Viral Kony video gets a follow-up

Joseph Kony is the leader of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army. Associated Press, File
Joseph Kony is the leader of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army. Associated Press, File (Joseph Kony)

Part II addresses some of the criticisms of the original documentary on the African warlord.

Posted: April 06, 2012

SAN DIEGO - A wildly popular Internet video turned African warlord Joseph Kony into a household name and boosted the international hunt for the brutal rebel leader. Can a sequel do more?

That's the burning question for the small California advocacy group Invisible Children and its follow-up, Kony 2012 Part II. The Associated Press was given a copy of the sequel before its Thursday release.

Part II repeats some of the same slick, inspiring shots as the original of a young global community mobilizing into action. Noticeably missing is the voice of the organization's cofounder, Jason Russell, who directed the first video.

He was diagnosed with brief psychosis last month after people saw him pacing naked on a sidewalk in San Diego, screaming incoherently and banging his fists on the pavement. His outburst happened shortly after Kony 2012 thrust the group into the limelight.

The sequel also lacks the kind of narrative that made the original unique. The first Kony 2012 presented the global issue through a child's eyes, with a discussion between Russell and his young son Gavin about stopping the bad guys.

The latest video is a traditional documentary that addresses criticisms fired at the San Diego-based nonprofit since its overnight launch to fame.

Among the complaints were that Kony 2012 was too America-centric, that the group spends too little money directly on the people it intends to help, and that it oversimplified the 26-year-old conflict involving Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.

The original video drew about 100 million hits on YouTube, and likely will go down in history as a case study on what can go viral, said pop-culture expert Robert Thompson. But the Internet is fickle, he said.

"The fact is, the story has developed in so many odd ways with all the controversy, and the sequel can't really promise the bang of that first video - which is informing people of something they did not know before," said Thompson, a Syracuse University professor.

But then again, Thompson added, what goes viral never ceases to surprise.

Ben Keesey, Invisible Children's chief executive, said the sequel was made in two weeks. The thinking, he said, was the organization needed to answer to people wanting to know who was behind last month's Internet success that prompted a bipartisan group of 40 U.S. senators to back a resolution condemning Kony and had children around the country asking their parents to do something.

Part II features more interviews with Africans who talk about how the rebel conflict is complex and requires a multipronged approach to stop the warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court for heinous attacks in multiple countries. The LRA began its attacks in Uganda in the 1980s. Since being pushed out of Uganda several years ago, the militia has terrorized villages in Congo, the Central Africa Republic, and South Sudan.

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