In the past few days I have become quite fascinated by the various responses flooding into the online community on the Kony 2012 video, which has gone viral with over 55 million YouTube views in less than four days.
The video has definitely tugged on the heartstrings of many people who instantly and full heartedly joined the #stopkony movement. Others have questioned the validity of the argument made by the Invisible Children Organization, claiming that by stopping Joseph Kony, the problem in Uganda would not be solved as this is a much bigger problem that requires intervention at much larger scales, including the restructuring of Governance systems in the affected African Nations.
Now I’m not nearly informed enough on the topic at hand to weigh in with an opinion on the solutions to the Human Rights tragedy taking place in Africa. I did however find myself stunned by the method in which a simple 30 minute video not only put a serious issue under the microscope on a global scale, but has used an auto-recruitment mechanism to increase the support base by millions of people from all around the world, who would normally not be the least bit interested … That’s genius!
What I found most interesting however, is how this 30 minute video might completely revolutionize how we look at the concept of fame and celebrities forever.
As we look back through history for “famous” criminals, we would be able to establish that there are three types of criminals: those who wanted to be famous, those who didn’t but were made famous, and those who wanted to be anonymously famous.
Those who wanted to be famous did so with various motives. For instance, there are those who chased fame to feed their own egos (much in the same way the Kardashian sisters have), like the Kray twins who even gave TV interviews. Then there are those who wanted to be famous to encourage people to join their cause, in the same way Charles Manson notoriously did with his cult, or even Hitler with the Nazis, (or Robin Hood, if you want to consider fictional characters).
The next type of criminals are those who did not intend to become famous, but were forced to by either getting captured or simply to make an example of them. This includes many war criminals such as Slobodan Milosevic, serial killers like BTK Dennis Rader and the Son of Sam, and even convicted celebrities like OJ Simpson, all of whom were publicly tried and convicted.
Which brings me to the third category of criminals: those who wanted to remain anonymously famous. That might seem like an oxymoron, but most serial killers had wanted this kind of fame rather than the one discussed above. They wanted to remain hidden from the law, whilst gaining respect or admiration for their work. A good example of this kind of criminal is the Zodiac Killer, who succeeded in remaining anonymous to this day, or, to go back further in history, Jack the Ripper. These serial killers taunted the police and the public by sending letters to the newspapers claiming ownership of their crimes, signing the letters with their public nicknames.
You may be shocked to discover that many of these criminals, to this day, have significantly large fan bases comprised of normal citizens like me and you. But never do we find people driving around with Al Capone bumper stickers on their cars or John Gotti posters in their office cubicles.
People have instead opted for the safer option of expressing their admiration for fictional criminals like Tony Montana or Vito Corleone, where they can direct their admiration towards the actor or the movie rather than the values and beliefs of these fictional characters.
Which brings me back to the Kony 2012 campaign, where the general public for the first time is being asked to publicize a war criminal in the same fashion a presidential candidate would run for office, or a movie actor would promote his latest flick. For the very first time, it is socially acceptable for you to place a “Kony 2012” bumper sticker right next to your “Obama 2012” sticker, yet they would both represent completely different types of support.
As a Yemeni, I wonder how effective this revolutionary method would be in raising awareness on key issues which aren’t getting the necessary attention nor is action being taken to resolve them, for example, the Qat problem, or the high child mortality rates in the rural areas, or the absence of access to clean water.
Would we be able to take the faces of the biggest Qat dealers in Yemen and make them celebrities in Yemen in the same way Kony has become famous around the world? Would this help in eradicating Qat from our country?
Please let me know what you think and leave a comment below.