The Kony 2012 video has created enormous buzz on the internet over the past week–first as the video went viral, then as a heated debate ensued about the accuracy, effectiveness, and transparency of the Kony 2012 campaign and its creator, the NGO Invisible Children. Even in Uganda, among the victims of Kony’s LRA, the video has provoked harsh criticism.
Like the Arab Spring (which was driven in part by social media technology like Facebook and Twitter), the Kony 2012 phenomenon relies on this new technology to bypass traditional modes of communication, mobilize large numbers of people, and (the organizers hope) put pressure on very powerful people in top government positions to change their policies. In fact, the Kony 2012 video claims that in this “new world” of social media and individual empowerment the traditional power pyramid (with a small group of wealthy, powerful elites on top) is becoming inverted. That is, the masses are finally becoming empowered and claiming their place at the top of the power structure, with the growing ability to bend the elites to their will. The Kony 2012 creators suggest in the film that these techniques led to President Obama’s decision last October to send 100 U.S. troops to Uganda in pursuit of Kony and his henchmen.
This empowerment of the individual and the ability to bypass or influence traditional power structures such as state governments, big media outlets, and big corporations is viewed by many political scientists as an important outgrowth of globalization. But these elite structures are not going quietly, and in places like Syria, Iran, and Egypt, the backlash has been fierce.
What do you think? Are the creators of the Kony 2012 campaign correct that the power pyramid is becoming inverted, or does a small group of elites really still hold the reins? If you have watched the Kony 2012 video, do you think the filmmakers’ proposed strategy to capture Kony is going to work, or is it naive? If the critics are correct that the film stretches the truth and seriously oversimplifies the issues, does this make the effort any less worthwhile? Is shading the truth justified in the pursuit of a righteous cause?