'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. Lafayette1789

    Kony has been killing people since at least 1986. He's led the LRA since 1987. American special forces have been publicly hunting Kony in Uganda since at least last year. And only now people are saying, "Hey you guys I just want you to know how concerned I am about this Kony guy!"

    What is American foreign policy?

    We bomb Libya into the stone age to facilitate regime change, after doing nothing for months, and when France finally shames us into acting, we profess the whole time that we aren't going to war for the purpose of forcing regime change. And now that Eastern Libya is doing the secession dance and Civil War Round Two is brewing, we, who made it rain, are standing out in the mud crying "Hey, it's raining!"

    We support dictatorship in Egypt and Tunisia until it becomes evident to even a chimp that Mubarak and Ali were going down.

    While we're bombing Libya, we do nothing about a joint Saudi-UAE invasion of Bahrain to crush a popular revolt against a totalitarian monarchy, less than a mile from one of our largest military bases in the world, because we have cheap parking spaces for the 5th Fleet there and we don't want to be rude guests.

    We do nothing about Syria, when Assad is doing exactly what Gaddafi was doing last year.

    We do nothing about the spiraling civil war in Yemen, because Saleh occasionally agreed to bomb Al-Qaeda bases and still do nothing now that he's out of power and a six way civil war is bubbling up.

    We constantly threaten war with Iran in the deluded belief that a military strike can prevent them from developing the bomb. (and somehow makes the Iranian people less angry and inclined to use one?)

    But when a guy has been murdering people in the jungles of Africa for a quarter century, we send in the troops, (because military force to get rid of a mass murderer in Africa is morally justified, but is repugnant in the Middle East) but we don't even do that well enough to do any good (or even get the American people to realize we're in another war). We just send enough force in to fail to do anything, while promoting an escalation of violence to counter our presence, and a year later, people link to a Youtube video to try and claim some moral high ground in between watching Real Housewives and the new Star Trek spin-off Keeping Up with the Cardassians.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      The American foreign policy is the same as it has always been, in fact its the same as every other country........do what is required to put your country first. The US has helped free people from tyranny and also overthrown democratic governments to put tyrants in charge. Nothing has changed policy wise.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jeremy

    WOOO HOO kony 2012!

    March 8, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kevin

    Why now? Kony has been upto no good in the last 15 years. Why is he of curiosity now?

    March 8, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Magnimus

      Because only recently was military aid sent, and the objective is to raise awareness so the pols don't lose interest.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Monty

      Any efforts up until now have not created as much awareness. It wasn't until 2006 that Invisible Children became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Through pure growth and advances in social media, people have finally become aware of this problem. Also, there has been no real political/economic incentive for the U.S. to be involved up until the people have voiced their opinions.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      OIL IS ABUNDANT IN OIL

      March 8, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeremy

    Accused of manipulating the facts for strategic purposes. Sounds like they are acting like a US politician, except the goal of overthrowing a warlord seems a bit more admirable.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Drowlord

      Questionable. If you have a warlord doing horrible things to fight an oppressive government that does horrible things, there isn't really a "good side" to be on. As the article says, the facts are being manipulated, and there are many factors fueling the fighting. Killing K0ne won't set things right, nor will crushing the LRA. Maybe things will be better? Seems that experts on the matter aren't convinced.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jerry Ivey

    http://s3.amazonaws.com/www.invisiblechildren.com/critiques.html

    there is an official release from Invisible Children regarding all the rumors, false posts/blogs and such going around about them. I suggest all the haters and doubters READ it!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Seola

      Yeah I will totally listen to the source of the problem for how they aren't the problem. Even the stuff THEY made public like a whole 30% actually going towards anything... of which CANNOT be proven... and it was THEIR blog where the founder was with the Sudanese terrorist group in a posed picture.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. lwill

    Invisible Children's films have focused on individuals affected specifically by the LRA, going back to 2003. That's one of the most powerful ways to get people to understand atrocities in the world, is making it personal. Noelle is right, if Invisible Children switched to cover every aspect of this extremely complicated situation, it would have been too muddy for their primary target group – high school and college students – to follow. They have not exaggerated facts for the sake of the films, in fact you can follow the LRA's movement back to 2008 through the LRAcrisistracker.com which is real time.

    Again, doing some more digging, not just reading blogs and tumblrs claiming they know the entire story, before you make your judgements about them. http://s3.amazonaws.com/www.invisiblechildren.com/critiques.html

    March 8, 2012 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
  7. PublicEnemy#1Kony

    Now that I'm famous. Vote Kony for President 2012. Thank you 4 your support. Protecting children will b my 1st goal in office.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jen3

    In response to what they said about not talking about other issues in that area: The narrator in the documentary has met survivors of the LRA and that brings it to a personal level for him. And saying they "exaggerate the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA's use of innocent children as soldiers" plays light on the fact that these atrocities are happening AT ALL. So, as long as they're not occurring as much as the video says, then it's okay? I don't think so.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lynn

    Can we first fight our local terrorist in our neighborhoods..... Like the ever growing threat of gangs recruiting boys and girls all over the US and stop this 'Messiah' syndrome the west never seems to get it. Give people the people skills and resources but please let them be the center of this campaign.... Talking to an African about this issue brings under tones of colonization and inferiority/ Superiority complexities playing out..... Someone should have done their homework before taking this campaign out of the Ugandans hands..

    March 8, 2012 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      the IC isn't saying that want the US to take it over. they're asking for support in giving the ugandans the technology to help find him. the troops there now are advising, not doing the work for them. the IC wants continued support and is trying to get the public behind him in saying that its an important issue to us. this isn't about the 'messiah' syndrome like you say. this is about being a decent human being.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. tesla1908

    I can't send any money to help. I gave it all to PETA to stop others from eating meat. That's way more important than this so called cause.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • roben

      MMMM...this cow tastes good. Not to mention the bacon on my cow. Bacon cheese burger...and then next a big fat juicy steak!! We are on top of the food chain. Raising, selling, buying, distributing and eating MEAT is part of the world's process. Get over it veggiehead.
      PEOPLE are important...not what they eat...get a real life and eat a porkchop once in awhile. It may open your eyes to much more than your petty cause!!

      March 8, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • beren14

      Roben...Martin...really? Is Sheldon your brother?

      March 8, 2012 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
    • robert

      I'm pretty sure these African people would be pretty stoked to eat meat. The stupidity that goes along with selecting your nutrition based upon the "feelings" of the food source is hilarious. Keep up your "forward thinking" Tesla.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. Steven

    Someone please call the A-Team.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kristi

    I think this is more about awareness than money. Spread the word-send the video to your friends, post on Facebook, contact government officials (how about the U.N.). Sure, there are plenty of causes in this world, but how can you not be moved when a child thinks it is better that he is killed, because he does not have a future–how does any 12 year old even think like that? I have traveled all over the world and I have seen extreme poverty, but one thread that always runs through people is hope–this child Jacob had no hope. I'm much older than any of those people in the video, but I will be out on April 20, 2012 and I'm going to put up posters all over my city.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      Please... The U.N. is as useless as T!t$ on a warthog! If they could do something they would have by now. all they do is observe and report, and shake a finger – Dont believe me? ...ask the Ugandans or the Somali's.

      March 8, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. Michael Cale

    If you post a large enough bounty on him, his own men will turn on him. Problem solved, until one of them takes his place.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  14. sittin on the toilet

    If they're invisible how are they catching them? Watch my youtube video "sittin on the toilet" its the best video ever.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dan

    Yeah... I'm not hopping on this bandwagon. the United States armed services are here to protect the US and US interests. They are not the world police who should be sent out at to hunt down foreign national simply because they are a bad guy. He's killing children? So are hundreds of other warlords and evil individuals. Not our problem. I'm not saying nothing should be done. Just not our troops.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
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