Optimism for Journalism

honesty, relativity, reality, and facts

Why Kony2012 Tested, and Flunked Public Consciousness 

On March 6th, 2012 an extraordinarily edited video went viral and caused millions of Americans to raise awareness and concern for an issue in Uganda regarding a man named Joseph Kony keeping a multi-thousand soldier army of children that lost a life of innocence for a life of murder, mutilation and sexual abuse. The video claimed to be “a campaign by Invisible Children, not to celebrate Kony, but to raise support for his arrest.” The video made people cry and feel heartache and ultimately contribute wealth to Invisible Children. While contributing funds to good causes comes with ethical merit, many people, (particularly young people), were completely bamboozled by the financial agenda of Invisible Children. 

Along with the rumors of Invisible Children only using a small percentage of it’s income toward it’s pursuit, even Charity Navigator (profoundly trusted measure of a charities true contribution to it’s cause), has dropped the organization’s legitimacy rating from 63.43 in 2009, to 51.52, right after it had slipped 44.42. To make matters worse for Invisible Children, there are many claims from the  country of Uganda that Kony has been absent for several years, and people are no longer living in fear. (You know, followed by the Co-founder being arrested for masturbating in Public.)

This one particular media explosion has done an incredible job at magnifying how easily swayed our world is in 2012. Within hours, the KONY 2012 campaign accumulated more support and attention than any issue that had hit the Internet in months, maybe even years. So the question must be asked.  Is it possible that a convincing video or message could set the public in pure chaos also? It is incredibly important to note this happenstance as an example of what this generation will be fighting through for years to come: Fact or Fiction.

Technology has clearly become the world participant’s friend or enemy. Sorting through research has become a strain on the public, and usually when done, leads to popular threads that weed out truth from fiction just as the brain does with a memory that is retold with an audience. Without quality investigative journalism, (which unfortunately has become a reality in mainstream media) the public is lost, running in circles, asking nearbyers for directions. Such patterns are key to understanding why the KONY 2012 campaign took off at such high speed on March 6th. The immediate thought for viewers was “seems legit”, and while Invisible Children has contributed to their cause, it is questionable that the support would persist had they a voice just as powerful and enlightening countering their personal economics. 

The consequence of making a fallible campaign viral comes along with a name. Narcotizing dysfunction, first named by writers  Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and Robert K. Merton, is a social condition that takes place in public consciousness when a piece of media is so widely distributed that the people become apathetic to it and constitute sharing the information instead of taking action for it. This theory was established between the 1940’s and 1960’s when researchers began to notice that people were more media influenced by their friends and family than anything else. Narcotizing dysfunction sets the agenda for news, and even the government, which ironically is the main goal of the KONY 2012 campaign. The speaker in the video states that the goal is to make Joseph Kony ”famous” so the government will feel that the American people are sincerely concerned for the issue. The first KONY 2012 video was claimed to be the most viral charity campaign in history. Between friends, aunts, uncles, co-workers and acquaintances, the video was tossed around via Facebook and Twitter and got enough attention to overflow the wallets of Invisible Children’s founders.

It should be far more alarming than it is that the digital media can take on so much power within a small amount of time of its publication. If all it takes is an eloquently produced film to shift the priorities of millions of people in an era of war and massive debt, we have something to be afraid of. The world is full of insane people who know how to work a camera. In this case, no actual consequences took place for those who donated a small amount of money to a flimsy organization. Sure, the funds could of easily gone directly to the country of Uganda, but what is really to be feared is the chance of digital media tricking people into something far worse. What do we do when the government’s watchdog needs a watch dog?  It’s time to pay closer attention. 

  • 11 April 2012
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