Friday, March 23, 2012

Online, a Distant Conflict Soars to Topic No. 1

This is an extraordinary story about a minor issue (Kony was a real menace years ago, but has been driven from Uganda and become largely insignificant; he's not even on the top 100 issues plaguing Africa), yet a video about him went viral thanks to Twitter and Facebook, resulting in more than 55 MILLION views of this 30-min video (, which triggered a front page story in today's NYT (plus the inevitable hilarious Hilter spoof: 


So why am I send this to my school reform email list?  Because we gotta figure out how to get something like this going viral for our issue, which, unlike Kony, is a MAJOR issue impacting every American and the future of our country!  There were some solid attempts around Waiting for Superman and Class Warfare, but nothing like this Kony video.  We gotta step up our game!  We should OWN social media – yet regularly get our butts kicked by a nutty 73-year-old woman…

that is how he discovered the horrors wrought by Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army. Mr. Russell would dedicate the next nine years of his life, often in obscurity, to making them a household name.

This week, in a testament to the explosive power of social media, he managed to do so in a matter of days, baffling diplomats, academics and Ugandans who have worked assiduously on the issue for decades without anything close to the blitz of attention that Mr. Russell and his tight-knit group of activists have generated.

Since being posted on Monday, their video, "KONY 2012," has attracted more than 50 million views on YouTube and Vimeo, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations on the first day alone and rocketing across Twitter and Facebook at a pace rarely seen for any video, let alone a half-hour film about a distant conflict in central Africa.

Though Mr. Russell is at a loss to fully explain it, he has clearly tapped into a vein of youthful idealism that the authorities the world over have been struggling — and failing — to comprehend and keep up with. YouTube said the popularity was driven by viewers in the United States and those younger than 25. Many parents, including at least one in the State Department, discovered the video only after their children showed it to them.


Online, a Distant Conflict Soars to Topic No. 1

Published: March 8, 2012

KAMPALA, Uganda — Jason Russell said he never knew he was driving into a war zone. At 24, he had just graduated from the University of Southern California after studying film, he said, and was out looking for a story to tell.

 Subscribe in a reader