The Kony 2012 campaign treated its audience like children with short attention spans, and now that's how many of them are behaving.
Almost exactly one week after viral video campaign Kony 2012 alerted millions of viewers to the horror of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, the start of what was supposed to be an international activism campaign to spur the U.S. military to arrest him, the world appears to have lost interest. According to Google data posted above, searches for Kony have dropped precipitously, as have his mentions in the news. Search volume looks to be dropping pretty rapidly back down toward zero, where it was throughout the now-over years of Kony's worst atrocities. The chart looks almost identical for U.S.-only searches.
For the sake of comparison, here's a chart that compares U.S. searches for (and, below that, news on) Kony, Oscars, NCAA, Obama, and Syria. The latter two barely register. The Oscars had a tellingly similar trajectory as Kony: an entertainment event that inspired frenzied but short-lived interest. The NCAA has just surpassed Kony in terms of the American Internet user's interest.
Kony has also been dominating Twitter,
frustrating human rights workers who wish the world could care this much
about Syria, where approximately 100 civilians are being killed every
day. Syria has been referenced 6.6 million times over the last three
months, while Kony has been mentioned 11.5 million times in just one
week. Foreign Policy's David Kenner noted that Syria is very
complicated whereas the Kony 2012 video made Central Africa sound very
simple, but says he suspects the attention probably won't make any real difference for Kony's actual victims:
The bigger question is whether any of this Internet-based sturm und drang can be translated into real-world action. Minty found that, during the peak of global interest in the Kony video, only about 140 tweets came out of Uganda regarding the story, and that Ugandans wrote only about 2,000 comments on Facebook out of a pool of 5 million -- a drop in the bucket compared to the deluge of comments coming from the United States and Europe.
Invisible Children, the NGO behind the campaign (and, always, the white faces in front of its many cameras), was probably never going to make much of a difference in the world with Kony 2012. The campaign was doomed for the exact same reasons for its success at generating viewers and media buzz. It reduced Central African violence to such simplicity that viewers didn't have to bother themselves with learning more, and it told people that all they had to do to fix the problem was share the video on Facebook and maybe buy a wristband.