'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. Stupidity

    Ugandan government need to send their troops to eliminate Kony, they know the law of the land and the landscape. We cannot sacrifice our men and women in every nook and corner of the world. So please donot send our troops to these countries, thank you and let common sense prevail – god bless america

    March 8, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. J

    Let's see. Another warlord with a band of folks running around with machetes, chopping body parts off.

    What continent was that in again?

    Oh yeah.

    Why am I not surprised?

    March 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. Travis Russell

    International Support through a populous movement will end this man's atrocities and save innocents that have been forgotten till this video. EMBRACE this. Let it be the first global populous action for change that will show we are connected as a world community and can clean house for a better tomorrow. MAKE KONY FAMOUS.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. Fred

    Is there any country in the world where blacks have been sucessful or managed to integrate into peacefully? I seriously cannot think of one example....

    March 8, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Anyone can be President.

      Is there something wrong with the Blacks or is there something wrong with the people who use violence to keep them in their place?

      March 8, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Lee S

      @Anyonecanbepres What about Haiti? I dont see any warlods keeping them down there. Just their own ignorance.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Banny Jones

      The United States! South Africa! Are there black people who are unsuccessful in those countries? Yes. But we have a strong black middle class in the US, and we have an economic powerhouse in South Africa. Those countries aren't without problems, but they are quite successful.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • nrk

      You're feeding the fire that I wish a single person could put out. Where or when does it end? It doesnt.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • mali

      The Caribbean is filled with peaceful Black people. Or did you think they just showed up to cater to tourist?

      March 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anyone can be President.

    Every thing is going "viral" these days.

    Am I the only one tired of that term. Got something that is slow to propagate just run an article saying it is going viral.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Modern Man


      March 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • self explanatory

      you realize that term has a meaning right? it refers to proliferation of any one of various types of media SPECIFICALLY via electronic online forwarding between friends. since it is spread by friends receiving it from other friends, it is spread very much like a virus... make sense?

      March 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sam

    lol. What a curious coincidence. There was just OIL found in Uganda and right away – US claims human rights violations.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      Lol. What a curious conspiracy theory. Anytime someone brings up atrocities in far away lands some people see nothing but oil.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam


      we should bomb Arabs then – oh wait – they don't might to exchange their natural resources for our printed paper – they're our friends then.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Honestly – yes. this is survival game. We're this close to peak oil and have gotta protect our interest, aka take oil from anyone weaker than us. But these false flag NLP ads are just disgusting. Let's just be honest with everyone – let's go in and take it, there is no need to cover it up with democracy.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      This organization has been trying to stop these atrocieties for years. I first heard of them 6 years ago when they came to my childs school. This is not about oil. Good grief

      March 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Alicia

    I would like to say that I am proud that us youth are taking a stand...I fully suoport this movement.. Promoting peace is taking action in cases such as this ! We are sending two messages indirectly youth are powerful and can take charge to make a difference............I think the most surreal moment was when I personally met a refugee that escaped...His story as well as many others are very accurate and you have the urge to help others like him ...IT MAKES ME MAD and SAD , whatever it may be that people could act against a peace movement like this with racial slurs and stereotypes and merely talking against something that is to the benefit of the people of the WORLD........SO if the government was doing something why are there still escapees and why has this been constant for the last ............SILENCE is indirect support.. us youth refuse to be silent and support a bully who is enforcing torture on other youth ....
    Thank You
    Alicia (youths point of view
    New York
    P.s. I am aware of speculation but something should still be done

    March 8, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • jim

      If you're so powerful, why don't YOU do something besides talk?

      March 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MNfree

    Just be careful when believing in something. Don't give up your trust so easily just because of a flashy and 'hip' YouTube video. After looking at their non-profit income totals, it looks like actual impacting changes in Uganda are around 30ish% of their total earnings. That to me seems very low. The awareness is awesome, and it's great to see people rally behind a cause with passion, but just take care with your trust.

    Kony is a terrible man, but his death will not change the last 20 years of his terror. After he dies, this movement I fear would do the same.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. Shell

    As I read I see a lot of comments like “Who Cares”. Well tonight as you go to your safe, warm beds, behind your locked doors, THINK …..What if this was me? What if I couldn’t pick up my cell phone and call for help? What if I couldn’t jump in my car and drive away for the danger? What if you’re only thought is not what if but when will this be me? You have a choice, ignore it and it may go away. Or do what you can to help, innocent children from being taken, murdered, made to kill their own parents, made watch their siblings be slaughtered. Do you love your way of life, blind-sided to all that happens around you? Do you see anything but the life you live, and the material items you hold so dear to your heart? Can you look in the mirror and say today I made a difference or are you fooling yourself and just running the rat race of time. And do you have to criticize everyone for trying to help, or are you just embarrassed this wasn’t your idea first? Why has the U.S. not tried to help yet, why haven’t they felt the need to stick their noses in and show how to get the job done. Oh ya no profit here, don’t need to interfere with other countries problems if there is nothing to be gained from it. In that case history has taught them not to fight unless there is something to be gained. If you’re not going to step up and do something then stay out of the way, stop your mindless dribble from falling onto your key board. Your words don’t help the ones that already think there is no hope, no knight in shining armor, no John Wayne to help them take down the bad guy, so have you just wasted your time commenting on this I think so, leave space for the ones who care. Let the people who want to change the world do what they need to do without your criticism and hateful words. What kind of world do we live in that will allow Africa or any other country live in so much fear? Why do we feel this is not our fight, I am ashamed to live in the Greatest Country in the World, so much can be done but yet we let the mighty dollar lead us by the nose. The World should be demanding justice for those people in Africa, cause if this happened in your neighborhood you would. Oh wait it did 9/11, so what makes this so different? Because its not happening in the U.S.? How many did you know in the World Trade Center, I didn’t know anyone, but I cried for them. Did you?

    March 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fredrick

      Do some research. Kony is no longer a real problem. Last word was he's starving in the congo, cut off and defeated. Educate yourselves before blindly trudging into these things.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shell

      What you are saying then is the conflict is over and there is no more need to worry. Thanks, I understand that you are trying to make my words sound stupid,but you have to understand I dont point my figures at any one person or any one group of people. I am saying that there is a problem and we as americans should not just sit back and do nothing when there is so much that can be done. Kony, or some other rebel group without a name, it dosent matter this is a horrifying reality for so many children bearly old enough to hold a gun, or to be taken from this world at such a young age. Have a heart, open your eyes, hope for the future, because this can only spread like cancer if we dont do something now.

      March 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Anthony

    Yes. the LRA had a long run of terror in Uganda, but since he IS on the run the situation has improved. That, however, does NOT mean that he did not commit these crimes and does NOT mean that he is not spreading his influence to neighboring countries. The crimes he has committed ARE human rights violation which no country should need to declare, but the people of the world need to declare. This is the message of the Invisible Children and it is up to the people of the world to make sure Joseph Kony is apprehended for his crimes.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe

    Can we just drop a nuke on this entire region? It's the year 2012 and these cretins are STILL fighting and hurting each other.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      No, there are valuable animals there!

      March 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Grant

    Why don't we tackle the tent cities in our own country before we go hands across America for a place most couldn't identify on a map.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jay

    While it is good that people are aware of things going on in the world, I don't understand why people think it will change simply because you are upset by it and do some complaining. There is only one way to stop people like this and that is with action and not words. Sadly we live in a time where nobody wants to stand up and do the right thing because we must protect our image and we couldn't possibly do it during an election year and risk losing votes with an unpopular military action. Someday I hope people wake up and realize that talk does not stop bad people from doing bad things. Study history and you will see case after case where talk didn't work and it cost the lives of millions of people. What ever happened to the home of the brave?

    March 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • gnanse

      So Jay, how brave are you?

      March 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay

      Brave enough to be a cannon crewman for the U.S. Army. I would not ask others to do what I am not willing to do myself.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MoneyForPeace

    Why not just send some mercenaries to go get him???? I know I few.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elmeaux

      So send them. What's the holdup?

      March 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Serg

    Just wondering how many of the people who signed on that website actually know where Uganda is.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
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