The video highlights how quickly people can be called to action using technology. We have been asked what is old about new media – this video is a good illustration. A marketing teacher in my college posted it for our students and noted,
“I want you to see how he's presented it. Break it down: A well thought out storyboard containing the 5 'Why's' and the 'How', compelling images, quality writing and use of graphics. Stats are researched and presented in many ways to keep you glued to the set … Crude images such as a simple printed email with highlighted components, can become a bold message. His message is loud and clear in the way it is presented, and is a compelling call to action…When working with layouts for your marketing, advertising and social media material, take a look at all the great visual techniques he's incorporated to tell the story” (McLeod, 2012).
These techniques to tell a story have been around for ages but now almost anyone is able to put them to use and reach larger audiences than ever before.
This level of attention could not have been achieved by previous generations. A television commercial might reach as many viewers but the cost would likely be out of the reach of an organization like Invisible Children. I can choose to go back and view that video as often as I like, strengthening the message, and I can forward it to as many people as are in my network – and so can others. Neither of these are possible with television commercials.
Invisible Children accomplished its goal to make people aware of the situation. That awareness is a part of its mission which states,
“1) Make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring them around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people” (Invisible Children website, para. 4).
But some of the controversy that has followed the posting highlights another phenomena that is also not new. Despite the fact I think as a public we are less naïve than perhaps a couple generations ago, we can still be swayed by a well-designed and communicated message. The mainstream media has picked up the story and they provide a credible source of commentary on Kony 2012.
A columnist in the Winnipeg Free Press writes, “Congratulations Invisible Children, Joseph Kony is now famous. Mission accomplished. But now we are all aware, it's time to get informed.
The only thing more dangerous than not knowing anything is thinking you know everything” (Cook, 2012 para. 13-14).
Cook disputes the number of children that Invisible Children claims have been taken by Kony’s army; “Experts agree the involvement of children in the LRA has been vastly exaggerated. Studies show the prevalence of child soldiers in the LRA has been consistently over-reported” (2012, para. 7).
I don’t think the number of children is an issue here – the facts are known about this army and the world does not dispute the atrocities Kony has perpetrated. For instance, Washington Post writer Michael Gerson notes, “Even a diminished Kony is dangerous. And the evil of the man himself can scarcely be exaggerated. In Uganda, I’ve met former LRA child soldiers who were forced to kill their own parents and neighbors in order to sever their ties to community and sympathy” (2012, para. 7).
But Cook’s point is well taken – how many people investigated the validity behind the message before clicking “like” or replying. Today’s tools make it easy for anyone to develop and distribute a compelling message that is a complete falsehood. In the wrong hands, this access seems scary to say the least. How many people have sent money to hucksters due to Internet pleas?
Consider the radio message on Sunday, October 30, 1938 when “news alerts announced the arrival of Martians…Many ran out of their homes screaming while others packed up their cars and fled. Though what the radio listeners heard was a portion of Orson Welles' adaptation of the well-known book, War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, many of the listeners believed what they heard on the radio was real” (Rosenburg, 2012, para 1).
The need for media literacy has only grown and is a part of the transliteracy we need to develop – to be literate, we need to develop a sense of how to judge and assess the messages that come our way. We need to be even more media savvy.
An article in Canadian Living features an interview with Debbie Gordon, managing editor at Mediacs.ca, a website that features media literacy workshops. Referring to the so-called wardrobe malfunction of Janet Jackson’s at the Superbowl which created a furor among parents who were upset that their children saw it, she said, "Media savvy kids were able to see the media toolbox hard at work during that halftime show - they weren't buying that message"(Desjardine, 2012, para 4).
Such media savvy training is essential so that the ‘smart’ mobs that are created with such messages on the Internet are indeed smart.
Cook, P. (2012). Maybe invisible children aren’t there, Winnipeg Free Press, March 10, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2012 from http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/%20opinion/westview/maybe-invisible-children-arent-there-142188783.html
Desjardine, E. (2012) Making kids media savvy. Canadian Living, retrieved March 10, 2012 from http://www.canadianliving.com/moms/parenting/making_kids_media_ savvy.php
Gerson, M. (2012). The controversy over Kony 2012. Washington Post, March 3, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2012 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/the-controversy-over-kony-2012/2012/03/10/%20gIQAzc6M3%20R_%20blog.html
Invisible Children (2012). From Critiques Page, http://s3.amazonaws.com/www.%20invisiblechildren.com/critiques.html Retrieved March 10, 2012.
McLeod, C. (2012). Video gone viral: Kony 2012. Linked-In IMC Group. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
Rosenberg, J. (2012). War of the worlds radio broadcast causes panic. About.com 20th Century History. Retrieved March 10, 2012 http://history1900s.about.com/od/ 1930s/a/warofworlds.htm