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The Fastest-Spreading Viral Video in History (And Why I Haven't Watched It)

by Debbie Saslaw, Editor/Motion Graphics Artist on March 20, 2012 · 5 comments

KONY 2012

I was going to post a KONY 2012 parody video as part of last week’s Viral Spiral, but my own snarky comments as Magnet’s one-woman peanut gallery turned into an epic rant about Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, and Jason Russell’s recent nude romp through the streets of San Diego.

So now I’m going to admit something to you.

I have not seen this KONY 2012 video that has gone so epically viral in these past two weeks. Why? To be perfectly honest, seeing people get wrapped up in these trendy social awareness campaigns is like hearing nails scratch across a digital chalkboard. Putting a ribbon on your pink Twitter avatar isn’t going to change the fact that doctors haven’t found a cure for breast cancer, and as far as I know, Joseph Kony hasn’t been arrested. This is not to say that awareness doesn’t bring about change. SOPA was repealed, Hosni Mubarak gave up power in Egypt, and we got Betty White to host SNL.

What Joseph Kony is doing is disgusting, and I’m certainly glad more people are aware of the monstrous actions of the Lord’s Resistance Army. But Liking, sharing, and even donating money to Invisible Children isn’t going to do much, since CBS reported that almost two-thirds of the non-profit’s 8.9 million-dollar budget was spent on marketing and management costs. 3.3 million dollars went to rehabilitating the northern region of Uganda, and while that number is nothing to scoff at, there are more charities like KIVA or Gua Africa who have adopted the same mission without accepting money from anti-gay Christian groups or running around naked in public places.

It’s another proverbial Catch-22. Invisible Children is obviously pouring money into their marketing campaigns, thus increasing the popularity of their cause. But if all 10o million viewers of KONY 2012 donated $1 to the charity, 60 million dollars may be wasted on another marketing tactic.

KONY 2012 has exaggerated the severity of the current situation in Uganda, which has a deep, complicated history that stretches across three decades. For many years, the Ugandan government was involved in many of the same atrocious practices attributed to Joseph Kony and his militia. Invisible Children admitted the fact that they have simplified the situation by announcing that “in [their] quest to garner wide public support of nuanced policy, [they] sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format”. So much like the disclaimer that scrolls before a TV movie, the film has been formatted to fit audience expectations.

While improving the lives of Uganda’s youth is a major goal, representatives from IC admit their mission is two-fold. Invisible Children’s Jedidiah Jenkins told Charlie Rose, “[their] other key goal is to change the mindset of Western young people to see themselves as global citizens.”

Call me pessimistic, but one half-hour documentary is not going to change the programming of millions of narcissistic teenagers for more than ten minutes.

It’s always amazing when the Internet catapults social change, but I’m skeptical of the charity’s motives. 100 million people have watched KONY 2012, but how many of these viewers have stopped to examine the values of the organization that is receiving their money?  It doesn’t take extensive research to expose Invisible Children’s incongruities—a simple Google search yields a ton of disheartening information, as well as a link to the charity’s sub-par rating on Charity Navigator.

Unless Invisible Children keeps funneling money into these heart-wrenching campaigns, the spotlight—and support—is bound to fade. At the end of the day, I’d much rather give my hard-earned money to a respectable charity than to one founded by a man who describes himself as “the child of Oprah and Bono.

[ View KONY 2012 ]

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Debbie SaslawDebbie Saslaw makes up 1/2 of Magnet Media’s post-production staff and doubles as the company’s resident expert on Internet culture. She also edits a weekly supercut for Slacktory and her viral videos have garnered more than 1 million hits after appearing on sites such as Buzzfeed, HuffPost Comedy, Uproxx,, and The Daily What.

  • AdamLehman

    Nailed it!

  • Debsdad

    Very well said, whoever you are

  • Pingback: The Viral Spiral: The Penultimate Edition

  • Ryan

    Saw that video today, and had drew the identical conclusion. Thanks for taking the time to post it!

    • Magnet Media

      Thanks for checking it out!

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