Remember KONY 2012? Sure you do. It was all the rage just a month ago, inspiring first world kids of all ages to rise up and fight against grevious crimes against humanity in far-off lands. Actually, no, there didn’t turn out to be a whole lot of rising and fighting, but there was a TON of tweeting and liking! Invisible Children became the most viral video in history, reaching 100 million views in a mere six days, according to Visible Measures. Then came the backlash. Experts suggested that the video’s call to arms was destined to do far more harm than good. Others suggested that Invisible Children, the organization who produced the video, was exploiting the Kony-inflicted atrocities for their own gain, spending the majority of donations on their own salaries and spending too much of their energy powering “The White Savior Industrial Complex.”
Then the co-founder of Invisible Children was detained for running around naked on a public street in San Diego while cursing, pounding his fists, and allegedly masturbating and/or vandalizing parked cars. Invisible Children’s momentary rise to power had seemingly come to an end. But there was one last push to be made. This past Saturday, the world was supposed to wake up to what The Atlantic’s Megan Garber so aptly described as, “a physical world awash with the graffiti of digital empathy.” Invisible Children was closing the KONY 2012 chapter with a global postering campaign they called “Cover the Night.”
It didn’t work.
I actually saw one of the posters taped to a public bulletin board Saturday afternoon in Healdsburg, CA. While I didn’t spend more than 20 minutes in town (we’d stopped to grab food along the way home from somewhere else), I only saw the one Kony-related handbill against a relative sea of advertising for an arts fair happening on the town green. Apparently, Cover the Night wound up morphing into a smattering of car washes and other community service-esque events held in a few places around the globe. So much for a world awash in digital empathy.
So what happened? Garber has some interesting theories in her piece, ranging from the macro (Internet fame is by nature destined to fizzle out) to the micro (blame it on that public nudity story). But perhaps the most interesting take away from her piece is the evolving truth about how social media forever binds a story to the voices telling it. Invisible Children chose to cast themselves as stars in the Kony 2012 video, and when one of those stars embarrassingly and publicly fell from grace, the story he’d tied himself to had no choice but to go down with him.
Click over to The Atlantic and then hit our comments below to chime in: Have we entered an age where the storyteller is just as important – if not more so – than the stories he reports? If a reporter loses it in public, do we automatically lose faith in the stories he used to tell?