Hugely Popular Viral Video About Uganda Has Its Critics, Too

Activist's film is accused of oversimplifying conflict

Headshot of David Griner

An emotionally touching short film about Ugandan violence has become a viral sensation for the nonprofit Invisible Children, racking up a combined 15 million views on Vimeo and YouTube in just 48 hours. But the 30-minute clip, titled "Kony 2012," has also drawn criticism from international policy scholars who feel it oversimplifies and even misrepresents a complex issue. The video, which you can watch below, is part of a U.S. filmmaker's crusade to rally global opposition to rebel strongman Joseph Kony. As viral marketing to draw attention to a little-discussed conflict, the clip is a massive success. Hundreds of thousands of supporters have signed up as fans of Invisible Children since the video went public, and many of them are likely donating money. But a few voices of dissent have emerged as well, such as Mark Kersten, a doctoral student of International Relations at the London School of Economics. "Incredibly, there is no mention in the film or the campaign that northern Ugandans are currently enjoying the longest period of peace since the conflict began in 1986," notes Kersten, who fears the movie's "obfuscating, simplified and wildly erroneous narrative" will bolster Uganda's government—itself accused of killing millions through its war against the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another critic, Canadian political science student Grant Oyston, has started a blog called "Visible Children" to offer counterpoints to "Kony 2012." "Is awareness good? Yes," Oyston writes. "But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren't of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture."

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."
Publish date: March 7, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT