Before Gangnam Style came along, it was the international viral video everyone was talking about. That's right, Kony 2012, the sometimes praised, sometimes scorned, viral awareness campaign to put an end to African warlord Joseph Kony. On Sunday night, the group behind the video, Invisible Children, released its 30-minute follow-up video and its celebration of social media and millenial activism is bound to drive social media skeptics like Malcolm Gladwell insane.
Opening with a scene of media pundits chiding the millennial generation for being self-obsessed and hopeless, the message of this new video seems to be that all the adults were wrong: The power of tweets, Tumbls, IMs and all those new-fangled communication tools did have a palpable effect in coordinating government action against Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. "Our generation can bring the worst war lord to justice" says an Invisible Children activist. The video cuts to scenes of youths texting, Facebooking and commenting on YouTube.
It's a point that critics like Gladwell, who believe the influence of Twitter and Facebook on social activism is over-stated, would surely dispute, and not without merit. After all, Kony is still at large, most likely central Africa, so despite over 111 million views, it hasn't succeeded. On the other hand, the video did trigger bipartisan action in Congress at a very difficult time to get anything done. So there's room for debate.
Regardless, just like the effort to capture Kony itself, the video goes meta, focusing on Invisible Children, which has been criticized for everything from its "white savior complex," to its financial record its co-founder Jason Russell, who had something of a nervous breakdown earlier this year when he was detained for running naked through San Diego yelling incoherent things. Taking the viewer through the creative process behind the original Kony 2012 video, the new video discusses the moments when the campaign just went viral. "I was the person who actually like clicked the public button on YouTube," says a woman identified as Invisible Children's social media guru. The video proceeds to defend the group after it fell victim to attacks, sometimes over-heated, that Kony 2012 is a scam. We were "overwhelmed" by our critics, one activist says. Russel has also been defending the group and explaining his traumatic experience on Oprah and in newspapers. "You have to either laugh or cry every day at how embarrassing it was. I've decided to laugh at it and say, 'Yes, I was crazy and out of control,'" Russel told The Los Angeles Times. It goes without saying, the mission to bring Joseph Kony to justice is an admirable pursuit. Will this latest video bring the group back into the fold? Let's just hope it goes better than his Oprah appearance.