Thursday, March 22, 2012

KONY 2012: State Propaganda for a New Generation

The overnight viral sensation KONY 2012 brought worldwide awareness to the African war criminal Joseph Kony. Beneath this commendable cause, lies however an elaborate agenda that is presented in the video in a very manipulative way. We’ll look at the agenda behind KONY 2012 and how it uses reverse psychology to not only justify a military operation in Africa, but to actually have people demand it.

ONY 2012 is a viral sensation that swept the entire world in less than 24 hours. Its main subject is the African rebel leader Joseph Kony, his war crimes and the clearly defined “movement” to stop him.  Countless celebrities have endorsed the movement, news sources have reported it and social media is buzzing with it. While the problem of guerrilla warfare and child soldiers has plagued Africa for decades, and several documentaries have already been produced regarding the issue, this particular 29-minute video made managed to obtain mass exposure and support.
KONY 2012 is less of a documentary than it is a highly efficient infomercial that is tailor-made for the Facebook generation, using state-of-the-art marketing techniques to make its point. Young people like “underground movements” and want to feel like they are changing the world. KONY 2012 taps into these needs to bring about something that is not “hip” or “underground” at all: A military operation in Uganda. Not only that, it urges the participants of the movement to order stuff, to wear bracelets that are associated with an online profile and to record their actions in social media. This makes KONY 2012 the first artificially created movement that is fully track-able, monitor-able and quantifiable by those who engendered it. In other words, what appears to be a movement “from the people” is actually a new way for the elite to advance its agenda.

A Propaganda Experiment

The video begins with an interesting statement: “The next 27 minutes are an experiment. But in order for it to work, you have to pay attention”. It is an experiment as it tests a new, groundbreaking way to get an agenda accepted by the Facebook generation. In the past, when the government needed to justify the invasion of a country, the President would sit in front of the camera and tell the public why war should be declared in this area of the world. In the case of KONY, the military agenda is disguised as grassroots activism, where the US army entering Uganda would be perceived as a “victory of the people”, effectively reversing the communications model.
Due to the advent of social media, the above diagram has become a lot less effective to get a message across to the young generation. It is not CNN reports and the President addressing the nation anymore, it is about “liking” Facebook pages and viral YouTube videos. This is where messages now come across. Always studying, analyzing and exploiting the most effective ways to persuade public opinion, KONY 2012 appears to be an attempt to test out the effectiveness of a “viral” propaganda campaign. By creating this “movement” and making young people actually DEMAND the U.S. government intervene in Africa, the masterminds behind this campaign would manage the impossible: Reversing the propaganda model in order to make it emanate from the people. By doing so, the elite’s agenda is not only accepted by the masses, it is perceived as a victory by them.
When the war on Iraq was declared, a great portion of young Americans opposed the war. How is it they are now begging the government to send troops to Africa? A simple video, specifically conceived for the Facebook generation did the trick. As it is the case in most campaigns to justify a war, the first goal was to identify a bad guy.


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