Effectiveness of Non-traditional Direct Action Kony Campaign

New Orleans    In organizing, even in the smallest space of a neighborhood, we have always argued that you have to “create a happening” where the coming new organization seems to be everywhere on the tip of tongues, laundromat posters, telephone poles, mailings, and whatever tools could be assembled.  The same is true of a political campaign where immersion and momentum are essential in creating a sense of urgency, momentum, and even inevitability.

In the new world of modern communications and emerging campaign tools, I’ve kept an eye on the Kony Campaign being mounted by the young, upstart Invisible Children organization with an open mind to learning whatever is possible.  I knew it was something serious not when it got millions of hits on YouTube because with all respect so do some cat pictures, but when established international NGOs started criticizing them.  Then I saw a Kony 2012 campaign packet on the dining room table of some friends in Madison.  I started noticing that there were different posters and exhortations on all of the community bulletin boards at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse.  Something was happening here.  This guy, Joseph Kony and his ragtag 300 person Lord’s Resistance Army,  had to be “dead man walking!”

Now with a hundred American military advisors on the ground helping, the effectiveness of the campaign seems verifiable.   And, truth to tell, this could not have been about the video piece.  That’s sizzle.  This group had to have had steak to leverage a bill through Congress – how many groups can make that happen these days – and trigger the authority of military involvement, which is almost impossible to achieve.  The video was from 2012.  But, Invisible Children managed to pass the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Action in 2010.  The US has spent almost a half-billion in this area of Uganda now!  They may be one-hit wonders, but they are teaching here, and I’m ready to be a student.

Here’s a quote from a story in the Times:

Yet no other American military project in sub-Saharan Africa has generated the attention — and the high expectations — as the pursuit of Mr. Kony, partly thanks to a wildly popular video on Mr. Kony’s notorious elusiveness and brutality, “Kony 2012,” that set YouTube records with tens of millions of hits in a matter of days. Gen. Carter F. Ham, the overall commander of American forces in Africa, has a “Kony 2012” poster tacked to his office door. As one American official put it: “Let’s be honest, there was some constituent pressure here. Did ‘Kony 2012’ have something to do with this? Absolutely.”

To me that sounds like an endorsement of campaigning strategy AND tactics.

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One thought on “Effectiveness of Non-traditional Direct Action Kony Campaign

  1. The military advisers were sent in October 2011, way before the Kony 2012 video. Invisible Children teaches us two things: 1) how misguided religious right fanatics can create a problem and use new media (umm.. we learned that new media was powerful from Obama 08) to create an unneeded buzz and take away from real causes 2) decisions on which aid agencies to support and military intervention should not be guided by viral videos. This whole thing makes me so angry, if only half the money/’attention IC got would’ve gone to great organizations: The Global Fund for AIDS and malaria or PEPFAR or Nothing but Nets.

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