The Kony 2012 video by campaign group Invisible Children is one such example. The short film shows child soldiers in Uganda and calls for the arrest of their leader Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. The video soon went viral as Facebook and Twitter users spread the word at a phenomenal pace – and it was the print publications that followed with their coverage.
But what happened before the birth of the internet and the second-by-second updates on Twitter, worldwide viral campaigns and the dominance of user-generated content? How did people used to engage with ideas that fought to challenge the status quo and effect a change?
Print was the one medium of the 20th century that had the power to forge new ideas, publish with an agenda and inspire people to think and act alternatively. Mass distribution via the printing press was the influential precursor to mass communication through the internet.
Characters and stories created in print made significant enough impact to have lived on – for example Wonder Woman’s character, originally created in 1941 as a feminist icon, is still reinvented in comic books worldwide today.
The Muslim periodical entitled Molla Nasreddin, rather than creating its own revolutionary character, used an established character from Islamic folklore to frame its satire and undermine clerical authority.
The British war era magazine Us, was less innovative in terms of critique, but was ahead of its time in terms of how content was created by and for its readers through a series of diary entries.
However some print publications were considered so controversial in their content that they were stopped. Writers such as those behind the anti-nazi White Rose pamphlets lost their lives for daring to speak out against the regime.
It’s fair to say that print has earned its stripes as a medium with clout. Whether it’s been down to inspirational characters, subversive imagery, experimental information gathering or radical ideas for reform, print has operated both quietly and on a larger scale for the greater good.
Listen here to four interviews on how a Muslim periodical, a series of protest pamphlets, a diary-based magazine and feminist comics strove to change the world.