The general belief amongst the older generation and political elites is that the younger generation are apathetic about politics, but the speed and virility with which the campaign to catch the world of war criminal and LRA leader Joseph Kony demonstrates that this is not the case. This campaign is about more than point and click activism as well, as the aim is to raise awareness of Kony’s crimes amongst those with political and cultural power and the general populace with campaigns both online and off.
Invisible Children has been going on for years bringing aid and awareness to the issue of Kony’s crimes, but now they are taking to the universality and great equaliser of the web, and most notably social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness and start pushing for a real solution. The 1.1 million likes and thousands of tweets (and counting) is not action enough, however, and the organisation is pushing for a night on April 20th for pro-active young people to take to the streets and plaster them with posters and stickers to inform others around them.
So far the campaign has managed to get house-hold name celebrities such as Juliette Lewis and Zooey Deschanel to tweet their support to their millions of fans, and other such as George Clooney to actively promote their cause on video, but massive-scale popular support is what is needed – and that is where the power of the web comes into play. They can get messages out wider and quicker than ever before, and following the example of the Arab Springs – allow people to organise themselves through private groups online to take the protest into the real world. Point and click activism is easy, but getting people onto the streets and mobilised is what the Kony 2012 campaign are aiming for, and if the response lighting up across all forms of media at the moment is anything to go by – they may well be successful.
This is modern political action. Young people are not apathetic about politics and causes, they are apathetic and disengaged from political systems that continue to prove themselves more interested in money and in-fighting than any real action. The has been broken for years. Street action has proved itself to make no difference – just look at the huge protests against the war in Iraq. But massive scale, digitally coordinated and real-world actioned protest works outside of the media which only seem interested in showing the minority of violent protesters at rallies, and transports the message directly into people’s homes.
The Kony 2012 look to be the first independent cause political campaign to gain success out of these methods – but we should be expecting far more grass-roots based political action in the future.