A Comparison of Consequences
After Hurricane Katrina, images of the damage and reports of the trauma filled newspapers and television screens, invoking feelings of sadness and loss around the nation, as well as the world. A similar response was felt when Invisible Children released the Kony 2012 film, and viewers saw the faces of child soldiers and corrupt men play across their screens. However, the long-term results of these events played out quite differently. While people continued to offer time and money to the victims of Hurricane Katrina for years, interest in Joseph Kony, and the LRA, as well as support for the Kony 2012 campaign decreased within weeks. There is no one answer for this phenomenon, but there are several areas in which these events differ.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, Youtube and Twitter were nonexistent and Facebook was only a year old. As such, people read and heard about Katrina and its victims from the traditional sources: television, the newspaper, online articles, blog posts, etc. While this meant that people could not share pictures, links, and videos at the rate that they could when the Kony 2012 film was released, Katrina footage was featured in the news for weeks, whereas Joseph Kony only made it into major newspapers in terms of the video itself—and often as a criticism for the video at that.
Famous Images from Hurricane Katrina
During Katrina, viewers saw tragic images of destroyed homes, stranded families, and suffering victims day after day. With Kony, all the internet had to offer was a slew of criticism against the same video, over and over. Even articles encouraging the film could offer no new photos or videos of LRA violence or of suffering children. Only the same photos and video clips, again and again.
Images from Invisible Children, used for the Kony 2012 Campaign
Geographical distance is another factor that likely played into the longevity in which people were interested in providing aid to Katrina victims versus LRA victims. Looking from a national perspective, many Americans knew people who lived in New Orleans, or in other states who may have been impacted by the hurricane. People also felt solidarity with the victims because they shared a national identity.
The Kony 2012 campaign was centered around Uganda, but also included several countries in central Africa. There is both a huge geographical and personal distance between Americans and this region of the world. Not only are many Americans unfamiliar with this part of the world, but very few are likely to have personal connections in this region. For this reason, the lasting impacts of empathy are not strong. Potential volunteers do not feel the same sense of solidarity with the faceless victims of the LRA as they do with the photographed victims in the near-by city of New Orleans.
Ways to get Involved
After Hurricane Katrina, dozens of volunteer organizations, churches, and corporations provided opportunities for people to volunteer in some way to aid victims. Any person interested in helping in the storm’s aftermath had a variety of different ways that they could donate their time or money to survivors. With the Kony 2012 Campaign, however, Invisible Children was the only organization publicizing itself as an organization through which people could provide aid. But the organization only offered a few means of aid: buying an “action kit,” donating money, or promoting the video and the cause.
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The previous sections suggest some of the reasons why dedication to the Kony 2012 Campaign was much shorter lived than dedication to aiding Katrina victims. More information about the consequences of the individual movements can be fond below: