KONY Copycat?

A recent humanitarian movement hoping to get the word out about human suffering is using a Youtube video, and celebrity and policymaker endorsements in an attempt to consolidate public opinion behind them to incite government intervention. And no, I’m not talking about Invisible Children’s KONY2012. This is a different (although eerily similar) movement, #UniteForSyria, that launched 22 hours ago, just 10 days after KONY2012. While KONY2012 aims to help those in Central Africa suffering due to the Lord’s Resistance Army through US military aid, #UniteForSyria is about ending the past year’s violence accompanying the revolution in Syria through a UN Security Council resolution.

Both involving NGOs, Twitter, celebrities, policymakers, and a keystone Youtube video, one can only wonder how closely the #UniteForSyria is modeled after its predecessor. They are, indeed, quite similar. However, there is a crucial difference. #UniteForSyria has garnered the endorsement of an international group of celebrities and policymakers, and targets a global audience, as opposed to KONY2012’s narrow, stateside focus. According to a Global Voices news bulletin dated March 13, 2012, the movement to “Unite for Syria and Stop One Year of bloodshed” has the backing of 50 global leaders. Additionally, their video contains endorsements from Indonesian, British, German, Egyptian, and, most crucially, Syrian celebrities.

The most salient criticism of KONY2012 has been their failure to consider and present the views of actual Central Africans. Many locals in Uganda and the surrounding countries who have seen the KONY2012 video have taken serious offense with its approach and its rhetoric. With the support of native Syrians behind them, #UniteForSyria demonstrates a deeper, more pure understanding of the conflict.

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2 thoughts on “KONY Copycat?

  1. I almost had the same question as yours while writing the GVO post you mentioned here. I believe the main differentiator between the two campaigns (as you mentioned above) is their targets. Kony on one hand is meant for the US audience and apparently it’s meant to facilitate a public acceptance for a US intervention and/or establishing more forces in Central Aftica. While the target for UniteForSyria are mainly the UN Security Council members (especially Russia and to a lesser extent Chine, i.e. the Vetoers for any Syria-related resolution), it wants the Security Council to pass a resolution to do the following: “Calling on the Syrian authorities to cease all unlawful attacks against its population immediately” and “Urging the Syrian government to facilitate the delivery of independent and impartial emergency aid”

    Yet, the questions about intentions is still valid, what if Syria didn’t listen? Are they calling for an international intervention? An international cover for an intervention by US/NATO? It’s really complicated and hard to tell.

    P.S. Despite all the criticism for Kony2012, and how it over-simplifies an issue. It’s slacktivism nature. I find it technically and from a marketing point of view, as successful campaign, regardless of it’s wicked intentions. And NGO’s and Social Media experts should learn from its success.

  2. Historical precedent sure would indicate that Syria wouldn’t listen to any Security Council resolution, especially if there are no real consequences (sanctions, etc.). As attempts like this are ignored by the Syrian government, I believe there will eventually be no choice but for activists to begin calling unilaterally for military intervention.

    Indeed, the governments of the world are moving in that direction. In response to unwavering vetoes from China and Russia, the IGO Friends of Syria met for the first time yesterday. Their promises of communications and financial aid are a step closer to outright interventon.

    This brings another similarity between the movements that I hadn’t noticed at first: both of they are targeting countries with a corrupt government, yet they place all of the emphasis on humanitarian aid, not a campaign calling for a new regime through support of rebel groups. What does this mean about the power of such movements?

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