No Time To Think. Tweeting.
Your humble correspondent was humbled even further last night when I asked this question on Twitter:
Can somebody rerack #stopkony / Invisible Children for me: what the hell IS this? #help
And thus began an hour-long descent into madness — watching the Kony 2012 film, getting terribly moved and excited, and twittering my support. And then, the thought of actually forking over money for The Cause crossed my mind.
And then a little voice began to whisper, and then shout: “STOP. You don’t know these guys from Adam. And how much of this money is going straight into the group’s pizza-and-beer fund, anyway?”
And then the hope and empowerment and all that new-age crap turned into doubt, and cynicism, and then out-and-out disdain. It culminated tonight with the heads of the group getting all mushy about “what happens next,” and why only a third of the donated dough actually goes to efforts on the ground in Africa — all as told to Piers Morgan on his Hour of Gab.
So, the final verdict (after all of 24 hours, mind you) is this: Stop Kony? Sure. But the holier-than-thou, preening minds behind it all can GET BENT.
All of this is terribly complicated. They’re doing a service, surely. But they’re getting famous. And they are going to get a shitload of money coming in. And nobody knew who they were on Monday. In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi: “WHAT DE HELL IS GOING ON OUT HERE?!” Some thoughts, post-jump.
A lot of the talk has been about how pliable the Internets are. In the space of two or three days, the aforementioned Kony 2012 video has over 38 million hits on YouTube alone. I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that, about a year ago, Rebecca Black decided to offer “Friday” to the world and, to date, her video has only (?) 25 million hits. (This does not count the parody videos, including the inevitable Downfall / Hitler / bunker reset of the song. But still.)
Yet WE FUCKING KNEW THIS ALREADY. The Arab Spring. The rise of a possible Iranian revolution, which was brutally put down by Mahmoud Ahmedinnerjacket. Hell, Andrew Breitbart (peace be on him in an alternate universe where he is not acting like a drunken douchebag) proved that Anthony Weiner’s junk could go around the world before reasoning and critical thinking got their pants on. Social media is short, to the point, and an untapped well of instantaneous buzz. [Yawn.]
But what made this video so viral, so quickly? Damned if I know. The answer may be that this was a marketing plan par excellence.
These guys have been at this for eight or nine years, to no success apart from the odd college info session. [ADD: on reflection, they did generate enough momentum to get the Army to put some advisors on the ground. Yet those guys could be back Stateside with one more budget cut. And Kony still walks free, as we know. So: some success, but not the result. –Ed.] However, over time, they built up an e-mail list, which in the last couple of weeks probably got about fifty or sixty blasts saying: “psst… March 5… YouTube… retweet and hashtag and poke and everything else, all at once.” I can account for no other way this thing went supernova overnight.
If nothing else, these guys have proved just how devastatingly quick social networking can be. In so doing, they’ve given the blueprint to everybody else on how to be a sensation overnight. Which means that others will attempt to do the same thing for their pet cause. Or their new gizmo. Or cranberry-infused Bud Light. (That could get tedious very, very quickly.)
Of course, the key is to have a great hook. And, boy, did the Kony 2012 video ever deliver on that front. Cute kid giving a child’s answer to an adult problem. “We should stop him,” the boy says. (Yeah. Saddam Hussein was also a bad guy. And look what happened there. But never mind.) College kids chanting. Public figures saying it’s now or never.
And then, the coup de grace: Hitler and a pan-and-scan of corpses at a concentration camp. Kony 2012 went from zero to Godwin in 21:09 — a land-speed record, by my book, and done without the assistance of an argument that devolved into any sort of namecalling. That, right there, is talent.
The snap judgment, from here, is that this has the trappings of the USS Maine incident, Soviet-era agitprop, Madison Avenue brainstorming and focus-group research, all baked into an apple pie and shipped by a particle accelerator straight into our faces at blinding speed. Thought and reasoning and doubt are no match for a good story (true, or not), told with impressive skill, that drives home a message of earnest urgency (honest, or not).
If only this were done for a perfectly lampoonable project — Zima 2.0, for example — rather than a hideous warlord who, by rights, ought to have been practicing the backstroke in the River Styx long ago. But you play it as it lies.