We generally think of YouTube as a place where we can find entertainment, education, how-tos, and so forth. But its reach is so vast that it has been a place where Presidential candidates make their campaign videos available, where people cry out for help, and earlier this year, where one young man presented his last words fighting heart disease. Now, a video is taking off on YouTube in search of a war criminal, Joseph Kony.
It's worth pointing out that there is some measure of controversy surrounding the video and the group that created it. But the video has gone well beyond viral and into the public discussion, and it did so for a reason. I'm not here to choose a side in the debate. Regardless of how you feel about the subject, I'd just like to point out that the KONY 2012 video is a very well-made persuasive piece, and I'll explain why.
It's A Cause, With A Solution, And A Clear Goal
Uganda's Joseph Kony is at the top of the International Criminal Court's top 10 list of wanted fugitives. He is the head of the Lord's Resistance Army, which is responsible for kidnapping children and giving them guns to force them to fight, an estimated 66,000 total, and a total of over 2 million displaced since 1986. The cause hit filmmaker Jason Russell pretty hard. He says, "If we saw something like this in America it would be headline news." He made friends with a kid who would definitely be a coveted prize of Joseph Kony's, a young man by the name of Jacob, who is our window into the problem.
And so now, Jason Russell's ultimate goal, along with his organization Invisible Children, is to "arrest Joseph Kony."
The video is a little under half-an-hour, which hasn't remotely stopped its viral rise:
I'm not exactly the type of guy who gets caught up in "causes." Mainly because as one person, I don't think I have much influence. Which brings me to the first point of how good this video is.
1. There is a clear statement that you are not alone in helping.
How many "cause" videos say, "Give money" or "Call your congressman" and then just leave it at that? This video shows that there are people around the world who are dedicated to this cause. And they've targeted powerful people who can help. Which brings me to this:
2. They are targeting specific people, rather than throwing an ambiguous net.
The video is very specific about who they want to champion this cause, and those who they feel they can get to help. It doesn't say, "Let's get everyone you can think of to be a part of it." It says, "Go to these people. Make them know what you think." It shows organization, which projects power. Furthermore:
3. It has a clearly stated goal.
They aren't asking for the "death of Joseph Kony," although I think they would accept that. They want the "arrest of Joseph Kony." And they want it by 2012. Why 2012? Since some American troops have been sent down to Uganda, if Congress doesn't think the cause is worthwhile, they'll pull support and the troops. So, they have an endgame, and they have a due date: December 31. The message means you know what you're getting into, and you have a time table. And how in the world does this happen?
4. It states what you need to do, step-by-step.
There is a segment in this video that clearly states that if you'd like to help, here's how you do it. Here's the cause and effect. Here's what Senators and Representatives respond to. You hear a snippet, "If a congressman sees 25 calls about the same subject in a day, he's going to pay attention."
5. It has a unique way of making the problem a part of our consciousness.
The goal is to arrest Joseph Kony and get people of power involved. The way this happens is to make you aware of it as deeply as possible. So the first thing Jason Russell wants to do is to make "Joseph Kony famous," which comes from things like this video, and on April 20, a mass blanketing of Kony posters everywhere in the world.
6. No sensationalism.
The video is excellent for portraying the horrors without showing graphic video evidence, by deciding not to go with a sensationalist route. It would have been easy to show footage of horrible things. What we get is footage of the horrible conditions, and a heartfelt statement from Jacob where he can't control himself crying, one that starts out by saying he'd rather die than be on this Earth.
With Jason Russell showing how he himself has been affected, and how it relates to his own son, and by befriending someone who knows the terror, and by making a well-organized offensive in tackling the problem, he has made a video that can reach as many people as possible. He's using social media, YouTube, and Vimeo, and has made a piece of content that is hard to ignore–and the controversy is only driving more attention to the piece.