Invisible Children's Cover the Night
By Alyce Gilligan
April 19, 2012
Did you know who Joseph Kony was before March 5? If you did, you were one of a minority. If you know who he is now, you are likely one of the 100 million who watched the viral phenomenon "Kony 2012," released by Invisible Children. The video did its job—it made Joseph Kony famous. But it also sparked intense criticism, as many around the global community questioned the video's simplistic view of the situation and its seemingly simplistic solution. Amidst such extreme attention, one of the founders, Jason Russell, experienced a very public mental breakdown, which led to continued scrutiny of Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 movement. In response to the criticism, Invisible Children released a follow-up video with a more in-depth look at Kony, his Lord's Resistance Army and the destruction they've caused in Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today, April 20, is the next phase of the Kony 2012 campaign. "Cover the Night" is an event intended to garner more attention in the quest to "make Kony famous" and lead to his ultimate capture and trial. Invisible Children encourages participants to serve their local community in some way and, as they do so, to hang posters of Kony and draw attention to Cover the Night and Kony 2012 via social media. In the lead-up to the event, we talked to Invisible Children's director of ideology, Jedidiah Jenkins, about his expectations for the event, what's next and how Russell is doing.
First of all, this movement to stop Joseph Kony has obviouslyresonated on a global level. Why do you think it has gained suchattention and momentum?
It's because it struck a chord at the basic human level. Everyone can agree that nobody should be allowed to kill and abduct children for two decades, and we dedicated our time and talent to getting that messageout there.
Today is Cover the Night. How will Invisible Children keep up with all of the groups that participate? How would you determine the success of this event?
For one, we're tracking it all digitally. We're asking people all over the globe to hash tag #coverthenight and #kony2012 on all of their service projects, murals, and posters. And we've already begun to receive images from all over the world. The true success of the event will be measured in two ways. One, if it helps lead to ending LRA violence. That is the first and primary goal. The second measure will be digital and personal. Will the enormous digital aggregate of activism, advocacy and service projects all over the world show young people everywhere that we are a global community committed to justice and peace? I think it will. That's what we'll find out.
Some have referred to Cover the Night as "slacktivism." What do you think of the term, and why do you think Cover the Night is or isn't defined by it?
People have to start somewhere. If you use your Twitter or Facebook as a platform to speak on what you care about, that is wonderful. And if it ends there, at least you added something valuable to the global conversation. But in my opinion, it shouldn't end there. It should translate into your actions, as all authentically held beliefs do. It should be in both worlds: digital and physical. Cover the Night is both. You serve your local community through service projects, you paint murals and put up posters promoting global justice, and you send them to us on the Internet to show the world what you've done. It's activism in the physical and digital world. It's four-dimensional storytelling. People are becoming part of the story of Kony 2012 and the future of international justice.
How would you advise individuals and groups to legally and effectively "cover the night"?Ask permission and win people over. The night is all about making friends, not enemies. It's about showing the world who we are and what we stand for. It's about inspiring every generation to care about justice. So we're telling people to use their heads and get creative.
The initial video and now Cover the Night are a part of the mission to "make Kony famous." What is the next step in the campaign?
The next step is a June event at the United Nations in New York City. We will deliver the millions of pledges that people all over the world signed in support of Kony's arrest. On top of that, we're planning another big event on November 3rd that we'll be releasing details for pretty soon. This campaign is all year long. It's all pushing for the arrest of Joseph Kony and the top leadership of the LRA. This has been agreed upon as the most likely step in bringing an end to LRA violence and peace to the region. Then the long road to recovery begins, and we'll be right there, working alongside local leaders to see peace remain.
Invisible Children recently released a follow-up video to "Kony 2012." Why did you guys think this was a good step, and how have you seen it further the conversation?
"Kony 2012" was meant to expose people to this issue and galvanize support for stopping LRA violence. It has done that. What we didn't expect, though perhaps should have, was the traction that misinformation and rumor would get surrounding Joseph Kony, LRA history and Invisible Children. So, we wanted to make another film deepening the conversation. For those who wanted more information, it provided it. And it has done exactly what we hoped.
IC has said the goal is to pursue incarceration, not execution, of Joseph Kony. How do you see that happening?
We absolutely want Joseph Kony captured alive. His trial at the International Criminal Court will be a global standard for international response to large-scale international crime. The success of his arrest is in the hands of the experts. We see it as our job to let the global institutions, governments and experts know what the war-affected communities demand and what the world demands.
In the event that Joseph Kony is apprehended, what are your hopes for Uganda? Would other steps be taken to confront other general corruption in the area?
Our hopes are for peace and prosperity for the entire LRA-affected region. That is the DRC, CAR, South Sudan and Uganda. We have and are investing in economic and education initiatives to encourage an environment of opportunity in the region. Our focus is on stopping the LRA and helping to rebuild what they've destroyed. Beyond that, we support and encourage the work of others who have found their calling to be other issues.
How is Jason Russell doing? What kind of role will he play as this movement continues?
Jason is doing well. He is still recovering in peace and quiet and has had the incredible support of his family and friends through this very difficult experience. No one could have guessed that the stress would take such a toll on him, but we believe he will come back stronger than ever. We expect that he will be recovering and resting for several months and come back refreshed and primed to use his incredible talent and imagination to continue to push this movement forward. Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers.