GeoWorld October 2012

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Can Viral Videos and Mapping End the Terror of Joseph Kony? POSITION T BY TODD DANIELSON his month's issue features a cover story called "Mapping Evil—A GIS Analysis of the Lord's Resistance Army of Uganda." Because of the intense nature of the article and the large volume of story and detail provided by the author, Lt. Col. Michael Thomas, I agreed to pub- lish this as a double-length eight-page feature, something we almost never do. But this feature was special, and, after you read it, I think you'll agree. Not only is the subject matter grip- ping, but the research, mapping and global scope give it a "weight" that's hard to find in typical trade-magazine journalism. Viral-Video Sensation When I first received the article, I rec- ognized the name of the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, and knew that he was respon- sible for some atrocities in Africa that involved child soldiers, but the article made me want to learn more. I started with the viral video that made the man a known entity, Kony 2012. The first thing the video did was make me realize, yet again, that I'm older than I think I am. I had barely heard of it, but it's been watched more than 100 million times on the Internet and created an activist sensation among young people. A poll noted on Wikipedia said that more than half of young Americans had heard of Kony 2012 in the days after its release. The video was created by Invisible Todd Danielson is editor of GeoWorld magazine, PO Box 773498, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477; e-mail: 4 GEO W ORLD / O CT O BE R 2O12 Children, a group that aimed to create visibility in LRA's atrocities by making Kony a more visible figure on the world's stage. They did this much better than they had dreamed, as the video is considered the most successful viral- video campaign so far created. Ups and Downs Some of the video's goals clearly were achieved. After 26 years of raiding the jungles of middle Africa in relatively obscurity to the rest of the world, Joseph Kony and his tactics no longer are a mys- tery to leaders and politicians. The organization helped pressure Congress to discuss the issue to create action, and President Barack Obama authorized to commit 100 "advisor" troops to help the Ugandan army track Joseph Kony down. Invisible Children has created scholarships for affected children in the area, and helped com- munities rehabilitate from the attacks and their psychological aftermath. But Joseph Kony still is at large, highlighting what some of the project's critics called its "lack of understand- ing at how complex the situation is." It's one thing to create awareness of a "bad person," but it's another to actually accomplish his removal. Other critics believe that just stopping Kony, without working on the underlying problems that led to his ascension, will create future warlords to take his place. Where Mapping Comes In It's in the "brass tacks" of locating the LRA where this month's cover article comes in. The author and those work- ing on this LRA mapping project realize it's a complicated issue, and they don't expect to pinpoint the infamous leader's location to a few kilometers. However, they do believe that modern mapping technology, which now tracks movements in much shorter and relevant timeframes, may lead to better estima- tions of where the group likely is and will be, and this certainly is beneficial. There also are many political hurdles that need to be resolved, as four African countries are involved. But the political will of the world, including those African countries, has been moved further toward increased action. Those at Invisible Children may not have accomplished everything they had hoped, or perfectly capitalized on their massive initial popularity, but they can claim credit for inspiring more action and awareness than before they started their project.

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