Kony 2012 is going to be forever cited as an example of virality and using media to build awareness about complex global issues. But it will also serve as a warning: as the video became popular, Invisible Children--the organization devoted to finding and capturing Lord’s Resistance Army Leader (LRA) Joseph Kony--came under increasing scrutiny and criticism for its beliefs and tactics. Since a large part of what they do is make slick videos, Invisible Children has come back with a new video that directly addresses many of the complaints people had with Kony 2012.
You’ll note that the star of the first video, co-founder Jason Russell, goes almost entirely unmentioned. After his much publicized breakdown on the streets of San Diego, he’s been replaced as narrator by Invisible Children’s CEO Ben Keesey, who takes us through the video, giving the organization’s point of view.
One of the major complaints about the video was that it grossly oversimplified a complex international conflict and that the solution proposed by Invisible Children--using military power to bring Kony to justice--was unworkable and ignored ongoing local efforts to end the conflict peacefully (or the fact that Kony is no longer in Uganda). The video addresses these critics with a deluge of talking heads, including UN Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, extolling the impact of the video and of the idea of arresting Kony. Though, amusingly, check out the card at the end denouncing people going over to Uganda to hunt down Kony themselves.
A second complaint was that the high production values and immense popularity masked a sort of emptiness, that the video did little beyond give a small history lesson. Invisible Children shows the impact they think the awareness they raised had, some small (a proposed resolution in Congress), some larger: The African Union committed troops to fighting Kony in all the countries in which he operates.
The perpetual issue with "awareness raising" is that it gives the newly aware person few options to help aside from raising more awareness. The video is being marketed as an attempt to "turn awareness into informed action" by pumping up expectations for Invisible Children’s April 20 Cover the Night event, which will feature public gatherings in cities around the world to … raise more awareness.
Like the first video, Kony 2012: Part II is a great watch and gives the initiative back to Invisible Children after a month of learning that no good deed goes unpunished. They now have another high-quality product to point people to to rebut the countless editorials and talking heads who have undermined the success of the video. In the end, it does little to address the most subtle but most damning criticism of the project, that Invisible Children--and all its excited viewers--exemplify the idea of the "white savior." Now that a few guys from America are on the case (and getting the rest of the Western world to help them), a problem that plagued Uganda for years would be solved just with a little American ingenuity and elbow grease. After April 20, we’ll find out if that might be what it takes.