"Kony 2012" is a 30-minute documentary by a nonprofit organization, Invisible Children, about Joseph Kony, the brutal Ugandan warlord who heads the Lord's Resistance Army. Kony heads the most-wanted list of the International Criminal Court, which in 2005 indicted him for war crimes. By Sunday, four days after the video was posted to various Internet platforms, it had been seen by 80 million people around the world. It is already considered the most successful viral video campaign in history.
Jason Russell, the creator of "Kony 2012," called it "an experiment in social media" that aims to use the power of the Internet to effect change in the real world. Invisible Children's specific goal is to bring about Kony's capture by the end of 2012. The video appeals to the global masses, but its real purpose is to apply pressure to key American officials.
The campaign has faced considerable criticism - mostly over issues of factual accuracy, but also because Kony's power has declined, so there are now more burning problems on the international agenda, such as the ongoing slaughter in Syria. But the real significance of "Kony 2012" goes beyond Uganda. The video's artistic qualities, its ability to provoke an emotional response, its manner of distribution and the enormous effect it has had are the real news.
It is the first call for concrete action against an injustice being perpetrated overseas that has gone viral, sent out to tens of millions of people by tens of millions of other people. It has stretched the boundaries of the public and political dialogue, which is usually restricted to events within each country's borders. It has also expanded the sources off which this dialogue feeds: not only local politics and traditional media outlets, but also universal involvement facilitated by digital media with unlimited distribution.
Israel should take note of "Kony 2012." It would not be far-fetched to assume that a similar film will be made about the Palestinian conflict. And once the heartrending images of bleeding children are seared into the consciousness of tens of millions of people, it's doubtful that even 46 pauses for applause in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to AIPAC will be able to erase the damage.
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