The campaign that didn’t

I have taken to my shiny MacBook Pro to write about the spectacular social media event that was KONY 2012, the video campaign that – for two weeks – stopped the first-world nation in its tracks.

I first saw the video nine months ago on a Wednesday night. I was sitting in the same place I am now, in the same clothes (I wash them regularly) with a cup of tea by my side (we are creatures of habit). As I juggled watching online television with checking my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed that two of my Facebook “friends” had shared the KONY 2012 film. Intrigued and a little bored, I clicked on the link and began to watch.

NEK MINNIT – or 30 minutes later, to be precise – I sat with tears of hope and pride trickling down my face. I felt as though I – yes, me, sitting in my old gym clothes – could make a difference. If I shared this video with my 400 Facebook friends, ‘liked’ the KONY Facebook page and tweeted about it, I COULD SAVE THESE KIDS AND TAKE DOWN JOSEPH KONY! I hadn’t heard of him 30 minutes ago, but I sure hated him now! At the end of the film, as I sat there in a confused state of empowerment and pity, I was told I could “do three things right now”:

1.    I could go to the Invisible Children Inc. website and sign the pledge
2.    I could buy the military-chic bracelet and the Action Kit for ‘Cover the Night’
3.    I could donate to the TRI charity to support the cause

I considered doing all three of these things, but then, something new flashed across the screen, saving me from the tediousness of signing a pledge and donating money. The message read:

ABOVE ALL ELSE, SHARE THIS MOVIE ONLINE. IT’S FREE.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I was off the hook.

Then there was the ‘Cover the Night’ event – what we thought would be the most glorious of nights when the world would stop for 24 hours and cover their respective cities in KONY 2012 posters. It all seemed so ground-breaking, almost anarchic at the time.

I was pumped with excitement, yet I still didn’t donate. To be honest, after the initial excitement of hearing about ‘Cover the Night’, my first thought was, ‘What about all the litter?’ and I became nervous about all of the dilapidated posters that would be limping in the wind the next morning.

But ‘Cover the Night’ didn’t really happen. After two weeks of KONY mania, the buzz we all seemed to be high from lost its momentum. We got bored, and moved on to the next big thing (I got back into Keyboard Cat).

I remember seeing one measly KONY 2012 poster on a pole at Monash University, and I laughed. I actually laughed out loud, which was a significant turn around for me, given the state I was in two weeks before with proud tears streaming down my cheeks.

Needless to say, Cover the Night was not a success. Oh, and then Jason, the man/beautiful narrator in charge of the campaign, was caught masturbating in public.

Um, what?

At first we were all shocked, then we felt a little violated, then, confused, and finally it just became funny – like the measly efforts of ‘Cover the Night’ in Melbourne. Speculation began after the “public nudity” incident as people questioned whether it was all a publicity stunt attempting to reignite interest in the Kony campaign. And the saddest thing was nobody would have been shocked if it had been, especially after new statistics came out exposing Invisible Children.

Critics argued that KONY 2012 blurred facts, created narratives to manipulate our emotions, and some even went as far as labelling the whole campaign a scam.

Unbeknownst to most people, Invisible Children Inc. have brought out two more videos since they dropped the initial KONY 2012 bombshell on our newsfeeds. The second video, Kony 2012: Part II – Beyond Famous was released in April and aims to target the criticism they copped for the first film. Unfortunately for them, the film came across as a mere repeat of KONY 2012 with the same generalisations and hyped-up youth anthems. The only difference is the absence of creative director Jason Russell’s narration due to his public breakdown. The third film, MOVE was released on October 25th and currently has around 30,000 views (the original KONY 2012 film has over 90,000,000 views). MOVE attempts to shine a light on the campaign thus far and explain Jason Russell’s public meltdown, which brings us to now, the end of 2012.

Nine months after the release of KONY 2012, nothing has really changed – at least, for us– because all we did was share the video with one another. Like we do with any good drama film or television series, we became caught up with our emotions when watching KONY 2012. The excellently produced video evoked feelings of sadness, pity, guilt, heartbreak and empowerment in us, but these proved fleeting as we once again got caught up in our first-world lives and clicked on the next featured YouTube video.

Kudos to Invisible Children for tapping into my generation’s white-guilt, social-media addiction and naïve optimism. However, in this day and age, the faster you rise, the harder you fall – or in this case: the faster you go viral, the sooner you’ll be turned into a meme.

Hayley Tantau is a journalism student, blogger and aspiring playwright. Read her words here: http://hayleytantau.wordpress.com/ and here: @hayleytantau

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