If you’ve been on Facebook – heck, if you’ve been on Earth – in the last few days, you’ve probably heard the buzz about KONY 2012. Joseph Kony is the leader of a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and has been kidnapping children and forcing them to kill their parents for his group since 1987. Kony is considered the worst and most sought after criminal in the world by the International Criminal Court, and an organization called Invisible Children has been working for nine years to stop him.
“It makes me sick to think that something this horrible has been happening for so long and hardly anyone knows about it,” said Central Michigan University junior Erin Brady.
According to the Invisible Children’s website, KONY 2012 is a campaign that “aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” A video on the website, which has already received over 10 million views, asks people to spread the word about Kony through social media, as well as donate to Invisible Children.
“I think it’s important to spread the word about this issue because it’s our duty as good people to do so,” said Michigan State University junior Will Scott. “If no one participates, then nothing will happen.”
The KONY 2012 video has been trending on Facebook since Tuesday night, and Uganda is currently a trending topic on Twitter. Because of this, college students have been the most involved in spreading the word.
“College students specifically can help because they know how to get word around via word of mouth and online resources,” said Hofstra University junior Lita Mulliqi. “I mean if they can promote bar nights and whatnot at school, why can’t we spread the word about capturing a criminal?”
KONY 2012 has quickly become more than a campaign, but a colossal Internet movement.
“It’s an experiment that’s testing the power of the Internet to incite social change. Hopefully, by employing the methods used in the SOPA blackout, making Kony an Internet sensation will provoke a public outcry to maintain support of current US involvement,” said College of William and Mary junior Wyatt Meldman-Floch.
Since this issue has been happening for decades thousands of miles away, some are asking why Americans should give a darn.
“Americans should care about this because we have the resources to help, to get results, and to make a difference,” said Brady.
A response to the KONY 2012 campaign that criticizes Invisible Children’s efforts, entitled “Visible Children,” has made the rounds on the Internet. It was written by Grant Oyston, a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, but gained notoriety when famous author Neil Gaiman posted it on his Tumblr. In his blog, Oyston calls the nonprofit organization “controversial” and explains that “last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services.”
According to Oyston, Invisible Children “is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money funds the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces.” The Ugandan army that Invisible Children supports has been accused of rape and stealing.
The viral blog has caused many to call the entire campaign into question and cease donations to KONY 2012 (you can check out Invisible Children’s response to its critics here). Some, however, continue to support Invisible Children.
“Regardless of the legitimacy of the organization behind it, Kony 2012 still serves the purpose of bringing to light the egregiousness of the man himself,” said Hofstra University junior Katherine Hussey. “And now people are talking about it. I, for one, am thankful to have been brought into the conversation. And as cynical a person as I may be, I took all those posts last night as a very uplifting sign of humanitarian enthusiasm.”
Photo: at http://www.citytv.com/toronto/