The Kony 2012 video is a thirty-minute short film created by The Invisible Children, and within just six days of its release on 5 May 2012, it has reached a whopping 100 million views on the internet, with many coming from those who viewed translated and subtitled versions of the documentary online.[quote 001] To reach such a hefty viewcount in such a short time, Kony 2012's "viral" nature is unprecedented. What is it the message in the video? Why did it become so widespread? Will it manage to live up to its hype? These are questions which beg to be answered, but before that, here is a synopsis of the Kony 2012 video from our best friend, Wikipedia.

The film documents Invisible Children's plans and efforts to arrest Joseph Kony. It describes Kony's brutal guerrilla warfare tactics with his rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the regions (northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan) in which they have been employed. One of the main people featured in the film is a young Ugandan named Jacob Acaye, whose brother was killed by the LRA. In response, director and founder of Invisible Children, Jason Russell, promises Jacob that he will help "stop Kony."

The film advocates curtailing compelled and coerced youth military service and the restoration of social order. The video also has clips of Jason Russell's young son reacting to the information about Kony. Near the end of the film, an announcement from President Obama is shown authorizing the deployment of 100 United States military advisers to provide "information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces", so Central African troops can eventually "remove Joseph Kony from the battlefield." The video concludes by urging viewers to join its publicity campaign by putting up posters and helping out in their communities.

The issue in Uganda:

The nature of the video, and how did it grab the world's attention

With superb story-telling, exceptional cinematography and glorious film-editing, the documentary takes viewers on an emotional roller coaster.At the start of the video, viewers are made to feel like they are in a planetarium, and that they are but a small and insignificant bit of the universe. The narrator, Jason Russel, creates a very personal connection with the audience, simply by taking them through the birth of his own son, Gavin. Gavin then introduces you to Jacob, his friend from Africa. But unlike Gavin, who you have seen being showered with love and care since the day he was born, Jacob lives his life in fear of being abducted and murdered. He represents the Ugandan children who are robbed of hope for a better future, who feel terrorizing fear and loneliness and desperation. Furthermore, Jacob speaks English very well, and this makes viewers feel that he is someone we can relate to, and that his life is relevant to ours. [quote_005]

Of course, the Kony 2012 will not be able to become such an internet sensation by purely being an emotional video. Here are some of the factors (non-exhaustive) that probably played a part in propelling the video (and its makers) to internet stardom.


  • Repeated identification of the problem. The viewer is continually reminded of the existence of the enemy and their power to overcome it.
  • Repeated and diverse calls to action. In many different ways Jason urges people to take action. He does this through indirect statements viewers relate to “I don’t want my kids to live in a world where…”, as a commander mobilizing his troops to fight “We are targeting…The mission is…” and in-direct calls to action “too often we have done nothing but if we are going to change that, we have to start somewhere”. Interestingly, I couldn’t find any direct asks from Jason, instead it’s left to the end text and website content.
  • Clear instructions, attractive next steps. Jason explains “how” to be a part of this and the “how” is attractive. Speaking as commander of his activist army, he gives very clear and easy to understand instructions. The viewer perceives that with tangible next steps, they have the power to make change happen… by vandalising their community with posters with sexy graphics, petitioning popular celebrities via twitter and wearing a wristband band that will identify them to the “it” group.
  • Fueling the innate desire to change the world. Most people – especially young people- want to believe they can change the world. As mentioned above, the video gives clear instructions and affirmations that make the viewer feel they can bring the enemy to justice. He then laces this action with emotional statements that feed in to the innate desire to change the world: “Arresting Joseph Kony will prove that the world we live in has new rules” .

Social Media Integration

With Facebook "shares" and Tweeter "tweets" about the Kony 2012 video flooding our feeds, it is difficult not to take notice of the video and the issue itself. In fact, as the spread of the video started out on social media platforms, there is a interesting phenomena where teenagers (age range 13-25, and who incidentally spend more time on social networks) learn about the issue earlier than their parents. Even senior journalists who follow everyday current affairs may find their children "educating" them about Kony at their dinner tables. [need citation].

Social media platforms did act as a catalyst in Kony 2012's virality. However, it is not the existence of social media per se which allows Kony 2012 to be so viral. It is how Invisible Children weaves social media platforms into its campaign.

[001] Kony 2012 Is the "Most Viral" Video of All Time
[005] Analysis of Kony 2012: Lying to Tell the Truth,