Fletcher in the News

Prof. Christopher Tunnard on the #Kony2012 Phenomenon

'Kony 2012' grabs media attention, but it could be fleeting

The makers of Kony 2012, a film drawing attention to atrocities committed by African warlord Joseph Kony, succeeded in topping the news cycle last week and reaching 71 million YouTube views by nailing several ingredients that were factors in other recent Internet phenomena.

Like the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, the Susan G. Komen-Planned Parenthood controversy and the Arab Spring, Invisible Children, the non-profit group that made the film, started out with a simple narrative about an obvious villain, in this case someone who kidnapped children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves. The group enlisted celebrities to spread the message. It relied on the exponential power of social media. And, like the other social media movements, the staying power of Kony 2012 might be fleeting, social media analysts say.

"When you use social media to bring down a dictator, it's simplistic and easy," says Christopher Tunnard, who studies the effect of social media on politics at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. "When you're trying to build things back up, it's much more complicated. It's very difficult to put together a story about how social media are being used to build up institutions."

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