'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. Zee

    Why is it that we allow our government to steal money out of our paychecks but when a program like this tries to raise money for a GOOD cause people want to investigate? If you're so worried about people taking your money, maybe you should investigate our corrupted government and see what they're doing with it. Trillions of dollars are spent each year in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for what?? So what if only 31% of the money goes towards direct support? At least Invisibe Children is doing something! Yes, a lot of their money has been used on productions and what not but look at how many people are now aware of Joseph Kony. Before two days ago, no one knew who this man was.

    March 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ian Gabriel

    I think Obama should heed this call for justice by doing what he does best: sending in drones to third world countries on assassination missions. Kony could literally be "clicked" away at the Pentagon.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CntrMass

    You should all do a little research and see just how much of your proceeds actually go to Uganda. I want to say only 40% is actually used to help the people of Uganda. This guy is a joke and should be punished accordingly!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • JoeyG

      Don't post until you actually do research. Over 80% goes directly to awareness and support.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. notsurprised

    Throwing money at these types of issues is not the answer. This video shows nothing new. This has been going on for decades. Removing this one individual will do little to curb the violence. May sound a bit off-topic, but until the standard of living and education are brought to a sustainable level for the majority, these events will continue. As long as there are masses to pray on, they WILL be prayed on. IMO, population control is a good place to start.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. K. Sugar

    Invisible children continues to provide inaccurate and irresponsible information about what is actually happening in northern Uganda. The region has been conflict free for 5 years. After the peace process broke down, Kony and the LRA went to the DRC and CAR. Many soldiers and abductees have returned home and the people of the region are recovering and rebuilding their lives and communities. The focus on Kony is misplaced. His capture and the answers to Kony and the LRA will come from Africa, not a western NGO and their agenda. Listen to Africa and Ugandan voices, they are uncomfortable with this campaign, its focus and strategies. Who is served by this campaign? Not the Acholi people who need infrastructure, economic activity, food security and agro projects, creating sustainable developement and empowerment is the way to peace.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @k.sugar: i'm inclined to agree. the ugandan i work with was, like, "kony? meh".

      March 9, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Zach H

      But the film clearly says that Kony has moved to these other countries. And their mission is not limited to only Uganda, even though that's where it started. They have a heart for all of Central Africa and wherever the LRA threaten the general public.

      March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. thomas

    Why do I support the Kony 2012 movement? Look, in all honesty, we have too many issues with hunger, rape, and abuse here in America for me to put the needs of Ugandans before our needs here. Yes, those issues there are greater and more common than here, but does that make it ok to ignore the kid starving to death in the alley down the street? The situation the LRA and Kony have created breaks my heart, but there are kids in America who are suffering through atrocities, with out the support of an organization like Invisible Children. We need to solve our problems before we solve theirs, just because we are America doesn't mean we should go around putting our noses in other peoples business... Or so I've been told by people protesting Iraq and Afghanistan, who now support this movement btw. Now, I remind you, I DO support this cause, I went and signed up and all that jazz, so don't think I'm against it.

    Back to my original question. Beyond helping the people and children of Africa a LITTLE bit (Kony and the LRA are not the only problems in Africa, and genocide, mutilation, rape, and "conscription" of children and adults will NOT stop with the demise of the LRA), think about what this movement really means. If successful, it will be the first time in a long time that "we the people" were able to REALLY tell our government that "this is what we want, and you are going to get it done", and they actually follow through. Social media will no longer just be for talking to HS friends and people you met that one time, but it could become the way we tell our DEMOCRATIC government how to run. Congress is supposed to work for us, we're supposed to have the power to tell them what we want done, as a Nation. Social media has given us, given you, a voice in how you want YOUR government to do things. That is how a democracy is supposed to run, and now that is finally realistic. If we the people are successful in telling our government to fix this problem, what else can we tell them to fix? When we elect our president, and he fails to fulfill his promises, we can actually DO something about it, instead of just whining and complaining on blogs and forums. We the people can have a real and legitimate voice in our government, the way it was and is meant to be.

    That's one of the major things I took away from the Kony 2012 video, but I love its intended cause as well. So let's make it happen, let's stop hoping our government does what we want or does the right thing, and let's actually tell them to. They have to listen, we are their employers. We the people of the United States of America. This nation was founded to be OUR nation, not just where we live watching congress pay themselves more for lying more.

    What does this mean? Ppl have a voice, finally. What else could we accomplish through social media?

    March 9, 2012 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jack

    Come on...why not get Kony. Things like this need to get attention. If the filmmaker is successful, against all odds from big Media and the ney sayers – it should give bad people everywhere a reason to pause. It is a new world. Social media is a game changer – maybe it will be SPRING all over in a good way. Bad people should not get away with attrosity, of any sort and all purpotrators – no matter where on earth – should not get away with being evil. Why not prove a point the by drawing attention, some things can change?

    March 9, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. krozar

    KONY/PAUL 2012

    March 9, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Alfred

    My friend whom I agree with's post:

    After seeing so many KONY 2012 videos, I decided to do my own research in regards to the whole incident. A friend of mine had posted her opinion on the situation, and I agree wholeheartedly. This video is absolute PROPAGANDA. It is using video footage from the early 2000s to advocate a war on a man who isn't even in Uganda.

    "This video critically explores the inherent issues of movements that exp...lode without being understood by its adherents (and re-posters). Ultimately, this fervor is created by an organization regarded as lacking in both transparency and accountability, using video footage from 2004 about a group that actually hasn't been in Uganda for 6 years. Invisible Children supports "whatever means necessary" to end this..and that means illegal interventionist war as well. Make sure you agree with that too before jumping on."

    Aside from donating roughly 45% of the total donations, they've made it clear they are supporting the Ugandan military in search of Kony. Again, Kony is no longer in Uganda. Why are we sending money to the Ugandan President who himself was involved with 5.4 million deaths.

    The truth of the matter is, is that this problem spreads FAAAR beyond the scope of capturing Kony. These acts are crimes against humanity, there are dozens of 'Kony's out there, if you want to help. Donate to a charity that helps them all... and one that doesn't keep 55% of the donations.

    Do your research people!

    March 9, 2012 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. hmmmm

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


    March 9, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. DC

    This Kony 2012 campaign is nonsense. Yes, he should be brought to justice...but what makes him difference from any of the other 'warlords' running around in the African bush? Many African nations aside from Uganda have major problems. What about al-Shabaab or perhaps the TFG in Somalia (whom many nations are supporting) using child soldiers?

    President Obama announced this past fall that US advisers were being sent to Uganda to assist in his capture. Now what are we supposed do? Donate money to some money to invisible children? Only about 30% of the donations made to Invisible Children actually go to causes after overhead costs are paid for.

    Bottom line: There are many more worthy causes to donate your money to. Not to mention that our government resources can be used much more effectively to fight the terrorists that are out there wanting to kill Americans and other westerners.

    March 9, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      So unless we stop all of the war criminals, then we should stop none?

      March 9, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. Amber

    It says IN THE VIDEO that Kony is not in Uganda anymore and has moved to other parts of Africa. The point is to STOP KONY in general. Uganda is getting better but that doesn't mean Kony is no longer a threat to other people in Africa.

    March 9, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. Pharos

    HEY. This is twice I've posted to sound off and my post disappears. You guys want to fix that or what?

    March 9, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. Pharos

    Interesting. We have people here who are condemning the charity or trying to change the subject to other problems.
    The International Criminal Court has had this guy at the top of their list for a long long time. I guess THEY must be liars too. Why don't you people take a good look at how to get things done? Your posts are perfect examples of how NOT to get things done. It's really too late anyway. So sad for you people that the troops have already been sent out. They are going to catch that guy and there will be one less dirt bag in the world. With or without you.

    March 9, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Alicia

    Obama / KONY 2012 😀

    March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
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