By now I’m sure you have heard of Joseph Kony, the terrifying Ugandan warlord who spearheads the Lord’s Resistance Army. He has abducted over 30,000 children in Northern Uganda, and continues to wreak havoc in African countries through surprise massacres – he even instructed troops to attack churches where families were congregating for Christmas Eve service. At the height of Kony’s regime in Uganda, children did a night commute, where they walked miles each day to city centers so they can sleep safely without fear of being abducted. Documentary maker Jason Russell first learned of the series of atrocities when he interviewed a young boy, Jacob, whose older brother had been murdered by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Russell made a promise then that he WILL stop Kony’s army, and Jacob and his peers will grow up in a different, safer world.
Since then, Russell has used social media to make Kony into a household name. Through facebook, twitter, film, and the power of the younger generation, Russell has managed to reach millions of people around the world, and has succeeded in getting the attention of the US Congress. The US government even sent 100 military advisors to help bring justice, but Kony learned of the plans beforehand and escaped. Now Russell has produced a new documentary that highlights the urgency of the situation. 2012 is the year to stop this warlord, and in his video, he highlights clear steps for the viewer to take to join this explosive campaign.
A few key things stand out to me from the video:
A). By putting a human face on the issue (Jacob), Russell makes us CARE about the issue. We listen to Jacob’s story, we feel hurt when he cries, and we are more likely to be driven to action by one person’s story than by viewing statistics on a page.
B). By putting a personal touch on the campaign (showcasing his son Gavin), Russell makes the viewer identify with him. He’s not just some random filmmaker. He has a life, a son, and this son is someone who could potentially be abducted into the LRA if he were living in Uganda. Russell himself becomes human to us, a real character in whom we trust and feel for.
C).By making the viewer feel included and empowered to join an already successful campaign (using language like “we”, “you”, “together”), Russell effectively pulls the viewer into the Kony2012 movement. The video emphasizes collaboration and highlights the importance of the viewer’s help.
Russell has managed to make the “invisible children” of Uganda now a visible population. On April 20th, in every major city in the US, activists will meet at sundown and blanket every street with KONY posters until the sun comes up. Then when the city awakes, they will no longer be able to ignore Kony2012.
I’m blown away by how Russell used social media to gain millions of followers around the world, and it teaches me a lot about how a grassroots campaign can gain momentum so quickly if done right. We covered this last week on Nightly News, and I have no doubt that there will be more stories to come as the rest of Kony2012 unfolds.