'Stop Kony' video goes viral, puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord
A screengrab from the Kony 2012 campaign.
March 7th, 2012
04:04 PM ET

'Stop Kony' video goes viral, puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord

A half-hour documentary about a Ugandan warlord is one of the  hottest videos on the Web today, reposted several million times on various social networking sites.

The San Diego-based nonprofit Invisible Children produced the film. Their goal was to make Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a household name. The LRA is notorious for abducting, raping and maiming its victims. They're particularly infamous for hacking off the ears and lips of their victims and recruiting child soldiers. The LRA's goal is to overthrow the Ugandan government. Kony is on the loose.

By Thursday, a video of the documentary has been viewed on YouTube at least 32 million times. There are countless tweets about it. Even Oprah appears to be a follower. The talk show queen had Invisible Children representatives on her show awhile back. The group tweeted her about the documentary, and she appears to have responded: "Thanks tweeps for sending me info about ending #LRAviolence. I am aware. Have supported with $'s and voice and will not stop. #KONY2012."

But several observers are urging caution, saying that Invisible Children has manipulated facts in the past and advised viewers to watch the documentary with that in mind.

The film follows the alleged former Ugandan child soldier and calls for action against Kony.

In October, President Barack Obama announced that he would send 100 U.S. troops to Africa to help hunt down Kony. International aid convoys and nongovernment organizations operating in the region have been threatened by the Lord's Resistance Army, according to numerous reports. Human Rights Watch, in a letter released in May, urged the U.S. government to step up its effort to protect people from the group.

Noelle Jouglet, Invisible Children's spokeswoman, said the group used "2012" to attract more initial online attention, suspecting people would click on that because there's high interest in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

Invisible Children's tech-savvy team sent a link to the documentary to groups that have huge fan bases, she said. Group followers shared the link on Facebook, Tmblr and Twitter. The Harry Potter Alliance and the hacker collective Anonymous helped spread the word, she said.

Invisible Children sent Twitter messages about the documentary to 20 celebrities, including Bono, Angelina Jolie, Jay Z, Ryan Seacrest and Rihanna. Many of the tweets about the film appear to be from fans who follow those celebrities.

Jouglet told CNN that any money generated from the film will go to Invisible Children, which builds schools in Uganda. Money will also go to support a high-frequency radio station that Invisible Children operates, which broadcasts anti-LRA messages to fighters urging them to defect. CNN is unable to immediately verify this information or any of Invisible Children's activities in the Congo.

Over the past decade, Invisible Children has been one of the most influential advocacy groups, putting pressure on the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, imploring the U.S. government to take a side in the fight between the LRA and the Ugandan government, according to a November 11, 2011, Foreign Affairs story linked out in a Washington Post story Wednesday.

The Foreign Affairs story says Invisible Children and other advocacy groups "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."

"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."

Jouglet responded to the criticism saying that the group "had" to "simplify" events in the documentary to make it easier for their targeted audience - young people and the wider population - to pay attention and understand.

The group also posted on its Tumblr account an explanation of its mission in Africa, a breakdown of how it spends money and details of its strategy to facilitate the capture of Kony.

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Filed under: Uganda
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. 4commonsensenow

    I dont care who has down what, or who is really doing this or that. Those children are major victims of irresponsible adults funtioning with power over thier god given right to a future.Can you say drone. But what are you gonna do with them when you free them.Is someone going to take them all home and gaureentee them a future till age 18?Thats what it takes to really free them.

    March 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. LollerSkates

    You need to have this expert on your show. He is from San Diego, an expert on Uganda's conflict and has specifically criticized Invsibile Children for years. : http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Politics/?view=usa&ci=9780199782086

    March 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike Buck

    Limbaugh supports Kony. Enough said!

    March 10, 2012 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sam from Seattle

    After watching the video, and reading various opposing viewpoints, I’m reminded by the fact the ‘History has never erected a statue to a critic’.
    As a person that has a tendency to be a skeptic, self-focused, and, I’m ashamed to say, often ‘apathetic’, when faced with important issues, I found myself inspired after watching the video.
    Probably because it accomplished what it set out to do: Raise awareness. I don’t believe that the filmmaker had selfish aspirations in creating this video, or delusions that this is the ‘only way’ to solve this problem.
    I think it’s an example of the ‘power of one’, and how by connecting with people that believe in helping each other can accomplish anything, and are not “powerless because ‘they’ (the government) won’t let me.” He is utilizing his particular strength as a filmmaker, to make a difference. To be part of the solution. To be the ‘stone’ thrown in the lake that creates a ripple of awareness that leads to action and change. So here I am feeling inspired after watching the video; wanting to talk about it; wanting to learn more; wanting to connect with others. Wanting to do SOMETHING, as opposed to nothing. (A big change for a guy like me.)
    Yet, then I start to read the negative comments from those that want to find fault with his approach. And I begin to ‘second guess’ my feelings. Interesting the ‘power’ that a critic can have and someone like me.
    And I’m reminded of another quote: “All it takes for the forces of evil to destroy the world, is for enough good people to do nothing.”
    My point: This filmmaker is making a difference in the world by raising awareness; attracting others with their own unique gifts to also become part of the solution, and perhaps offer a different way of solving this crisis…..not necessarily better, just different. Also something I believe the filmmaker would ‘welcome’! And what is the critic accomplishing? Perhaps motivating others to also ‘second guess’, and decide to do nothing.
    A good question for us all to ask: “If everyone in this world was just like me…..what kind of world would this world be?”

    March 10, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Stick to what you believe in. I also do take others view points in consideration but to be honest I prefer to stick to my own gut instinct.

      March 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kelli

    tumblr*

    March 10, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. leeintulsa

    i haven't watched the video. i've been familiar with the kony story for a long time.

    it's like the syrian thing – the victims have faces and names..

    what exactly do they want? money? do they want koni caught/killed? both, right?

    they're building schools? that's certainly noble.. i don't see how it catches kony..

    they want our government to do something? why? our government shouldn't be doing half the stuff it already does.. we have criminals we're looking for, too..

    they need two or three big pockets. there are organizations, i.e. blackwater, that could probably handle this.. wouldn't actually doing something about this be as important as whining about it?

    March 10, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. cody

    i get it shame on him........ and this may sound heartless, but, why are we focused on this? all you activists need to turn your attention inward if everyone did their own community policing then there wouldnt be this kind of thing going on. it is now to easy to beg for assistance from one of the hundreds of international groups to help then fix your own problems. and if you are an american, shame on you, when was the last time u did something for your neighbor? and now your throwing money from our already dwindling economy into this? its a shame americans are no longer patriots. or maybe somewhere along the way patriot got a definition change in the dictionary? either way this whole thing will eventually play itself out be stable for a short while until it turns back into the same exact thing your fighting now. and its going to be the same way with afghanistan. america its time to be american and all you other countries instead of hiding behind us why dont you take the lead in something.

    March 11, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. John Mooka

    Courage Invisible Children Inc.
    As a Ugandan I am touched by your out-powering of atruism and the commitment to bring this cold blooded monster called Kony to justice. After years of failed attempts and missed opportunities to get Kony end his insane atrocities, one of the very few sledge hammer solutions left is to amass a coalition of global outrage. There is no other better way to do it than the route you have taken. Hope the critics would stop looking at you as as the culprit and instead channel their anger towards this heartless man.

    March 11, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ginger

    Why is everyone focused on money? It takes money to fly to Africa, build schools, print those posters, upkeep websites, write letters to governments and not to mention, that video had to cost a good bit of money to film, edit and distribute. So, all of you people questioning where the money is going should be ashamed of yourself. And to focus on that instead of the message, is just selfish and heartless. And those who say we shouldn't be involved! Really?! We went to war plenty of times for less reasons. The U.S. government didn't want to get involved bc it wasn't a political or financial issue...wow, really! What was Iraq and Afghanistan about?

    March 12, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • bananasy©

      Oil.
      No matter what the reason was given, it was oil.
      Excellent post, btw.
      You should post this same one on the new bloh about Kony.
      You said it all beautifully.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      This may be true, but should these alleged "volunteers" be getting salaries from the organization? last time i checked volunteers didn't receive a salary.. This video came into play 15 years too late. They are ranting about it after the fact, bringing attention back to a situation that is said and done, so they can get money in their pockets and make it look like their doing a good thing. 32% of their money collected last year actually made it to Uganda. 32%.. and how much did that 32% accomplish? If you don't think this is a scam i don't know what else to tell you. Dont believe everything you see on youtube man..

      May 4, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Claudio Torres

    Hey Ashley. I have been researching this movenment from several points of view. While I do agree that donating money to the organization is not a reliable or trustworthy option, you didn't really point out the attention it's hitting on the conflicts of Africa. People would've had to either be in a collegecourse or majoring in international relations to understand the conflicts of the LRA in Uganda. However, because of this video, people (especially teens) have become more aware of the subject.

    From this perspective, the video can be taken as a success in the fact that whether or not Kony is caught, we all know that everything in Uganda is not okay. I suggest that other charities with a similar cause to "Invisible Children" start standing up so the public has better "secure" options of donating to the cause. The fact that we as a society now stand up and rally over what we perceive is right will really show all the murders, terrorists and dictators that ordinary people can bring them down. I really hope people lose focus on the organization, but increase focus on the cause and the idea of the video.

    March 12, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. gabby

    i <3 kony ! ( :

    March 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • jackie

      me too(:

      March 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • daci

      i like burritos :D

      March 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. luis

    i <3 tacos de asada

    March 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
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