‘Kony-Wan-Kenobi’ (an overview)

by grogblogger


In the final episode from ‘The Grog Blogger’ for this season, we will be looking at the KONY 2012 campaign as a media mecca, and an overview of its representation in the media.

Be warned, that Invisible Children works like any other business. They run off a profit, and in order to make a profit, the nature of humanitarian organisations like this require that you invest your money with them.

Previous to the viral campaign, a great percentage of the world’s population would have been unaware to the matter. But A problem is only a problem if there is a solution. And Invisible Children have created just that. A problem (Jospeh Kony and the LRA) and a solution (sign the pledge, buy the gift pack, invest).

Aside from your contribution to the cause, Invisible Children needs to figure out the most effective way to make this happen, and they have used a variation of visual techniques to make it appealing to the target audience, but in particular, their use of sensationalism and moral panic.

Sensationalism concerns the bias in mass media in which an event is over-hyped to increase the viewership and audience following of an issue. The issue has been sensationalised for the profitable gain of Invisible Children. For the viral campaign to be effective, the audience needs to not only believe the nature of what is being said, but believe it is happening right now!

Common tactics in sensationalism, all of which have been employed by Invisible Children in their KONY 2012 campaign, include: obtuse reporting, appealing to emotions, trivialising key factors for the benefit of the case, intentionally omitting facts and information, use of unrelatable content.

the KONY 2012 campaign has sensationalised the content of the issue to instill moral panic within its following. And moral panic is a necessary device in retaining interest from a public.

Moral panic is a sociological term used to describe the social reaction to an exaggerated threat to social values by moral deviants. This is exactly what has gained the grand audience of KONY 2012: hook, line & sinker. One major issue to arouse moral panic is the welfare of children.

Moral panics in the media can be broken down into 3 stages: occurrence, implications, & control. An event must first occur, and it is up to media outlets to decide the significance or dramatic value of the issue. The nature of ‘me media’ means that traditional media platforms need to keep up with ‘trends’ that are arising amongst self-made journalists.  And this has been the first step of KONY 2012’s campaign. by creating a stir on social media sites, and the rate of which the message was spreading, it i turn forced traditional media outlets to follow on the topic.

Second step in creating moral panic is adding fuel to the fire. Relying on ‘expert opinion makers’ to extend the story, and present the issue in a matter that makes it appear as the beginning of a more complex group of problems, eg. crime rates are on the rise. This holds a public’s attention on the matter, and is part of an overall pattern which constitutes a major social menace.

The third element is providing a source for social control. Moral panics seek a form of resolution which is often provide through laws or referendums, to penalise those established as the threatening deviants at the source of panic. Invisible Children gave you two options in responding, and it gave it’s audience a sense of political uprising. You could sign the pledge and invite meetings with influential powerhouse figures in the US, or provide money, which in turn would ensure the reach of the message.

Any man and his dog can use these techniques, and most of the time we can watch it in action on the 6pm nightly news or current affair programs. But there is one key element that has set Invisible Children ahead of the rest. It was their thorough media integration with the use of social media. Invisible Children have bypassed various communication barriers in the reach of their message, and have utilised a cost effective tool for the business (social networking) and have chosen a target audience willing to do all the hard work for them (young, university educated members of society).