Like so many other bloggers today, I want to highlight KONY 2012, a film produced by the organization Invisible Children. The 30-minute documentary aims to make Joseph Kony, leader of the African Lord’s Resistance Army, so famous that he can no longer evade arrest by the International Criminal Court on charges brought in 2005. Those allegations include “brainwashing countless children across northern Uganda, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into prepubescent killers,” according to The New York Times Topics Page that covers him.
After discussing Kony and the film with my students in a media ethics class this morning, this is the letter I would write to television host Stephen Colbert. Feel free to use parts of it in a letter in your own missive to the Comedy Central host, one of 20 “culturemakers” the film urges people to write directly to encourage action.
Dear Mr. Colbert:
Walter Cronkite‘s personal views about the Vietnam War are widely credited with turning public opinion against the conflict in the late 1960s. To be sure, those were different times.
You are probably familiar with surveys from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press that found viewers of your program and “The Daily Show” to be better informed than those who got their news from more-traditional news outlets like Cronkite’s. That same group found that “in 2010, for the first time, the internet has surpassed television as the main source of national and international news for people younger than 30.”
Given those findings, it’s no surprise that you were identified by the KONY 2012 social media campaign as one of 20 “culturemakers” capable of driving news and policy. I’m sure you’ve seen the film at the center of the movement by now. It’s a 30-minute documentary that aims to make Joseph Kony, leader of the African Lord’s Resistance Army, so famous that he can no longer evade arrest on war crimes charges brought by the International Criminal Court in 2005. Those allegations include “brainwashing countless children across northern Uganda, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into prepubescent killers,” according to The New York Times.
Although none of the 20 American students in my 8 a.m. college media ethics course seemed to have ever read a Times story about Kony, I would say almost all of them had at least one link to the video in their Facebook queue by the time class met this morning. I would also guess that some of them — and thousands of college students like them — emailed you today.
As a former newspaper reporter, I could lament that it took a social media campaign to draw worldwide attention to a brutal rebel leader who has been covered extensively by traditional media outlets for years. Instead, I will post this letter on my own blog and Facebook page and encourage others to write one like it so they and, hopefully, you can change the world.
After all, you are their Walter Cronkite.
Saint Louis, Missouri