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The viral video that's changed Scots teens for good

IF you haven't heard about it, then ask your children.

Clockwise from above: Joseph Kony, the film's poster; film-makers pose with Sudanese rebels on the Congo-Sudan border while making the piece; Eastbank Academy's Gordon Shaw Main image: AP
Clockwise from above: Joseph Kony, the film's poster; film-makers pose with Sudanese rebels on the Congo-Sudan border while making the piece; Eastbank Academy's Gordon Shaw Main image: AP

Across the world, across the UK and across Scotland, teenagers are obssessively talking about a short viral internet movie called Kony 2012.

The movie and the passion young people have for it not only dismantles the myth of the disaffected hoodie, but proves teenagers are as committed as their parents – if not more so – to the principles of peace, justice and decency, and it is making political activists of them.

The film was uploaded to YouTube on Monday, March 5 and by yesterday afternoon 66 million people – mostly Western teenagers – had watched it.

It calls for the arrest of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, for crimes against humanity, including forcing children to become soldiers, rape, murder and mutilation.

Today it is the top-trending item on Twitter. To put the success of the film in context, the most-watched clip on YouTube is the "Charlie bit my finger" clip, which has gathered 428 million viewers since May 2007.

Within hours of the Scottish campaign being launched on Facebook on Wednesday, Kony 2012 had received more than 2000 "likes" from Scottish teenagers. A global day of action is planned for April 20 when young people around the world will put up posters calling for Kony's arrest and trial for war crimes.

Rachel MacLeod, 17, a sixth-year pupil at Eastbank Academy in Glasgow, said: "Young people can't believe this has been going on for so long and we didn't know anything about it before.

"I think it shows young people in a better light - that we don't just sit at home in front of the TV."

Another pupil said: "It was just so shocking, I want to do something to help."

The film has been watched by 15 million teenagers on mobile phones – and the has provoked a particularly strong reaction among girls aged 13 to 17.

The campaign was launched by the non-profit group Invisible Children, co-founded by film-maker Jason Russell, which plans to put pressure on policymakers to ensure Kony is captured.

The film tells the story of a former child soldier called Jacob, whose brother was killed in front of him, juxtaposed with footage of Russell's young son. Viewing has been evenly distributed across the United States, Africa, Australia, western Latin America, China and Europe.

Few of the young viewers were aware of Kony before the video went viral. Now teenagers all over the world can tell you how his army, which has wreaked havoc for 26 years, rapes girls and forces child soldiers to murder their parents.

Media commentators have described the Kony campaign as a remarkable achievement which has penetrated the consciences of young people.

Inevitably, the campaign has been given added currency with the backing of some of the world's biggest celebrities including pop stars Justin Bieber and Rihanna, and actress Angelina Jolie.

Gordon Shaw, head of Eastbank Academy, said: "I spoke to teachers involved in social science subjects. Every single child in those classes put their hands up when they were asked if they knew about it. Everyone is talking about it, both pupils in the younger years and more senior pupils. We haven't been showing the film in school but it is being discussed in class."

Kony is thought to have recruited up to 66,000 child soldiers in the past 20 years. He was one of the first people indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and has evaded capture by international authorities since 2005.

However, because of the intensified hunt for Kony more recently, his forces have split into smaller groups that can travel more easily. The LRA now operates in Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Douglas Chalmers, a lecturer in media and journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: "Anything that can bring an awareness of civic issues to younger people can only be good."

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