The hashtag term #stopkony has been trending on Twitter all day, Reddit.com has been deluged with posts about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and he's suddenly the subject of a quickly growing number of blog posts and news stories.
All, apparently, because of an activist group's quite successful effort to have its latest video about atrocities done by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army go viral.
The organization is Invisible Children, and the 30-minute video is indeed a powerful piece of work. It skillfully tells the tale of Kony's army, which as NPR's Michele Kelemen has previously reported, "has been terrorizing Uganda and surrounding nations for decades ... [and] has specialized in kidnapping children and forcing them to fight." Last October, President Obama announced he was sending 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to train and advise militaries that are trying to track down Kony and his fighters.
According to The Daily Dot, on Tuesday night Invisible Children's video "exploded across multiple Web communities," with millions of views on Vimeo and YouTube, and hundreds of thousands of "likes" on Facebook.
"Invisible Children has been canny about marketing the film through social media via the use of Twitter hashtags (#kony2012) and celebrities. Rihanna, Stephen Fry, and The Onion's Baratunde Thurston have all tweeted about the film. In addition, Invisible Children is organizing a celebrity pressure campaign to get, among others, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Lady Gaga to publicize #kony2012."
Now, there is some needed context, according to the Council on Foreign Relations' Foreign Policy magazine. It reported last November that Invisible Children and some other organizations involved in the KONY 2012 campaign:
"Have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA's use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony a brutal man, to be sure as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil. They rarely refer to the Ugandan atrocities or those of Sudan's People's Liberation Army, such as attacks against civilians or looting of civilian homes and businesses, or the complicated regional politics fueling the conflict."
The activists have rejected such charges, saying "we've done our utmost to stick to the facts" and have tried to highlight "atrocities by the Ugandan government."
It also adds that while awareness is good, "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, as hard as that is to swallow."
But no one seems to dispute that Kony is evil. And Invisible Children's Jason Russell, who made the video, tells AllAfrica.com that the point of the video and the campaign is to get viewers to:
"Make a commitment to stop at nothing by making sure Kony is known in their circle of influence, whether it's their family or office or school. The dream would be for Kony to be captured, not killed, and brought to the International Criminal Court to face trial. The world would know about his crimes and they would watch the trial play out on an international level, seeing a man face justice who got away with abducting children, raping little girls, and mutilating people's faces for 26 years."