Tag Archives: kony

KONY2012’s ‘Cover The Night’ One Year Later: Remember Joseph Kony?

20 Apr

One year ago today thousands of activists, most quite young, plastered America with posters and the contents of ready made ‘action kits’ in solidarity with an organization called Invisible Children….

If you know what I’m talking about right now, great.  If you do not you are helping to prove one of the points I am trying to make.

The ‘Story’

IC (Invisible Children) makes a thirty minute ‘humanitarian’ film about warlord Joseph Kony and how we (the US military) need to catch him–and goes on to discuss how ‘we the people’ can make that happen…

The video goes ABSOLUTELY VIRAL like nothing of it’s type had before or has since…getting over 200,000,000 views in just a few weeks (perspective: that is a little less than two thirds of America watching this youtube/vimeo video at least once).  So, some crazy things happen with IC (I do not want to get into the politics of NGO’s or the particulars of that organization), but the video becomes a ‘cause célèbre’ of sorts, particularly high school aged youth.  The whole thing culminates in an advocacy campaign called ‘Cover the Night’. CtN was then intended to be the start of a larger ‘movement’ campaign aimed at Congress, who, it was hoped, would eventually be pressured by concerned constituents (letter writing, legislative/judicial routes, etc.) to send American soldiers to go hunt him down (we already had advisors at the team, but we are talking ground troops)….


The Idea (Dust?)Bin

Perhaps not so slowly, most people seem to have forgotten about the entire endeavor.  Even when I get into detail it’s tough to coax it from people’s memories, only 365 days after the event that was sort of the starting point for my whole thesis.  The video was the  last most people ever heard of any of it while others tagged along a bit longer, but it honestly is almost like it never happened.

The recent trend to display signs of solidarity while the Supreme Court was deciding on gay marriage comes to mind as something similar…Facebook was awash with red and pink for three days, could be seen speckled about various profile pictures a week later, and shortly after that remained largely only for the LBGTQ community and particularly committed Allies.  It is amazing (and curious), some the world events that shake us and we never forget, while others of arguably similar or even more importance pass through the mind and current events and wind up (to use a quote from Leon Trotsky) in “the dustbin of history”.

This all, makes me at least, a stronger believer that the leap from advocacy to activism is one that very few people take, and that our collective memory is quite short, considering the unparalleled success of intitial IC campaign. The iconic campaign posters are still found in the odd alley (I saw one last month that had managed to survive the brutal New England winter), occasionally you see a sticker on a lamp post.  It also says a few things about social movements structurally, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

A Few Fundamentals

In order to understand the fate of this particular movement one must first break down the idea of a ‘social movement’.

Basically, it can be argued that social movements are groups of people united by a similar cause that has social roots and can (theoretically) be resolved, reversed, slowed down, etc. using social means. The overarching goal of social movements and advocacy work is, essentially, to change the status quo.  This change/goal-oriented group behavior is what allows groups like the Black Panthers, Westboro Baptist Church, The (post-Soviet) Communist Party, and Doctors Without Borders to be  classified in the same broad group despite the huge differences between them.

However, all social movements are not the same.  Most take one one of two forms(or a mix of both, in organizations such as the union UNITE HERE!)

First, there can be a direct challenge to the system, government, institution etc. that people wish to see change.  Often their tactics work from outside of the functioning sociopolitical realm (I would characterize this realm as an institutionalized version of Mills’ Power Elite) and therefore they often find themselves far from the ‘appropriate channels’ to get things done in contemporary America.  The initial Occupy Wall Street movement is a great example of this.

Invisible Children, and it’s KONY2012 campaign are of the latter kind.  Most NGO’s and in fact most activists can be put into this category.  These are the groups and individuals that work ‘inside the system’–lobbying, starting petitions, getting ideas turned into bills that make it to the floor of the Senate and House chambers and often using institutional leverage to create impact.  The Human Rights Campaign, the NRA, and the Audubon Society represent good examples of this type of movement towards change.

I wonder how baking cookies to donate to breast cancer research would fit into this?  I suppose it doesn’t really, and therefore this needs flushed out quite a bit and perhaps qualified the politicized nature of the things I am looking at.

(Please do not get me wrong, I am not trying to say that outside pressure is not an effective means of social progress, though one could argue that the NRA is fairing much better than OWS at the moment.  In fact I would argue that in the ‘big picture’ outside pressure is by far the more important of the two types of activism.  I also tend to think of the world in terms of grandiose systems, so to me politics are usually subservient to other forces.)  This also has a great deal to do with traditional organizational models and resource mobilization…but that is another matter for another time.

So Where Is Kony and Why Does It Matter?

Well, they always say ‘the proof is in the pudding’.

KONY2012 was an incredible moment for organized advocacy…and despite going out with a sputter… recent events have shown that it may have been a partial success after all.Several weeks ago the Central African Republic suspended it’s manhunt for Kony.  The next day the United States issued a declaration putting a $5,000,000 bounty out on him. But bear in mind that it is the US that oversaw the forces pulling out…bittersweet?  Here is a quick article on the recent developments.


As an organization working within the pluralistic  model (i.e. inside the system–I just don’t feel like saying that over and over), it showed how quickly movements of the type can be influential once they have gained some real internal or external clout like the current climate for the marriage equality which has been decades in the making.

After a years worth of reflection, this series of events has turned out to be a great case study in virtual advocacy…and it gives this author some confidence that there is a future for others like it.

OH… and if you were wondering where to find Kony and earn a quick five mil, you can probably find him somewhere in the CAR, South Sudan, or the DRC…but honestly nobody really has any idea.

I tricked you! Ha.

It took ten years to track down Osama Bin Laden…and one can only imagine how much more intense that search was by those in power.

Sorry it’s been so long.  Take care y’all.

Coming back around…

24 Sep

Well, after entirely too long (for the sake of this project at least) I have finally emerged from the woods back into the land of cellphones and wireless internet.  I’ve been doing a lot of work on Habermas and the development of the ‘analog’ Western public sphere.  Since KONY we have seen myriad other examples of the growing importance of social media as an element of electronic media (particularly in light of the upcoming US election), and the impact it is having on global consciousness and massive demonstrations around the world.  I’ve much to do, and will be writing more intensely in the coming week, but after a summer of consideration I believe that my work is going to expand beyond KONY2012 to other case studies and a broader theoretical framework, with attempts to reconcile theories on identity and collective action in the analog era with a new form of diffusing information, devoid of the time and space that has historically kept areas around the globe from connecting with and understanding one another.

The site has just under 6,000 hits of which only about 1/3 are American, while visitors have made their way to the site from nearly one hundred other nations.  It now shows up regularly on google, which apparently uses traffic density as a means to determine which sites best fit certain searches.  This hands on research is teaching me a good deal about time/space compression and amazes me as I sit here in Vermont, US knowing that these words will be read all over the world.  In the last week I have had visitors (mainly through searches) from places such as Indonesia, Spain, Kenya, and the Russian Federation, as well as others.

Geographic map of hits for the blog, supporting the idea that the world is growing ever smaller and that this may allow national differences to be set aside in favor of over-arching humanistic ideals:

Density not accounted for

Basic geographic data, please inquire for numeric details though they are likely forthcoming anyways.

An alternative way to view the cyber geography of this project.

A Dead Campaign?

9 May

Roughly two months after the release of the KONY2012 video and the tremendous uproar that followed, it is pretty safe to say that the movement is dead.  ‘Cover the Night’ seemed a bust by most accounts and for the most part the press and the public have already let Joseph Kony slip off of the main stage and back into the recesses of our collective memory.  It actually reminds me of an excerpt from a novel by Milan Kundera:

“The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion in Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Allende drowned out the groans of Banlgladesh, the war in the Sinai Desert made people forget about Allende, the Cambodian massacre made people forget about Sinai, and so on and so forth until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten.”  (The Book of Laughter and Forgetting)

This outcome, then, is typical in some ways while retaining a unique status in others.  From an academic perspective this a positive outcome, insofar as much can be learned from it.  When 120,000,000 people around the world watch a film with a proactive message–a film that for all of its problems (and there are many) generated a global conversation–and no more than a few thousand people actually hit the streets  for the ‘real activism’, that is sending a strong message about the way we see ourselves and others we share the planet with.  Thus in my mind, KONY2012 has already more or less reached its end point, and now one can begin to paint a picture of what all really took place, and begin to speculate about more identity based, sociological thoughts.

My first task at this point, however, is to get past all of the media sensationalism and government opacity and try to understand the history and current standing of all of the important actors in the area and concerning KONY2012.  This will cover groups like the LRA, the Museveni government, Sudanese rebels, The US armed forces, Invisible Children and a few other large NGO’s, etc etc.

So begins a fact finding mission to figure out who exactly has interactions with the LRA and what their role has been such that the actions of all the actors culminated in the mega viral KONY2012  movie and flash ‘movement’.  Then comes the fun stuff.

I have been unable to track down any reliable statistics on ‘Cover the Night’ or how much IC made from its ‘action kits’.  If anyone happens to know either of these figures please let me know as they are both very significant.

Brief thoughts on ‘cover the night’ 4/20

26 Apr

I haven’t had a chance to look into how effective a mobilization of Cover the Night actually turned out to be, here in the US and abroad.

However, I have had the chance to read some news reporting on it and I discovered one very strong trend–in every large city (in the US at least) the event was downplayed as being less than a nuisance and completely ineffective. (I don’t know if that is true yet, but fine NYT I’ll take you on your word on it for now). When you start looking at news outside of the cities, though, the framing changes dramatically. In small cities all across the country the local news almost universally talked about how large the impact of the evening had been and in some places, even put a positive spin on the campaign (even in places you wouldn’t suspect, like Georgia!) Now is this a reflection of cities trying to keep an already gregarious population in the dark about mass actions? Or just small towns making big stories out of little things because, (hell I came from a small town and) there isn’t much to talk about? Or is it actually the case that the event was more highly saturated, publicized and successful in the country than the cities?

I’ve also heard a number of different stories about how the people in Uganda themselves have been reacting the to documentary and mobilization, though a lot of it has been negative and this too can be seen through their news.

Guardian, UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/21/kony-2012-campaign-uganda-warlord

SeattlePi.com: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Kony-2012-s-Cover-the-Night-continues-despite-3499509.php
(despite optimistic title it goes on to describe how only a ‘few dozen activists’ took part in the night)

AM 610 KCSR, Nebraska:http://www.chadrad.com/newsstory.cfm?story=24403

WFLI 18, Delphi, Indiana: http://www.wlfi.com/dpp/news/local/area-teens-cover-the-night-for-kony-2012

WMGT 41, Georgia: http://www.41nbc.com/news/local-news/11786-kony-2012-cover-the-night-campign-moves-into-middle-georgia

Daily Monitor, Uganda:http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1387926/-/aw2cd3z/-/index.html

Demographics of This Site (and other various and sundry thoughts of the day), 19 April

19 Apr Map of Countries This Blog Has Been To

As of 3PM today I have had 714 visits to my blog from the countries shown above, roughly one quarter of the nations recognized by the UN.  Here is how some of that breaks down:

United States 512
United Kingdom 45
Canada 41
Australia 11
Switzerland 10
Netherlands 8
Mexico 7
Turkey 6
Japan 5
Belgium 5
Portugal 4
Ireland 4
Sweden 4
Hong Kong* 3
Singapore* 3
Denmark 3
France 3
India 2
Finland 2
Lebanon 2
Israel 2
Spain 2
Brazil 2
Romania 2
Argentina 2
Norway 2
Ecuador 1
China 1
Thailand 1
Peru 1
Puerto Rico* 1
New Zealand 1
Philippines 1
Panama 1
Pakistan 1
Honduras 1
Latvia 1
South Africa 1
Austria 1
Egypt 1
Morocco 1
Chile 1
Poland 1
Costa Rica 1

Of the total 714, seventy two percent were American, meaning twenty eight percent came from abroad.

However, if you create a subset for the “Anglo” countries (US, UK, AU, CA–which happen to be the top four on the list), we find that it makes up for eighty five percent of traffic, leaving only fifteen percent (or 105 visits) ‘foreign’ in the broader sense.  Still I am learning a great deal about the inner workings of social media and effective methods for disseminating information.  I haven’t posted much about actual events yet, as I am still waiting a bit to see how things shake out in the next thirty days or so.  I will, however, discuss ‘Cover the Night’ and the facts and opinions that derive from it.

I will also start discussing the geopolitical history and situation in Central Africa with detail, in order to understand exactly what may or may not be going on and who the beneficiaries are.

Tomorrow is ‘Cover the Night’!  Even if you didn’t buy an ‘action kit’ (which infuriates me…something for a later rant)–make a poster, picket for an hour, get attention–do something!  Prove that when 100 million people watch a video about humanitarian justice and corruption they will make some sort of effort to voice their concerns!!!


The first day of the rest of my thesis, an adventure into academia and madness.

11 Mar

So, I have a thesis proposal due in like four days that I’ll be spending a year writing.  I had everything all planned out…”Economic globalization, the Neoliberal revolution, and the American worker”.  A fun little adventure into describing an era, which in many ways, has proven to be pretty lousy for the past 30 years or so.  Then came the KONY 2012 video.  With a base in sociology, this incredibly sudden, youth driven global movement caught my eye as something far more interesting…I guess my initial argument is that we’ve seen something unprecedented in the past week, and that it may be a step towards understanding how people may start to organize in the future and where that could take us, particularly in terms of collective action (which will be demonstrated by the KONY movement around the globe on 4/20 according to Invisible Children). Analyzed for a while, watching the movement develop as a global humanitarian/political force may also say a great deal about changes in self-identification between the analog and digital generations, and where they place themselves in the world…I’ve also got a half assed theoretic framework in which to base where I’m coming from the issue in it’s totality.

In the last two days I’ve grown so interested that I started to analyze the numerical, demographic, and geographic structure of the video’s views on Youtube.  I then started comparing it to other videos…pop singers/culture from around the world; various political issues; international sports; the all-time top hits on Youtube; videos with about the same number of hits as KONY (as of this morning); video criticisms of the KONY documentary; other activism related videos; other videos that have been introduced in the past week and received large audiences; and videos that have been around for a long time but have had few hits (in order to try and understand how the mapping process works, which I’m still trying to understand, but, after seeing videos stats that have been flatlined for years and still high density in certain countries, leads me to believe that the KONY map is indeed accurate).  I still have about 20 to do before the pattern really becomes clear, but this is the first set of data I’ve put together in the past 24 hours.  The one’s I haven’t yet put up reinforce the pattern I discern even more clearly, covers more categories, time frames, youth hits, and gives one a pretty good idea what the charts (particularly the map) say about the global spread (or lack thereof) of knowledge, and that nothing except maybe the official song for FIFA 2010 comes anywhere close.

Youtube Video Comparisons (more coming soon)

Good Idea/Bad Idea?

I’m looking for feedback as to whether anyone else sees the same pattern I do which makes the KONY 2012 video unique and important, as well as questions and criticisms of this very crude analysis.  It’ll take less than five minutes to run through the charts, and even the shortest of feedback would be great.

AND PLEASE! If you think people in your network would find this the least bit interesting please SHARE IT on Facebook and Twitter.  If I can get just TWENTY people to share this and they each have networks of 200-1000 (that contain at least a few people who might be interested in this) I might be able to get enough perspectives on the idea, or at least a larger set of data on how this (my) information does or does not get noticed by anybody.  Thank you!

I’ll update ASAP (so many crazy things have happened this week that it’s taking a bit to digest) with larger a better organized comparison chart, data on social networking among the youth as a source of news, as well as continuing to make sense of a seemingly anomalous global dissemination of information from the grassroots level, rather than governments or news corporations.