Kony 2012: Respect the Power of the Crowd

kony2012If you’ve been paying attention over the past few days, I’ll bet you’ve heard about the YouTube video “Kony 2012.”  If you have a teenager, I’d say the odds are 99% or higher that you know about it.

The video, which has gone viral in a big way this week, is on one level a profile of the human rights abuses of Joseph Kony, the Ugandan leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

On another level, it is an incredibly well-crafted piece of propaganda. Note that the word “propaganda” can have both positive and negative connotations.  The film is a masterful call to action targeted squarely at the hearts of idealistic young people.

On a third level, it is a portrayal of the film’s creator (Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children) as a selfless hero.

I’m not quite ready to bite, Jason. By the way, I found your use of your own son to turn the emotional screws on the viewer to be particularly off-putting, if effective.

There have been many criticisms, like the ones here and here, of the accuracy of the video and the integrity of the organization behind it. Personally, I am somewhat skeptical of anything that is tied up with a bow so perfectly.

However, there is no doubt that, regardless of the specifics here, the types of atrocities described in the film exist and are a major problem in war-torn areas of the world.  Shedding light on these issues is a good thing.

What interests me most about this phenomenon is the way that a well-crafted and well-marketed film can manipulate – for good or ill – people’s emotions and lead them to action.  In this case action means viral sharing, and presumably, financial contributions.

A tremendous amount of power will accrue to those, like Russell, who understand the new technological world order, and manipulate it to achieve their goals.

But with power comes responsibility – the responsibility to be accurate, for starters.  It is our responsibility to be skeptical consumers of information, and to teach our children to have a healthy skepticism as well.

From the perspective of marketing and research, I take two lessons from this episode:

  • great content wins
  • respect the power of the crowd

Here’s the video.  Have a look and judge for yourself.

About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.


  1. Giving circle says:

    I just find it hard to believe that this Kony 2012 is not true. Also what charity out there does not make money off of there donations. I am going to be researching this new information. The Kony 2012 video touched my heart and I was brought to tears over that video

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