In early 2012, most people in the world never heard of the Central African fighter Joseph Connie, according to UNICEF, for abducting thousands of children, enslaving them and using them as soldiers, and displacing more than 2.5 million. People across the region.
But that will change on March 5. Jason Russell, founder of the nonprofit Invisible Children, directed a film called “Connie 2012” aimed at exposing the violent crisis.
Mr. Russell, 43, said in a phone interview.
In a video released on YouTube by Invisible Children, Mr. Russell illustrates the struggle in simple terms suited to his 5-year-old son Gavin, who appears in a video with inspiring images of Ugandan children and activists in North America. Finally, Mr. Russell issues a call for action: for celebrities, policymakers, and anyone else looking to help Joseph Connie make a household name.
When Oprah Winfrey tweeted “Connie 2012,” her views jumped from 66,000 to nine million, according to data scientist Gilad Lawton, who compiled a visual analysis of her spread. Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian also shared it. Within a week, the video had hit 100 million – a record on YouTube at the time – and Mr. Connie became the target of a global civic search.
Ten years later, Mr. Connie lives mostly, Gavin has started high school, and Mr. Russell is still reeling from the mixed legacy of “Connie 2012”. At a time when a steady stream of videos on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter depicting the real-time destruction of Ukrainian cities by Russian forces, the film reads as a remnant of both what experts have described as post-Arab Spring techno-optimism. The forerunner of an era of largely endless footage of violence and conflict on the digital landscape and social media.
Invisible Children, founded in 2004 by Mr. Russell, Bobby Bailey and Lauren Poole, Mr. Connie and his rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, reach a total of 5 million spectators at events held across the country. Russell. “Connie 2012,” he said, “is the first time we’ve been aggressive since social media.”
In his analysis of the spread of the video, Mr. Lotten, a data scientist, noted the dense clusters of activity in Dayton, Ohio and Birmingham, Ala., Two cities where invisible children stayed on tour.
The spread of the film on the Internet exposed the organization to all sorts of criticisms. People discussed the racial politics of online film, the morality of humanism, and the usefulness of “slackism”, the choice and the equation of action.
Mr. Russell said. “For that I would say, ‘I hear you, but to do something viral’ – our goal was to simplify a complex issue – ‘That’s what you have to do.’ In a sense it means criticism, but I saw it as praise.
At that point, the attention that the film received became overwhelming for Mr. Russell, who was filmed walking around his neighborhood naked, screamed obscenity just a week after his release. “There are very few examples of people who have been publicly embarrassed and put under a white-hot light with no breakage,” he said.
The footage was sold to TMZ, according to Shree. Russell, and # Horny2012 surpassed # Kony2012 in trending hashtags on Twitter, as unconfirmed reports surfaced that he was masturbating in public. What started out as a noble attempt to raise awareness became a memento.
But the film clearly struck a chord with Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and author of “Contegious: Why Things Catch On,” referred to as STEPPS: Social Currency, Triggers. , Emotion, public practical value and story. These factors attract our psychological makeup and basic human motivations, Professor Berger said.
At the time, “Connie 2012” relied on the emotional qualities of the Internet’s most resonant videos, said Eric Myerson, former head of Partner Marketing at YouTube. Footage of the Arab Spring in its first three minutes and a child riding his bike for the first time.
“Those were the videos that we were trying to promote on YouTube at the time, to submit to Webbys, the videos that inspire good feelings, that bring people back to one platform,” Mr. Said Myers. He added that in some cases viewers are left with the feeling that by consuming and sharing content, “they are helping to change the world.”
When Mr. Mearson joined Facebook in 2015 to lead his video marketing team, a generous spirit of potential that still stands. But after the launch of Facebook Live in August, the mood changed, as graphic live-stream footage began to appear.
“Then we have fake news, Brexit, Trump’s election rise,” he said, “and suddenly, by the end of 2016, it has changed from ‘Social Media Can Change the World for the Better’ to ‘Facebook and’. YouTube and Twitter.” Democracy is being destroyed. “The conversation that ensued focused on algorithms, eco-chambers and” post-truth “politics.
Said Mr. Myers.
Now, images of the onset of conflict and crisis often come to us through social media, and are reported through the platforms where they are shared. Andrew Hoskins, a professor of interdisciplinary research at the University of Glasgow, said the advent of digital warfare has challenged the mainstream media and other elites in their ability to shape what war looks like.
“It’s very interesting to watch on Twitter right now,” he said, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, known as the First Tiktok War. “Plenty of footage flooding you with conflict awareness – open source intelligence, civilian journalism on Tiktok – can revolutionize the war, but it doesn’t matter,” he said.
In 2017, the United States and Uganda withdrew a mission to capture Mr. Connie said it no longer represents a regional threat. In an email, Archbishop Samuel Enosa Penny of the state of Western Equatoria wrote, “There has been an 80 percent reduction in atrocities committed by the LRA.” (He has lost three siblings in the army.)
Today, Invisible Children focuses entirely on local programs in Central Africa. Social media plays a small role in its strategy.
Mr. Russell has also recalled his digital presence. “While we now have media literacy to overcome things like QAnon principles,” he said, “I can’t help but think that the internet still triggers me.”