Kony 2012: The Making of a Viral Movement

The Anatomy of a Viral Video

The most remarkable thing happened this week. Within four days a San Diego-based charity’s half-hour film about a Ugandan warlord accused of kidnapping up to 30,000 children in the past 26 years – turning girls into sex slaves and boys into child soldiers – has been watched 70 million times, mostly by teenagers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

While you read this, ask yourself why this issue has so taken hold among young people, your students.  If this story is so important to them, should it be a local story?

What do you make of the notion that readers and viewers only care about local, not international stories?

On “CBS This Morning” Friday, Jedidiah Jenkins, the director of ideology for Invisible Children, defended the group’s expenditures – both in Africa and through its advocacy. He also discounted the comment of one Ugandan journalist who characterized the viral video as a passing fad for Americans whose attention will be on something else next week.

The viral manhunt is the work of a non-profit organization called Invisible Children.  The YouTube video went viral like wildfire.  It is said to be the fasted growing viral video in history.

70-million viewers in three days.  Some call this “slacktivism” which allows people to retweet or viral something without really doing anything to help.

Story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/kony-2012-the-anatomy-of-a-viral-campaign/2012/03/09/gIQALjbs1R_story.html

The story ignited using key firestarters:

To get the campaign off the ground quickly, the group had users send messages to 20 “culturemakers” and 12 “policymakers” with influential Twitter accounts urging them to support the effort. The list included names such as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former President George W. Bush, as well as celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Mark Zuckerberg and Lady Gaga.

The message that users could send to those people included a hashtag, #Kony2012, that gave the Twitter community something to galvanize around. It read: “Help us end #LRA violence. Visit kony2012.com to find out why and how. @rickwarren Join us for #KONY2012”

Invisible Children responds to criticism about ‘Stop Kony’ campaign

Kony 2012 campaign gets support of Obama, others

Uganda: How you can help

‘Kony 2012’ offers businesses lessons on viral marketing

Ugandans criticize anti-Kony video campaign sensation for simplifying a complicated history

As you might expect, there is significant blowback to this effort.

Some say it is a simplistic response, some say it is solely aimed at getting the U.S. military involved in Ugandan affairs.  Some attack IC for spending it’s donation income badly.  Some say the charity is supporting forces that are nearly as bad themselves as Kony.

Here is a Tumbler with all of that and more. http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/


Marines Urinate on Corpses-What do Journalists Show?

The awful images were spread around the internet Wednesday, what appears to be U.S. Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters.  The video is short, 38 seconds, the origin is unknown. The Marines confirm they are investigating, so far nobody is calling the video a fake.

The Washington Post reported:

The Marine Corps said Wednesday that it is investigating the origins of a video on the Internet that purports to show Marines in combat gear urinating on the corpses of three Taliban insurgents.

The brief video, which runs for less than a minute, began circulating on Web sites early Wednesday. It depicts four Marines laughing as they relieve themselves while standing over three prostrate bodies. (The video, which includes graphic images, appears here.)

Here is an UNEDITED GRAPHIC version of the video on “Shock and Awe Entertainment” a website that often posts graphic war images.

ABC News posted a photos protecting the faces of the Marines.

Ethics Questions for Journalists:

-Why is this video news?

-Can you think of reasons to protect the Marines’ identity?

-Should the video be censored so as not show the Marines’ genitals? Would a TV station be in violation of FCC indecency regulations if it showed those images on air?

-Should the faces of the Taliban fighters be protected?

-What worries should journalists have that airing these images will cause more problems for American soldiers?

-How concerned should we be about whether the video is real?

Other coverage:

    1. Panetta Blasts Video of Marines Urinating on Dead

      ABC News‎ – 12 minutes ago
      (apacheclips.com) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday condemned as “utterly deplorable” a video that purports to depict four US Marines urinating on

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  1. Nato condemns US marinesurinating on dead bodies’ – video


    38 minutes ago – Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for Nato’s international security assistance force in Afghanistan, gives his response a video which appears to

  2. Video Said to Show Marines Urinating on Taliban – New York Times


    3 hours ago – The Afghan government on Thursday condemned the video, which apparently depicts four soldiers in uniform urinating on three dead Taliban

  3. Video of Marine Corps urinating on dead bodies prompts


    8 hours ago – The 40 second clip shows four men in combat gear standing over the three corpses with their genitals exposed as they relieve themselves.

One Story, Two Versions, Big Lessons

Here is a story about the death of the son of the offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers. These two versions raise ethics questions about how subtle difference in writing and storytelling styles dramatically change your understanding of the story:

AP story:  http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/football/nfl/01/09/mike-philbin-missing.ap/index.html?sct=hp_t2_a5&eref=sihp

ESPN story:  http://www.espnmilwaukee.com/corp/page/01/09/12_Packers_%27family%27_faces_tragic_loss/378?feed=2&fb_source=message

I urge you to compare these two pieces to learn some key lessons:

-The AP version of the story includes a mention of criminal charges that the deceased had faced calling them sex abuse charges.

-The AP version mentions the charges as the last sentence.

-The ESPN version of the story puts some context on the charges.

-The ESPN version of the story mentions the criminal case much higher in the story and the closing line of the story is far more sympathetic.


Why are the criminal charges relevant to the story of the young man’s death?

If the charges are included, where should the writer mention those charges in the story? Why?

How much responsibility does the journalist have to explain whether the criminal charges have any connection to the death (or not?)