KONY 2012: the uncovered night

23 April 2012

Written by: Julia McDonald

‘Cover The Night’ occurred on 20 April, spurred by non-profit organization Invisible Children, to help bring attention to African warlord Joseph Kony. The movement, eight years in the making, reached its height of popularity last month when a video, summarizing the cause, went viral through social media.

With freedom of speech online, KONY 2012 experienced confrontation overnight, where the finances of the organization were called into question by an online blogger from eastern Canada. A subsequent scandal involving an alleged psychological breakdown of the creator of the video, Jason Russell, caused a further decline in support.

Six weeks later, the world watched with baited breath to see if the pre-planned ‘Cover the Night’ event would bring back a resurgence of KONY 2012. The organisation was hoping that putting up posters overnight would cause a sensation on Saturday morning, so that citizens and decision makers alike would see the dedication to the cause. Unfortunately, this did not occur.

Barely a poster could be seen in downtown Melbourne on Saturday morning, and that was just the tip of the support melting off the iceberg. Australia was one of the first areas to begin ‘Cover the Night’ because of time zones. Keeping an eye to social media, the most frequent tweet about the event was ‘is this still happening?’ alongside those who did not support it from the start, gloating or further stating how unworthy they thought the cause to be. The morning-after Twitter search of ‘Cover the Night’ produced the word ‘failure’ several times over, in response to the movement.

As for the mainstream news, there was also little to report on. Radio Netherlands followed movements in the United States, United Kingdom and The Netherlands. In London, out of the 6,000 people that promised to show via Facebook, only 50 appeared to act. Worse still, were the two people from Los Angeles who showed up to paint a KONY mural. One person had to hold the video camera while the other painted. The best effort was in Amsterdam when 100 people met up to poster the city after watching the original KONY video on the big screen.

Seattle Pi also reported low numbers of youth turning up to paper the local market. They, as well, reported a security guard following the group of teens around and ripping the posters down while they moved on to the next.

Finally, USA Today gave an account on the meeting in Washington D.C. where Jacob Acaye from Uganda, who is featured in the original video, was present; only 25 supporters came to clap as the ‘stop Kony’ banner was unfurled.

While this would seem disheartening to anyone, Invisible Children has not given up.

They released this video today, thanking everyone for their participation and planning the next event to take place on November 3rd. While it does not say exactly what the event is, it seems to be a concert or a party involving getting people together and dancing. There is a lot of time between now and then which the organization can use to rebuild their image and gain back the support they so quickly won and lost. This also poses the risk that everyone will forget, and the cause will go back to being supported by those who have been there from the beginning, before the KONY video.

Although this event has not been as successful as it seemed for the organisation, the phenomenon that is or was KONY 2012 has produced a change in information consumption among young people. While many jumped on board quickly after seeing the video, they were just as quick to read the criticisms and investigate what was going on within the company. The lack of support for ‘Cover the Night’ may be the result of more media literacy, or that citizen journalism is producing more powerful content. Bloggers, Tweeters and Facebookers were quick to research information and post their opinion on it so that others could make informed choices, whether they were in favour of or against the idea. Although it has not been the most positively viewed campaign it cannot be denied that KONY did make an impact on the online community by releasing one video.

Julia McDonald is completing her Masters of Global Communications at La Trobe University. Follow her on Twitter @Jules_mcdonald.