I was delighted to learn that the American group, Invisible Children, will this week release a follow-up to its hugely popular — and equally controversial — “Kony 2012” video.
The video highlights the activities of Ugandan war criminal and rebel leader Joseph Kony.
The first 29-minute film garnered more than 100 million views on YouTube in two weeks, and became the most viral video in history.
So far, according to Invisible Children, more than five million people all over the world have signed up to support its campaign to capture Kony. The BBC reported that the video “proved popular with young people’’.
“Some criticised the video for over-simplifying a complex issue.
“One of the most interesting aspects of the film was the way it struck a chord with a younger generation who were often not engaged with the traditional news agenda.
“Some US Senators claimed to have been alerted to the problem by their children.
“All three of my kids, in different context and different times have said: ‘So what are you doing about Joseph Kony and the LRA?’” Senator Chris Coons told the Associated Press in a recent interview.
“Mr Coons is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations African affairs subcommittee. He has travelled to Africa to hear about the issue firsthand.
“A recent report from the US Pew Research centre concluded that the film represented a new way for young people to consume news.
“It found that 40 per cent of 18-29 year-olds had heard about the video, compared with 20 per cent of 50-64-year-olds and 18 per cent of 50-64-year-olds”.
We quote the above at length for a good reason, so we shall return to the meaning of “Kony 2012’s great appeal to youth.
The anger and hostility that Kony 2012 drew from grown-ups all over the world was shocking. At the height of the furore, there were a couple of African media leaders in Nairobi.
I raised this issue with the admirable Trevor Ncube, Zimbabwe media entrepreneur and Chief Executive of the South Africa newspaper, Mail & Guardian, one of the best papers on the continent.
His explanation is that because millions, nay, billions of people have joined social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and are blogging, it is extremely difficult to get noticed.
The problem is not that most people online are ignored; rather that really few people have anything interesting to say, or are innovative enough to merit attention.
The easiest way to get attention on social media, therefore, is to be the most controversial, the nastiest, and to say the most cutting things about other people’s videos, blogs, stories, and products. Social media, in short, has kicked off a massive and vicious race to be kings and queens of nasty and slash and burn.
So the more Kony 2012 went viral, the more hysterical the race to knock it down became.
Fortunately, it didn’t matter. Last week, there were reports that it was continuing to “grow like a wild-fire”.
So what are some of the things the video’s appeal to young people all over the world has taught us? That the world has truly changed.
There is the old African proverb that has since become world-famous, that “it takes a whole village to raise a child”. This meant many things. Children’s role models were people in their village. That was because children really didn’t know many people beyond their village or the neighbouring ones.
In times past, serious parents couldn’t let their sons and daughters marry someone from a village with a bad reputation.
As a result, everyone was vested in how everyone else in their village conducted themselves. If you were a boy or girl, all the village ensured that you grew up upright, had good manners, worked hard, was honest, and respected your elders.
Then our countries opened up. Soon it took a whole ethnic community, then a district, and finally a country, to raise a child.
Matters have changed with global media, the Internet, and social media, and parents are too busy working two or three jobs. Today, television and social media have become the nannies for many children, and friends on Facebook have become the siblings for single children.
Today, it takes the Internet (where groups like Invisible Children reside) — or better still, the whole world — to raise a child.
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