If you are not aware of the recent online Kony 2012 campaign started by the non-profit Invisible Children by now, it is likely that you have been living on the moon for the past week; that or your internet connection has been acting up.
The phenomenon of the online campaign is being increasingly relied upon to bring awareness and encourage public outcry in relation to events, people or organisations - as seen recently when the power of social media shone the spotlight on Susan G. Komen for the Cure and on Rush Limbaugh for his outrageous comments with regard to a Georgetown law student arguing that contraceptives should be covered by health insurance. This social media outcry did more than just raise awareness; it forced Nancy Brinker to reverse the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood; and it has led to many big companies pulling their advertisements from Rush Limbaugh's radio show to distance the brands' names from the crude remarks made by the mouthy Conservative.
It would appear thus, that harnessing the powers of the world of social media can have many positive effects and the collective voice of those millions of Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr users is extremely loud and cannot be ignored. I am certainly of the opinion that the recent Kony 2012 campaign is a positive thing. As somebody who has studied International Criminal Law, his name and his actions are certainly not new to me.
However, they are most certainly new to many of the millions that have viewed and shared the Invisible Children's video and those that are helping #Kony2012 to trend on Twitter. Why does this need to be a bad thing? The cynical ones try to make digs about how well-informed they have always been on the subject of Central Africa's plight; well unfortunately, their silent knowledge on the issue has not done much to further the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for the alleged Commander-in-Chief of the Lord's Resistance Army that has brought terror to Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan and the Central African Republic over the last two decades.
Perhaps it is now 'cool' to share, retweet or post about Joseph Kony, and will remain so for the next week or two, and this makes it uncool to those who can say they already knew about it and that the non-profit spends a lot of their funds on administration and film-making. So would it be better if the now viral 30 minute film had never happened? That Kony did not have the notoriety he has so quickly gained in the realm of social media? Those who are so quick to criticise, are never so quick to present viable alternatives. Yes there is the option of donating to Red Cross and other such charitable organisations, but the point of the video was not solely about providing funding and donations for Uganda, it was about succeeding in the capture of Joseph Kony, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court almost seven years ago, for atrocious crimes against humanity and war crimes charges.
Kony is a free villain amongst many others. Yes, this viral campaign will overshadow al-Bashir and others who are accused of some of the most heinous crimes, and might also overshadow the human rights atrocities being reported as ongoing in Syria. However, if millions of social media users are now aware of another person, who is out there, free and not answering for the crimes he is accused of, I can only see this as a positive result. If it brings us one step closer to capturing him and bringing him to face charges in The Hague, is this not a good thing? We have seen how powerful social media can be when harnessed correctly, so if you are one of the cynics, next time you see one of your Facebook friends sharing the Kony 2012 video, perhaps take a moment before making a snide remark about how well-informed and intellectually superior you yourself are and think of how positive it is that millions today are aware of the atrocities of Joseph Kony who had never heard of his name this time last week.
Follow Niamh Sheerin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/niamhsh