Kony 2012 fails to be famous
The viral online campaign to cover the streets of cities worldwide with the images of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony concluded in an almighty anti-climax last Friday night.
Kony posters in Leeds City Centre scarcely reached double figures – only the occasional red beacon served as a reminder of the campaign that Leeds had appeared to have forgotten.
Over 7,000 activists were expected to turn up in town between midnight and 3am on April 20 to literally paint the town red.
But Leeds Student saw only a few dedicated activists, confused by the colossal loss of interest in the cause and the poor turnout on the night. One onlooker reported seeing only two participants.
The City Council, in anticipation of what promised to be the largest protest of the year, toured the City Centre in order to remove illegally affixed ‘KONY 2012’ posters. Rather sheepishly, Council spokesmen have admitted that they “didn’t actually come across anyone in the act” and that the scale of the event was “considerably less than we had anticipated.”
Though aware of the Kony campaign, police patrolling the streets seemed to be more occupied with the normal drunken misconduct that takes place on a Friday night in Leeds.
Described as “an experiment”, the ‘KONY 2012’ video was a paramount example of how, today, online trending quickly converts into real life politics.
Participants were asked on Facebook to plaster the streets of cities across the world, with posters, banners and murals of the guerrilla leader to spur political movement and to lobby governments to focus on his capture.
Invisible Children, the American charity that produced the video, appealed to young people through social media.
The slickly edited 29 minute video became the most rapidly spreading viral phenomenon in YouTube’s history, receiving over 70 million views in five days.
Yet almost as quickly the video suffered a vicious backlash of cynicism, as bloggers the world over criticised both its simplification of complex African issues and the conduct of the charity itself.
Speaking to Leeds Student, International Politics professor Clive Jones expressed his concern over the “dangerous” ideas of the video: “the concepts of ‘justice’ in the KONY 2012 campaign are very black and white, when in reality there are so many shades of grey. The video assumes Joseph Kony’s guilt before any hearing has taken place, thus prejudicing the whole process of a fair trial. It’s very easy to reduce the complexities of any conflict to that of a single hate figure, but in reality the situation is always more convoluted. Some say that politics is about the struggle between good and evil. I only wish it were that simple.”
The silence of the campaign onApril 20 spoke volumes but managed only to make the pages of one national newspaper the next day.
Whether this was a case of unanimous disagreement with the cause or a prime example of the demise of another online fad, the Kony campaign leaves little behind but a few torn poster fragments and a sense of embarrassment.