As any Hollywood mogul will confirm, when your movie is watched by 100 million people, you need to make a sequel. That market is just too big to pass up. And the renown viral video Kony 2012 has been viewed well over 100 million times. Nevertheless, the reasons the San Diego based firm ’Invisible Children’ will be releasing a sequel to their 30-minute wunderkind seem not really about tapping a market so much as explaining the phenomenon. It has not been released as of this posting, but one can’t help but wonder if we need the prequel/context-setter any more than we needed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
What do we know about a movie that has not yet appeared?
The announcement of a prequel was made on Invisible Children’s Facebook page and via England’s The Guardian. The newspaper reported yesterday:
Jedidiah Jenkins, Invisible Children’s director of ideology, told Reuters a Kony 2012 Part II video was expected to be released on Tuesday. It had been designed for an international audience with more details on Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and more voices from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the LRA currently based, he said.
Though I am unsure why a nonprofit needs to direct ideology, Jedidiah’s press release suggests that the organization has the footage necessary to answer at least some of the challenges leveled against the first video and to explain the importance of the ‘Cover the Night’ campaign coming up in a fortnight. The nonprofit’s Facebook page (screenshot above) stresses the upcoming release of the video, but as of our posting does not offer specifics.
One of the critiques of the entire campaign has been its (tacit?) encouragement of ‘slactivism’ or ‘clicktivism’ − the sort of ‘activism’ that can be done with a click of a social-media icon or a purchase of a ‘media packet’. For example, Katie J.M. Baker on Jezebel.com takes a notably skeptical (but not cynical) view of the phenomenon, and even the coming sequel she argues will only give us ‘a general sense of goodwill’ − which is no small thing, even if it doesn’t get Kony arrested any time real soon.
The über-viral quality of the video still gives food-for-thought in terms of social-media outreach strategies for nonprofits. When telling your organization’s story (be it through video or on your Facebook timeline or at a fundraising meeting), you will perforce leave things out. But when does your editing cross a line from ‘clarifying the issue’ to ‘suppressing the facts’? How should you respond if your outreach gets pushback or, in this instance, hostile challenges? When does your mission become ideology?
As I argued last week, Joseph Kony surely is a war criminal and should be brought to justice, but all the attention has been brought instead to Invisible Children and the apparent sleights-of-hand in its video − while Kony apparently remains free.is that
But what if the much-anticipated sequel explains real on-the-ground developments? Presents verifiable events of recent crimes against humanity? Explains the complications around Kony’s movements outside Uganda in the last few years? Such a sequel might clear up a number of concerns of the first video, but it also would lay bare not Invisible Children’s deft production values but its awareness that social-media audiences do not need facts as long as they get whipped up into a frenzy of indignation. In an effort to compete with millions of other productions, how far should one go go to motivate? If Kony 2012 II admits to simplification and manipulation, what will that say about what we expect of social media? Was the real Darth Vader in us all the time, waiting to be coaxed out?
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Written by: Christopher Gardner, PhD