KONY 2012

Anatomy of a campaign video and a video campaign

Authored by: Leshu Torchin

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415717397
eBook ISBN: 9781315678863
Adobe ISBN: 9781317392460


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On 5 March 2012, the organisation Invisible Children posted their video Kony 2012 online where it subsequently went viral. The thirty-minute advocacy video received approximately 112 million views in the period of six days, surpassing former records set by Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and even “David After Dentist” (Visible Measures Blog 2012). The video trended on Twitter and Facebook where it was shared and the story reached major international news outlets. The enthusiastic response was followed by an almost equally enthusiastic backlash, as the euphoria generated by possibility of online participation turned to criticism and controversy. It is tempting to critique the campaign for its naive and offensive tropes, its misinformation, its questionable goal of military intervention and its narcissism. It is even tempting to attribute the dissolution of Invisible Children in 2014 to these factors. However, such dismissal might be premature. The oscillation between these two poles of celebration and condemnation – whether in response to the possibilities of online activism or to entertaining advocacy – is a persistent one. But this binary risks obfuscating what can be learned from such campaigns. Kony 2012 offers an occasion for thinking about the benefits and limitations of video advocacy as it moves online. Through an analysis of the video and its epiphenomena, this chapter outlines the practices and pitfalls of video in online advocacy more broadly.

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