‘Kony 2012’ Sequel Doubles Down on Advocacy and Awareness

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Photo: Kony2012.com

Invisible Children, the organization that created the most viral video ever, "Kony 2012," have followed up the 100-plus-million-viewed film with a twenty-minute video explaining why it made "Kony 2012" and what the group plans to do next.

“The purpose of the first movie was to make Joseph Kony famous,” says narrator Ben Keesey, Invisible Children's CEO. “That was step one. Now we want to connect awareness to action and to get people to contact policy-makers.”

"Kony 2012" focused on Joseph Kony, a truly evil war criminal, who, for more than two decades, has led the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in central and western Africa, abducted and enslaved children, and terrorized the region. The first video was rapidly disseminated on Facebook, Twitter, and the like, and just as quickly it was criticized as being misguided and disconnected from the actual situation in Uganda (foreign policy experts advised that Kony and the LRA actually left Uganda six years ago, leading to relative peace, a point not made clear in the first film), as well as sensationalist with an ill-advised strategy for aiding the local people. The organization itself was scrutinized for shady finances, for devoting a large chunk of its budget to video production, and for alleged ties to anti-gay organizations (a connection it sternly refuted); even a group of Ugandans who screened the film were upset that it "belittled and commercialized" their suffering.

But a funny thing happened next: Invisible Children (and/or its supporters) began to accomplish tangible elements of its goal, to push legislators and international bodies to devote resources and attention to the region, apparently not just for the sake of attention. (In 2011, President Obama approved a "time-limited" mission to hunt down Kony.) In late March, a group of 33 senators introduced a resolution condemning Kony and the crimes perpetrated against humanity. The resolution calls for “supporting ongoing international efforts to remove Kony from the battlefield,” and for the U.S. “to continue to enhance its mobility, intelligence and logistical support of regional forces now pursuing the LRA.”

Michael Wilkerson wrote for Foreign Policy:

The resolutions in Congress reduce the threat that the U.S. adviser mission will be canceled, and also advocate for spending more money already allocated for LRA affected areas. The increased interest may have helped spur African countries to increased action as well. Following the announcement of the new AU force, the head of the U.N.'s office in Central Africa told the AP that the increased interest in Kony had been "been useful, very important" in building the support for increased measures to pursue him.

This video (below) titled "Kony 2012: Part II — Beyond Famous" is, once again, a carefully edited, professional product. Absent from this effort is Invisible Children founder Jason Russell who, apparently overwhelmed by the response, was hospitalized but not charged after some kind of nervous breakdown in San Diego during which he stripped naked on the street and interfered with traffic.

But the organization is pressing on and, in this video, addressing critics. It offers more concrete ideas for stabilizing the region; seasoned experts can evaluate whether they're valid, feasible, or practical. Those ideas include implementing communication mechanisms encouraging LRA members to peacefully surrender.

The video goes on to outline Invisible Children's initiative to "Cover the Night" on April 20. Expensive products and kits are on sale. The group's website says: "On April 20th, we will take the next step in the global movement to finally bring an end to LRA atrocities. We will move the conversation from the digital to the physical world, where this conflict is happening, and where real change can be made. We will earn the right to be heard by our national and global leaders by serving our local communities. And above all, we will prove that our liberty is bound together."