned at College Lifestyles, Cosmopolitan, The Knot Magazine, and is now interning at Us Weekly. She hopes to someday fulfill her dreams of being an editor at a magazine. Until then, she is a dreamer, a wanderlust and a lover of haikus. Follow her on Twitter for silly and sarcastic tidbits @rcrocetti!
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