Kony parody prompts threats of lawsuit by Kony hunters

Joseph Kony

Remember the awful African warlord Joseph Kony? Then you should also remember the organization Invisible Children which launched an amazingly successful online video campaign (in terms of public awareness anyway, not to mention fund-raising) dubbed Stop Kony.

Invisible Children’s online media campaign fell from public grace almost as quickly as it had initially skyrocketed up due to a series of events, including the bizarre, still largely unexplained, behavior of the organization’s founder (and main character in the video) Jason Russell.

More relevant than Russell’s antics were that critics showed the group had distorted facts in order to produce a more compelling story — and that their proposed solution of sending in the military to Uganda to capture Kony was a dangerous and simplistic idea. Turns out Kony wasn’t even in Uganda.

Anyway, today Kony remains at large. The hunt goes on but other warlords like Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda (or alleged war criminal Sudan President Omar al-Bashir) may deserve more attention.

Still, some NYU students felt compelled to poke fun at the Kony campaign and produced a parody fund-raiser at a fake site called Kickstriker of Invisible Children’s campaign — which has provoked the organization to threaten the students with a lawsuit.

Tom Murphy at A View from the Cave noted the latest in the Kony saga, saying:

The founders of Kickstriker, a blatant tip of the hat to Kickstarter, are not willing to back down. They cite fair use for being able to reproduce the IC images and information. A quick look at the page (seen below) can fool the unknowing user. However, when the pledge opportunities increase and a would-be supporter can receive Kony’s teeth or even his skull for a cool million, it becomes apparent that this is a hoax.

The basic news about Invisible Children’s threats of legal action are covered in the Danger Room section of Wired by Spencer Ackerman. It’s a good article that covers the basic tit-for-tat. But Tom Murphy helps put this flap in context:

All in all, it is a rather clever way to point out the consequences of advocating and cheering on a military solution to the problem of the LRA. Some may be upset that it carries it too far, but the point of satire is to push the boundaries while remaining within the constraints of a given subject area.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.