Manifesto – Kony Unplugged

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December 20, 2013 by acy4000



We are three senior students at The American University of Paris, majoring in Global Communication, and this is a project we have prepared for CM4000 Tactical Media course for semester fall 2013.

In this project, we analyze the success and failure of the Kony 2012 campaign, and advocate our plans and tactics regarding the former. The name “Kony Unplugged” represents the fact that our group is original and progressive; we seek the approaches to spread the deeper notions behind the 2012 project and provide virtual platforms to raise public attentions on the crimes against children worldwide as well as something which need to be stopped immediately.

We criticize the 2012 campaign for not presenting a clear statement of their financial flow in the beginning of this project, which implies that people who participate in this movement do not know the budget until the moment the organization releases their annual financial report, and the result is incredible: this information goes viral on news and presses that they spend 83% percent of the fund on marketing use which includes advertising, fabrications and mobilizations. Kony 2012 transforms an action of charity into business and a mod where young participants spend money for the products to be cool rather than truly caring about the children. Instead of gathering money, we simply act as an agent of information. We seek to associate ourselves to a mod which flows among young generation and cultivate them to pay attention on the issues, and avoid the possibility of commodity fetishism.

Kony Unplugged targets mainly young generation from different locations in the world cultivates the idea of helping not only the children who cannot speak for themselves but also encourage the action from the society. Considering the fact that Kony 2012 campaign symbolizes the rise of subculture in a digital form, we differentiate ourselves as the subculture within the subculture. Despite that the former has created a mod out of doing good thing for people who are suffering; we are also tight to the mod but not creating it.

We also provide an international platform to help the dissemination of ideas due to the location of our group, Paris. We notice that the Kony 2012 campaign focuses mainly on the activities happened in the United States, although there are few cities in Europe involved, it does not represents the global perspective. We also interviewed few people from Uganda and they claim that although they are aware of the existence of Kony, the substantial outcome of this video is mainly internet fame. Therefore, we are trying to discover the possible actions to fix this problem, and to plant the idea in people’s mind that the essence of charity is to actually help the others not simply imagine it in their heads. In order to drive these plans into real practices, we are adopting tactics from and transform them into actually activities. We use blog as our main platform to release information and announcements and receive up-to-date feedbacks, and open a Facebook pages for our audiences to obtain and share the information.

Through Kony Unplugged we are using five different tactics from Beautiful Trouble in attempt to spread our message.
These tactics are,

1. Guerrilla projection- rebranding a target/reframing an issue
2. Identity Correction- correcting the public record
3. Distributed Action- swarming large target in diverse locations
4. Infiltration- learn from/expose/disrupt the meetings of the powerful

Using guerrilla projection, we are rebranding the Kony 2012 campaign. People quickly forgot about the goal of the fundraising and the gatherings, and as a result Joseph Kony was not caught or reprimanded. What we aim to do instead is to provide current information to people in order to remind them of the situation still at hand. We are a small group with an underground vibe – hence the name ‘unplugged’ and cater to individuals who want to educate themselves and others on an important issue.

Identity correction is about exposing the truth to public scrutiny. Kony Unplugged aims to inform everyone that many of the photos published by Kony 2012 of children in Uganda were not recent photos as they claimed but instead older stock photos. In this tactic we prove that we are more reputable as a source of information.

The distributed action tactic can consist of either a day of action or a call to action. The problem with having just one day of action (seen in Kony 2012) is that people will lose interest when this day is over. In the case of Kony Unplugged- there is a call to action (such as the Occupy Wall Street movement). We ask for the help in spreading information and through that information, hopefully it will create a spread of education in the issues happening all over the world. It is unfortunately so easy for people to forget about when not seeing advertisements for merchandise and events. The main goal here is to get attention through large targets in diverse locations. Our social media outlets allow us to spread the information quickly and internationally.

Using the infiltration tactic, the meetings or routine of the ‘elite’ becomes interrupted. We see infiltration used as a tactic most commonly with the Yes Men walking into a room and conducting a meeting on a company they are only pretending to be in charge of. They do this in order to force a company to come to terms with an issue that they are otherwise avoiding going public with.

With Kony 2012, it appeared that Jason Russell and those that worked directly with him were the only ones who financially benefited, and made the decisions in the campaign. In the case of Kony Unplugged however, we do not want there to be one sole power. We want it to be like a community where everyone is equal. We may have been the ones to create the social networking pages but we are no more a part of helping to stop Joseph Kony than anyone else. Everyone being informed and people being able to contribute information from anywhere in the world helps Kony Unplugged to have a much better productivity model than Kony 2012.

We use the Internet for news, to be social, and to share information, but it can also be a radical tool for connecting people around the world in service to a common cause.

Realizing the advantages of using social networks, we choose to spread our ideas by creating a blog and a Facebook group. Both pages are under the title “Kony Unplugged” and aim to deliver current information regarding Joseph Kony, and to allow people to have an idea of who we are and what we are fighting for.

On both pages, we allow the audiences to share any related information, such as articles or photos. We do not however, seek to obtain any profit or raise any funds for this cause. At times fundraising can lead to confusion on the actual goal, if the methods are questionable. We saw this with the Kony 2012 campaign- they raised millions of dollars and people forgot about the goal. The issue at hand, the stopping of Joseph Kony, is too important to allow for this to happen again. The purpose of using our blog is to establish a ‘radio station’ style of informing. In this sense, people can obtain new information and only comment on it, rather than act as direct contributors. Our Facebook page however, aims to be more interactive. People who have ‘liked’ and shared our page are able to post new content that they find. As administrators to the page however, we have the final decision on what resources are published. We use reputable resources such as The Guardian- clearly citing our sources so that viewers are able to trace the origin of our materials.

Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Author as Producer’ is closely related to our project in multiple ways. One is that the author’s voice is separate than the work’s voice. That is, just because Kony 2012 was unsuccessful in putting an end to Joseph Kony and his crimes doesn’t mean that the message itself was actually useless. One may be more effective in relaying the message.

Also, this reading is relevant in our discussion of reality versus entertainment. Benjamin refers to Dadaism and questions the motives behind photographs. He asks questions such as does it portray an object of poverty? Or does it transform the image of poverty into one of beauty? This is relevant because one of the major issues with Joseph Kony is that he and his army are notorious for abusing children, and employing child soldiers. Images shown of these children by the media are manipulated into artistic expressions of ‘African’ art. This is completely generalizing, and is wrong. The images of the abused children, or the child soldiers should not be seen as art but rather as photographic evidence of a reality that needs to be changed.

In conclusion, we think the Kony 2012 campaign has good intentions, yet, creates misunderstanding and misleads the audiences in terms of commercialized form of charity. By spreading info and sharing ideas on both the blog and the Facebook page of “Kony Unplugged”, we somehow push forward the process of catching Kony and highlight the information which has already “expired” at the end of 2012. We employ approaches which involve a lot of interactions because we believe that the best solution to raise public awareness is to adapt ourselves to the digital world. Acknowledging that people are relying on internet for the dissemination of information and ideas, we pick contemporary social networks as our priory choices due to the enormous user groups. In order to make this project successful, we need people to join our league, stand next to us, and we shall fight against Kony and the crimes against children together.

We need you.

What are you waiting for?


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