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What Happened to KONY?

For a short period in early 2012, the Kony 2012 video was the bread butter of social media platforms and elicited strong reactions from many people who were introduced to the Ugandan crisis for the very first time. A few months later, the obvious question is: what has happened to KONY? The thing is, there are no toll free numbers you can call or websites you that scream “click here” for you to follow the ebbs and flows of the Kony campaign.

In very simple terms, the aftermath of the Kony campaign can be described in three words: everyone stopped caring. When the video was first introduced, it was more like Italian food in a Chinese district. People gravitated towards the novelty of the information, felt outrage at the severity of Kony’s crimes, realized the plight of many helpless children in Uganda, and cried for action to be done by the United Nations among other agencies.

Over the next few days, various videos and websites popped out explaining the side that was subtly hidden in the Kony campaign. In particular, the organization responsible for releasing the video was put into the fore, made to sit in the limelight and limited by floor tape so it didn’t have enough wiggle room, and this exposed many of the questions surrounding the nature of the activities behind the Kony campaign. For example, the group’s financial affairs were scrutinized revealing donations from anti-gay and right wing religious groups thereby diverting the issue to the organization itself.

Within a very short period, the social pressure caused the group’s founder, Jason Russell, to break down because of the attention. Perhaps the action alert was too severe for his liking so much so that in one publicized incident, he was seen freaking out without clothing in a public place. That was the end of Kony 2012. Today, it’s nothing more than a viral marketing campaign which gathered steam only to fall short days later. In social parlance, you visit site, get riled up by it, but then quickly loose interest.

To the group’s defense, Kony 2012 had its fair share of truthful facts albeit some of it was blown out of proportion. Today, UN missions attest to the fact that Joseph Kony no longer wields the same level of power and influence in Uganda but has gone MIA, if not covertly silent, over the last few years. The situation in Uganda, while still dire, is a far cry from what it was in the 1990s. The reformation of the country is in full swing, albeit slowly and modestly, but it has taken steps to right the ship and strive for peace.

Kony was a perfect example of how viral marketing can be a dangerous tool when placed in the wrong hands. Thankfully, as the empathy was shift, so was the response. It was put in its proper place fairly quickly, and in there lies the boon for social media as a platform for proper journalism.

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