Robert Katz, Staff Writer
On Wednesday, March 6, students’ Facebook front pages were flooded with charitable and philanthropic sentiments along with disgust for the now-infamous Ugandan guerrilla leader, Joseph Kony. Many of the posts linked to an increasingly viral 30-minute video speaking out against Kony, succinctly and ironically named Kony 2012, made by the non-profit activist organization Invisible Children. As of Tuesday, March 13, it was viewed about 77,000,000 times since March 5.
Kony, leader of the religious movement known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has become one of the past two decade’s most notorious war criminals and is accused of kidnapping children of Uganda and nearby African countries, along with generally terrorizing central African villages.
The United States has aided in the war against the LRA since the second Bush administration, including last October, when President Obama ordered the deployment of 100 armed military advisors to central Africa.
The degrees to which students have supported the cause have varied. While some have aided in the spread of online awareness, others have donated to Invisible Children, while still others have begun organizing groups to spread awareness of the distant atrocities to their local communities.
Students gather in support
The most prominent student event, Cover the Night (Make Kony Famous) Los Angeles, has been organized by freshman Sharon Meir. It is one of many rallies as part of the international Cover the Night event, which seeks to “use modern propaganda to spread the word that Joseph Kony is one of the largest war criminals in human history,” according to its website.
“It’s to raise awareness about problems in Africa with Kony. We’re going to place posters all over LA so people will really want to know what it’s about. Everyone is doing what they can to really make it work,” Meir said.
The majority of the event’s organization and growth took place on the immensely popular Facebook.
“I made an event on Facebook and got a few of my friends to invite all of their friends. Then I put my link of the event on to the worldwide event page and people saw it and joined,” Meir said. People invited their friends to the event and somebody got a permit to assemble for wherever we meet in LA because people are going to have their own groups in their own parts of LA.”
As of Monday, March 12, Cover the Night Los Angeles has had over 4,500 RSVP’s as “Going,” with slightly under 500 stated as “Maybe” attending.
“I didn’t really expect this many people to join. I only expected about 200 people and we have more than 4,000,” Meir said.
A cause to reconsider
Even with this much pledged involvement, social studies teacher Pete Van Rossum questioned the movement and social media’s impact on philanthropy.
“On one hand you have amazing recognition of a problem, but on the other hand it reflects a lot of ‘popularity’ as people start to get into it and pass it on and it suddenly becomes this major cause,” Van Rossum said. “It could very well be right on and the right course of action to pursue, but one asks why this particular one caught the public’s eye. It went viral and the idea is that a lot of people fall onto it without thinking about what it means or doing research. They just do it because someone sent it to them and they send it to someone else.”
Van Rossum showed some hesitance to accept the cause’s rapid rise to fame.
“What about all the other movements around the world that are equally as deserving? On one hand it’s the power of social media and what it can do, but on the other hand it’s a little bit scary because it’s the power of propaganda and determines who gets listened to and who doesn’t,” Van Rossum said.
Meir’s stated goal wasn’t to change the world in one night, only to change people’s minds about this particular incident.
Meir “would want [her fellow students] to understand why what Joseph Kony is doing is wrong…There’s nothing you can do about it besides know how wrong it is and make sure you treat kids the right way.”
Illustration by Sasha Park