Not many Americans had heard of Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), before a 30-minute video cataloguing his atrocities took the internet by storm. Kony 2012 was seen by tens of millions of people, and was lauded for raising awareness about the LRA's brutal practices, which include the rape and conscription of children. However, the American group behind the video, Invisible Children, soon came under criticism for sentimentalizing and dumbing down Uganda's multifaceted conflict. Then the group's members and practices came under ethical scrutiny as well. Here, a timeline of Invisible Children's rise and fall:
March 8, 2012
Kony 2012 zips by the 35-million-viewer mark, even as Invisible Children is hit with criticism that the video manipulates the facts and exaggerates the clout of the LRA, which is not nearly as large as it once was. Invisible Children says such criticism is "myopic," given that Kony is undeniably evil and the video raised vital awareness of that fact.
March 9, 2012
The Obama administration joins Oprah Winfrey and other luminaries in throwing its support behind the video. "We congratulate the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have mobilized to this unique crisis of conscience," says Press Secretary Jay Carney.
March 11, 2012
Reports suggest that Invisible Children is funded by Christian foundations that are strong supporters of creationism and anti-gay movements.
March 14, 2012
Ugandans throw rocks at a screening of Kony 2012 in the town of Lira, complaining that the film is a "foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialized their suffering," says Malcolm Webb at Al Jazeera.
March 15, 2012
Jason Russell, the co-founder of Invisible Children, is hospitalized after running through the streets of San Diego in his underwear. A video of the incident, in which he can be seen screaming and possibly masturbating, is spread across the web. Invisible Children says Russell was suffering from "exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition."
March 21, 2012
Russell's wife says in a statement that her husband is being treated for "brief reactive psychosis," which is "a common experience given the great mental, emotional, and physical shock his body has gone through in the last two weeks. Even for us, it’s hard to understand the sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention – both raves and ridicules, in a matter of days."
March 26, 2012
Filmmaker Chris Abbas claims that Invisible Children stole images from his film Cassini Mission and used them in Kony 2012. Indeed, "parts of his film are clearly used in the beginning of Kony 2012," says Matthew Fleischer at MediaBistro.
March 27, 2012
A video surfaces of Jedidiah Jenkins, a top official at Invisible Children, drinking from a bottle of vodka and bragging about how he would keep $900,000 of a $1 million grant the group had received for Haitian earthquake relief. Jenkins says the video was meant to be a joke, and that it was only water in the vodka bottle.
March 28, 2012
Kony 2012 nears the 86-million-viewer mark on YouTube.