Monday, March 12, 2012

Invisible Children, KONY, and the curse of virality


By James Curcio
You must have heard of the viral video created by Invisible Children (IC), a U.S. organization that has launched a one-year campaign (expires December 31, 2012) to eliminate Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in Northern Uganda that has been embroiled in civil conflict with the Ugandan government for 25+ years. The LRA has admittedly used atrocious tactics such as abductions to engage children in conflict, using boys as soldiers and girls as sex slaves. Needless to say, Kony and LRA must go. That’s where my agreement begins and ends with Invisible Children’s work. I appreciate the organization’s commitment to the issue and can see its good intent, but I strongly question the group’s approach, strategy, and work. Below are some of the reasons why. (Article.)
I don't want to add to or debate the points made in this article. But it does bring up a related issue about "virality," and how difficult it can be to produce something with that potential that isn't entirely devoid of subtlety.

You see, for something to become "viral" it has to be entirely ubiquitous, which essentially means that it must be stripped of all nuance and worthwhile content. This is an issue facing all propogandists who have any ethics at all. It must act on a common emotion, a simple emotion that is shared by many people. It must have the pretense of a genuine expression that all corporate messages must inherently lack.

Yet if you think that corporate and political interests aren't going to be the driving force behind most "indie" and "viral" content, you're fucking insane. 

Don't get me wrong. Despite the moral color that "propoganda" has, anyone that writes stories, creates blog posts, or viral videos, or movies, or music, etc are all propogandists. Or myth makers. Read more of this site if you don't understand why.

The more people we want to reach, the more we have to strip out the particular color and reach for the archetypical, for fear of turning off one person or another. As creators of media, no matter what decisions we make, we will accidentally lose a segment of our market, whether it is because they don't like the color orange for some reason, or because they don't like being emotionally manipulated.

I am not apologizing for such emotional manipulation. Just asking that we not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say. Reach for the off-the-beaten-path content.

Before I descend into a further long stream of idioms -- long day of content and beta prepping at the "day job" -- I'll bid you all goodnight.

(Oh hey, look. They're doing damage control.)


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