Everybody is talking about the latest Kony2012 viral campaign that took the internet by storm and especially the social media, Facebook & Twitter. More than 40 million have already watched the 30 minute Jason Russell movie about the brutal ugandan child kidnapper & molester, Joseph Kony. Or did they?
Probably not. I would assume those millions did not watch the full 30 minutes of the documentary but rather pressed the link, understood the point after 2 minutes and were sold on the issue. As this is an important issue, Joseph Kony has been terrorizing the region for 25 years and the stories about him are horrific, but hardly new. Raising awareness is important and so is solving this issue.
But I want to touch more upon the viral campaign. Targeting teenagers as agents of change. There are some things that need to be said. First, you cannot create a campaign like that without a structure working behind you. No one can say exactly what happened to spread it besides the campaigners, but in high probability when the organization “Invisible Children” decided to go viral it organized all of its people to publish the same link, hash-tag & narrative at the same exact time. If you have thousands of volunteers to mobilize as can be seen in the movie, you can start a viral fire.
But this can only be done do to prior grassroot work to get all these people involved. Words only matter when they are backed by actions.
The second thing to take into consideration is the fact that words work when there is a value base to build upon. The internet, the global village, the fact that a billion people can interact with each other at any time over the internet is changing reality and the way we think. Young people who are the core to these changes don’t see boundaries in color, nation & religion. Young people have a keen sense of justice. Horror stories from Africa, that unfortunately we hear very little of, can strike a cord and cause dis-harmony for young people. That is why so many of them were engaged in the campaign for Darfur. Get them engaged on issues of justice and they are yours.
The third “tool” that was used wisely are celebrities. Celebrities have thousands of followers on Twitter and other social networks. When they post or promote something, you can be sure it will reach the masses. Just like celebs like George Clooney & Angelina Jolie were involved in the campaign for Darfur, which helped promote awareness. They are able to open a window of interest with their followers and also in the media. So when Oprah Winfrey writes: “…have watched the film. Had them on show last year.Made big donation. #KONY2012 “ or Rihanna: “#KONY2012 Spread the word!!!” people will be watching.
No doubt this is a brilliant campaign, which also involves techniques of getting people involved with specific dates & missions, tools to tracking people’s activity (bracelet with a unique number to punch on the site and share your actions) and more.
The forth thing to take into consideration is us. People at the age of 30 and up. We follow trends of younger people, under 20. They are the “leaders” of the internet in user trends. They started the Facebook revolution. We followed. The campaign targeted them. We followed. We are the ones that have the actual power to change, but trends start much earlier.
Lastly I would say even the news coverage is changing. 40 million people phenomenon is not something that cannot stay under the radar. Check out this Guardian piece, collecting reactions from all over the net and mobilizing its sources. What we know and used to is changing rapidly.
Another example of a good viral campaign from the last couple of days is a movie produced by the “Emergency Committee for Israel” trying to “expose” President Barack Obama as actually being an enemy of Israel.
This 30 minute movie already reached 200,000 views. Again, it is not necessarily that all those people watched the entire movie, but the idea reached them. The intention of this movie is to frighten supporters of Israel away from backing President Obama.
Who has an interest to scare supporters of Israel in regards to president Obama in an election year? Behind the “Emergency Committee for Israel” you can find William Kristol, the publisher of the neo-conservative Weekly Standard and a very influential figure in the conservative movement and in efforts to swing Jewish support to the right of the political map, Gary Bauer another prominent conservative figure, Republican Congressman from Virginia, Rep. Scott Rigell and others.
The trick behind spreading this movie effectively is to send it out by “regular” people. The subject line of the email stated: “Obama and Israel – The astonishing truth”, a headline no Israel lover can ignore. “The video on the end of the link below was JUST RELEASED… The truth contained in this short film…I urge you to IMMEDIATELY WATCH it, and SPEEDILY FORWARD the link to as many people “. You get the point.
Both of these films and campaigns teach us something about the power of the internet, but also should make us aware of how easy it is to manipulate the masses with this platform. Propaganda have never been easier.
It also raises an interesting philosophical question. If the “leaders” of the trends online are teens and 20′s, can their developed sense of justice drive us to utilize the internet to fix some of the biggest injustices around the the world, Tikun Olam (Ve’hahavta lere’acha kamocha)? Before this thrilling but potentially dangerous tool is taken from us.