Beginning a social revolution: what happens when causes are lost, movements forgotten

TEMP ORARY November 14, 2012 0

Our generation is eager to carry the torch of revolution and renaissance. This desire is evident in the movements we support, such as Kony 2012 and Occupy Wall Street. We desperately wish to make a difference and leave an imprint on our constantly changing world.
What happens when the limelight of the torch fades, and the 24-hour news cycle focuses on something else? Are these issues still relevant? What happens to these movements and why? Are they still occurring even though we are no longer hearing about them?
You may have missed the Kony 2012 campaign if you were preparing to be transported to heaven in the Rapture. Then again, maybe you were building a bunker in preparation for the predicted apocalypse. If not, you probably know the identity of Joseph Kony.
Over the course of two decades, Kony led the Lord’s Resistance Army, which was notorious for recruiting child soldiers. His army is responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of people using brutal tactics.
The Kony 2012 campaign was led by individuals such as Jason Russell and Ben Keesey. Both of these men helped found an organization called Invisible Children, which seeks to expose the exploitation and abuse of children. In the case of Joseph Kony, Russel and Keesey wanted to reveal Kony’s history of violence through social media. They wanted to “make him famous” through a YouTube video so he could be brought to justice.
The campaign launched by Invisible Children was extremely successful. According to New York Times writers Jennifer Preston and Robert Mackey, “It rocketed across the Web, reaching 100 million online views faster than any other Internet video.” However, there are quite a few falsehoods at the core of this movement.
One of those variables is the simplicity of the message. Some argue that the leaders of Invisible Children boiled the issue down too much. As a result, they did not capture the true nature of the current situation regarding Kony. In addition, others claim that the individuals who Invisible Children wanted to help were left voiceless.
This was the case according to the Ugandan Entrepreneur T.M.S. Ruge. “Here, the voice of the marginalized and their agency to determine the course of their future is stripped,” Ruge wrote. “In this case, one organization set the goals and put a huge effort behind simplifying the message for mass adoption — and that audience bit into it, hook line and sinker.”
Another issue with the Kony 2012 movement involves factual errors. Invisible Children grossly overstated Kony’s current situation. One of those errors was the suggestion that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) still had large forces fighting in Uganda. The reality is that the LRA left Uganda. In addition, Russell also misrepresented the size of Kony’s forces. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Russell’s narration could imply that there are as many as 30,000 child soldiers in Mr. Kony’s army. After years on the run, the group is believed to be down to hundreds of fighters.”
Now that the limelight has faded from the movement, it has fallen from the public eye. This is because it is no longer relevant in the way it was originally represented. Yes, Kony committed heinous crimes, but the Ugandan government is handling the issue. The efforts of the Invisible Children movement were misguided and they used false information. These factors, combined with Russell’s arrest for public masturbation and vandalism, helped kill the Kony 2012 movement.
Even though the Occupy Movement has lost its glow, it is still socially relevant. It began over a year ago as a protest of corporate greed and wealth inequality in America. According to the Washington Post, “Occupy Wall Street was born in late 2011 in a lower Manhattan plaza called Zuccotti Park, with a handful of protestors pitching tents and vowing to stay put until world leaders offered a fair share to the ‘99 percent’ who don’t control the globe’s wealth.”
The movement spread to cities such as Philadelphia as other people supported the message. However, news about Occupy diminished as time went on. This is partially because cities like Philadelphia ordered protestors to disband their camps. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, city police made 52 arrests during the closing of the Philadelphia protest.
As a result of similar closings and lack of leadership, the Occupy movement stagnated. However, it has made a comeback recently in its New York City birth place. Hurricane Sandy is the reason the movement has new life. According to the Washington Post, donations come in by the truckload and are sorted in the basement. Now the group has dozens of relief centers across the city and a stream of volunteers who are shuttled out to the most desperate areas.”
Social movements ebb and flow based upon media coverage and public interest. If they spread organically, like Occupy Wall Street, they will grow and thrive. There is a real seed of need at the center of this movement now that it seeks to help hurricane victims. This makes the new Occupy Sandy movement stronger than the Kony 2012 campaign. It is based in actual fact and cases of desperate need. As a result, people are rising to the occasion. These are the factors that separate real movements from false ones.

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