Social Media As A Manipulation Tool
Social media can also be used to manipulate mass audiences. The particular example I will use involves an attempt to build support for war efforts.
On March 5, 2012, Invisible Children uploaded a video to YouTube called “Kony 2012.” Using professional film techniques to evoke emotions, the video sparked global outrage on social media sites over a rebel group in Uganda whose leader, Joseph Kony, supposedly abducted thousands innocent children and transformed them into militant fighters or sex slaves.
People shared the video and numerous ‘Kony 2012’ info-graphics and the online movement grew quickly. Kony 2012 posters were even plastered around college campuses. People quickly donated money and time to this campaign to stop the evil rebel leader despite not verifying any of the information.
Within a few days of the original video, counter videos popped up. A girl born in Uganda posted videos saying that Kony may have “died five years ago”, or hadn’t been heard from in several years. Other news sites even reported that the LRA hasn’t been very active since 2005. And then the honesty from Invisible Children came out in an interview with Jedidiah Jenkins:
“the truth about Invisible Children is that we are not an aid organization, and we don’t intend to be. I think people think we’re over there delivering shoes or food. But we are an advocacy and awareness organization.”
Invisible Children is not a group that cares about children! It’s a warmongering advocacy group that played on people’s emotions to fund their propaganda efforts, pay hefty salaries and give some money to tyrannical, genocidal African governments like that of Uganda. Again from Jenkins: “it’s true that the Ugandan military has committed crimes in the past. We do not deny those crimes.” Hello? The lesser of two evils is still evil. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend.
Something interesting to note, is that Obama sent troops into Africa after Kony prior to the campaign. Perhaps the campaign was created so Obama could sneak even more troops into 35 other African nations without any kind of public outrage. Reasons aside, the video was a powerful propaganda tool that has changed the media battleground.
Previously, support for warmongering had to come from the mainstream media on television. Without mainstream support after 9/11, the Iraq invasion would have been much more difficult to pull off and maintain as a sort of side-mission to Afghanistan.
Now, we see that social media’s potential to start wars has finally been harnessed to manipulate ignorant masses. The “advocacy group” merely spends a million dollars creating a video and the online public eats it right up and joining a pro-war movement for the sake of some truly invisible children. Then our generous but blind donations recuperate any costs of production, pays for salaries and hotel rooms of those involved.
While I would never advocate censorship of such ridiculous campaigns, the best I can advise is for us ordinary folks to not be a sucker for propaganda.
Don’t be a sucker for war propaganda. Chances are if someone is advocating military action and requesting donations through emotional films and info-graphics, you need think about it, consider the organization that created it it and do some research before hopping on the pro-war bandwagon. Or, simply don’t let appeals to emotion squelch your ability to reach reasonable conclusions. Watch out for videos that are obviously intended to pull at emotions without making a real argument.