In March 2012, American NGO Invisible Children released an online video about the crimes committed by Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. Rapidly shared through social network sites, Kony 2012 soon earned the title of fastest spreading online video ever produced. At the same time, the video and its makers also came under massive criticism from bloggers, journalists, academics, and the general public. This study offers an exploration of the phenomenon Kony 2012 from an audience perspective. Theoretically building on the literature on mediated distant suffering and empirically based on an online survey, we explore how the video was successful in exerting moral pressure on a critical online audience of ‘Ironic Spectators’. In particular, we investigate to what extent different forms of being critical towards the video and its makers have mitigated a sense of personal moral responsibility to act towards the distant suffering other.

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The International Communication Gazette
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

von Engelhardt, J., & Jansz, J. (2015). Challenging humanitarian communication: An empirical exploration of Kony 2012. The International Communication Gazette, 76(6), 464–484. doi:10.1177/1748048514533861