ladbible logo

To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

The aftermath of Kony 2012 campaign and Jason Russell 10 years later

The aftermath of Kony 2012 campaign and Jason Russell 10 years later

A decade later and it's still hard to make sense of the campaign designed to expose Joseph Kony

It's been ten years since the Kony 2012 campaign, and to this day the world struggles to make sense of just what exactly went down.

To refresh your memory, back in 2012 when everyone thought the world was going to end, a 30-minute video dropped on YouTube that aimed to expose Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord who founded the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Christian fundamentalist rebel group.

There's no denying the crimes of the militant organisation, which has been engaged in a complex conflict in northern Uganda and neighbouring countries since the late 80s.

Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army is accused of numerous crimes against humanity.
REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo

As the leader of the group, Kony is accused of human rights violations that include murder, abduction, mutilation, child sex slavery and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Despite being indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Kony has evaded capture.

When Jason Russell - founder of the nonprofit Invisible Children - learned of the horrific crimes of the LRA, he decided to make a short documentary aiming to make Kony a household name.

And though the video accomplished this goal, reaching one million views within its first 24 hours and 100 million in just six days, concerns were quickly raised about the documentary and those behind it.

Viewers couldn't help but notice its slick production and overly simplistic overview of an issue that is both incredibly complex and has been ongoing for decades.

The first three minutes of the film dart between inspirational and amusing viral YouTube clips before cutting to footage of Russell with his young child and giving an inspiration speech to dozens of people.

Another issue is that the call to action focused on US leaders and celebrities rather than Ugandan authorities, telling the story through a very American, very white lens.

Many still consider the campaign to be a perfect example of the White Saviour Industrial Complex, which describes white people in power who consider themselves as godlike figures for 'rescuing' BIPOC individuals.

In a 2012 article from The Atlantic titled 'The Soft Bigotry of Kony 2012', writer Max Fisher said: "The viral video campaign reinforces a dangerous, centuries-old idea that Africans are helpless and that idealistic Westerners must save them."

Another issue is that many believe the video brought 'clicktivism' into the mainstream, whereby individuals support political or social causes through social media without having to put in any effort or commitment.

For those really 'dedicated' to the cause, Kony 2012 released an 'action kit' - a $30 package that included a t-shirt, wristbands and posters.

Many criticised the commercial nature of the campaign.
Pete Maclaine/Alamy Stock Photo

As you can see, the commercialisation of a devastating and ongoing conflict quickly became a punchline, and this leads us onto the final critique of the campaign - the funds.

At the time, reports stated that the video helped to draw in $26.5 million in donations for Invisible Children, but many were surprised to discover that only around a third of those funds were sent directly to serve Ugandan causes.

To be fair, the charity was and is open about where the money is spent, going to things like staff, management, travel and production.

Nonetheless, it only added to the skepticism of the true intentions of the campaign.

The backlash took its toll on Russell – just weeks after the documentary released in March, a number of videos shared by TMZ showed the founder walking naked through the streets of San Diego while pounding the pavement with his fists and screaming obscenities.

After being detained by police, he was put on psychiatric hold before being released.

In October that year, Russell spoke with Oprah where he opened up about the breakdown.

"It's really hard to explain if people who have never had an out-of-body experience, but it really wasn't me," he said.

"That wasn't me, that person on the street corner ranting and raving and naked is not me, that's not who I am."

As for where he's at now, the charity co-founder continues to work for Invisible Children, which has shifted its focus to be entirely on local programs in Central Africa.

In an article revisiting the Kony 2012 saga earlier this year, The New York Times pointed out that Uganda and the US scaled back a mission to capture Kony as he 'no longer represented a regional threat'.

Samuel Enosa Peni, the archbishop of the Western Equatoria State, said in an email to the outlet: "Atrocities committed by the LRA have been reduced by 80 percent."

That's not to say Kony's no longer dangerous, and he is yet to be held responsible for his crimes and the destruction he caused.

The warlord managed to evade capture.
CPA Media Pte Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Ten years on, it's difficult to summarise the aftermath of the Kony 2012 saga.

It's a highly complex case that encompasses so many social and political issues - to squeeze it all in to one, comprehensive conclusion would be impossible.

And, I guess, you could argue that was one of the main downfalls of Russell and his viral video.

Featured Image Credit: Reuters/Alamy

Topics: World News, YouTube, Racism, Terrorism, Viral