Kony 2012: a viral mess

(Photo: The Kony 2012/Invisible Children guys posing with SPLA soldiers on the Sudan-Congo border in April 2008. Photograph by Glenna Gordon.)

UPDATE: African voices respond.

Mark Kersten at Justice in Conflict writes about the Kony 2012/Invisible Children video everyone's going crazy over today:

It is hard to respect any documentary on northern Uganda where a five year-old white boy features more prominently than any northern Ugandan victim or survivor.

Harder still when the documentary Godwins itself just minutes in with a Hitler namecheck. There's another good post at Foreign Policy which attempts to parse why this dubious fundraising/attention-getting campaign has spread so wide so quickly, and the many things it seems to get wrong:

[L]et's get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn't been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.

From Grant Oyston:

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces.

(...) Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something.

The photograph by Glenna Gordon (above) of the men behind "Kony 2012" has become an interesting part of the story.

There's even an official Kony 2012 drinking game.

To play, you will need: eight (8) pickleback shots; one (1) Brandy Alexander; one (1) bowl Feuerzangenbowle; one (1) six-pack of Tusker Lager; one (1) jar green Play-Doh; one (1) bottle of Zima; one dozen (12) chocolate chip cookies; one (1) My Little PonyTM cocktail made of equal parts Malibu rum and Sunkist orange soda (generally used for statutorily raping 14 year olds); three (3) bottles of wine, one (1) brick wall.

And via a Boing Boing reader, here's a disturbing offshoot: random idiots on Facebook, jazzed up by the Kony2012 campaign, declaring their excitement for the campaign: "Let's go kill this [n-word]."

Invisible Children responds to the criticism here.


      1. Silver lining: you won’t have to ever work with these people since they’ll be filtered out of any job prospects.

        1. Stupidity is it’s own reward! 

          Though I must say I’m quite disappointed that none of them appear to be making duck-face…

  1.  I have to disagree here. This isn’t about charity. I don’t think the documentary once stated that Kony is still is in Uganda. It’s not about that either. It’s about awareness about his atrocities and the support of U.S. forces presently in the country to catch him. The film points out something important; if something isn’t done soon he may never be caught. The cynics might point out that he’s one of many African warlords, dictators and despots. That’s true – but I’d still like to see the day when they catch him and haul him to the ICC to face charges of war crimes.

    They’ve given an explanation of the funding. They’ve been trying for years to bring this issue to light – so this really isn’t that new. Yes they give money to the Ugandan military – yes they’re not perfect. Every single democratic Western nation also does business with the PRC – and yet we’re barely concerned about human rights violations there. This isn’t an all or nothing situation. In the real world, beyond all the fuzzy feel good charity hype – you have to work with what you have. Invisible Children are using their most potent weapon (media exposure) to highlight and issue that the West didn’t care about for twenty years. Suddenly, in our very tiny and very fickle collective memory – we’ve decided for the next couple days or weeks that Joseph Kony is an issue. And I get it, it bothers me too. It bothers the hell out of me that we can’t care for more than fifteen minutes at a time.

     The problem with this cynicism is that everyone is treating this like a fad, with that comes the people that detest fads – regardless of how noble and well intentioned it is. IC developed the documentary to be an emotional plea to connect with those Ugandans that suffered under rape, torture and forced child conscription. The fact that the filmmaker used his own son is symbolic, if nobody noticed. It’s an appeal to the core values that everyone shares. It wasn’t designed to give an overview of the whole crisis, it wasn’t designed to be an academic analysis of the political system. It’s only purpose is to raise awareness of ONE particular case – and use social media to provide political pressure across the globe to make sure this stays an issue.

    1. Thank you, Cody.  I believe you’ve eloquently summed up my reaction to this criticism.  

    2. Sorry, the fact that the filmmaker user his own son is just typical me-me-me hipsterism.

      Besides, I honestly don’t care for Mr. Kony. Once he gets taken down, a new warlord will spring up. There are systemic problems in that part of the world, and the main cause is always the same: the “First World”. 

      We sell them arms to make some quick cash, we move one group against the other for our proxy wars, we screw their economies to keep us on top, we brainwash them to prop up our failing religions, and to top it off, we use them for the occasional token gesture (like this idiotic campaign) just to clean our conscience.
      We should just leave them alone. A good policy pledge for any party interested in 3rd world development  would be to keep *any* military or intelligence presence *out* of Africa for 100 years and ask the UN for a never-ending arms embargo.

      1.  What about lowering trade barriers so they could sell their goods, and giving them directed aid that doesn’t include dumping huge amounts of grain on them?

        1. Sure. There’s a long list of policies one could implement before starting to worry about taking out this or that warlord and propping up this or that autocratic regime.  

        1. This is an extremely interesting point. There has been a great deal of academic, military and public research into the new “Scramble for Africa” between the United States and the PRC. They’re even dubbing it a new neo-colonialism. I think that isn’t an accurate statement – since China has expressed zero desire in political matters, beyond keeping their own migrant workers safe.

      2. Cleansing our conscience will never, ever, ever happen. Collective memory rarely disappears. We can never erase what happened.

        I’m not disputing the West’s (or East’s) involvement in the rampant warlordism and corruption that takes place. We have done a great deal of damage to that continent over the past five hundred years. Leaving them to their own devices would – in the long run, be a betrayal of not only our historical responsibilities but also would make us even larger hypocrites. Some have pointed out that this belief reeks of the old adage; “White Man’s Burden”. This isn’t about fixing Africa as part of our alleged superiority – it’s a philosophical debate on letting your fellow man suffer. Call it idealism if you wish – but we live in a time where we have more power than ever to make serious economic, social and political changes as a planet.

        I’m not saying the video is an academic study into the very complex, very confusing Ugandan political situation. But it never claimed to be either. I don’t understand why everyone is expecting this to be a campaign based on a critical academic study – the goals aren’t even that complex. Catch the man responsible for his crimes, and bring him to justice in an international forum. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing complicated about that.

        People have mentioned SIMULTANEOUSLY – that Kony is no longer a threat because he is not in power, and that killing him now may have unforeseen negative consequences. These two are contradictory. He’s not being charged for what he will do, he’s being charged for what he already has done. Yes, we are late. Yes we did not care for twenty-five years. Those that say that he’s just one of many, you’re right. Those that rule Uganda may not be a far cry from this man. It may never end. That isn’t en excuse to at least try to attain some realistic objectives. By saying that none of this matters because the cycle will repeat is a cop-0ut. You may be right, but instead of doing something – you surrender yourself to the powers that be. I’ve been reading BB for years – and everyone loves to express their opinion, so clearly nobody here has really given up and just accepted what happens in this world with open arms.

        Your political conclusions about the continent are incorrect. You assume that Africa wants to be left alone, and that we want to leave them alone. The two largest players in Africa are the United States and the PRC. They’re not going anywhere so long as the mineral and oil resources remain. This is a conversation for another topic though.

        1.  How about letting the African people decide what they want to do in Uganda?  They DO have agency, you know.

    3. This whole thing is crazy, because it turned from a fad into some kind of meta-anti-fad in the course of one day.  I’d say awareness of Kony is up, which is good.  Unfortunately, mistrust of charities is also up, and some of that blame certainly belongs on Invisible Children.  That said, I hope some kind of good comes out of this and that people don’t just dismiss this.  
      If somebody out there was really clever, they’d figure out a way to redirect this momentum toward another cause…

    4. It’s not only raising awareness of the issue, but also suggesting a course of action: military intervention. That this viral storm should occur just as US special forces begin moving into Uganda, Somalia and Congo is quite convenient for AFRICOM. The film-maker’s motives may be sincere, but their lack of appreciation of the deeper complexities makes them prone to being used.

      Social media can be colonised just like Africa was, especially as these “networks” are actually the centralised possessions of large media corporations. Why can’t people realise they don’t need Facebook to simply talk with each other?

  2. I’m pretty firmly in the “no good deed goes unpunished,” camp.  

    It seems like all the criticism is valid; still and yet, if someone can move the wheels to make this happen, I can get behind that.Yes, they’ve simplified the issues. Yes, they’re all White Man’s Burden-y. Yes, this is a meme now.I see the ends. I see the means. In between, justification.

  3. “It is hard to respect any documentary on northern Uganda where a five year-old white boy features more prominently than any northern Ugandan victim or survivor.”

    This is complete bullshit and an example of liberal guilt getting in the way of getting shit done. The video works so well because it makes Americans who can be culturally myopic and aren’t used to caring about what happens outside their borders empathize with the issue. It makes parents think, “Damn, what IF that were my kid.”

    Also, showing a five-year-old saying simply that this a bad man and that people need to stop him is also a “from the mouths of babes” moment that is very affecting.

    Finally, the reason the filmmaker doesn’t focus on the victims explicitly is simple: He wants you to empathize without feeling what is known as “compassion fatigue” or “Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder.” This is when someone is exposed to victims or horrible images to the point they become inured to the tragedy and, eventually, numb to it. It’s why you flip the channel when that Sarah McLachlan commercial about abused dogs come on, rather than whipping out your wallet.

    These critics admit they don’t have a better answer, but, Jesus Christ, they have to bitch because these guys are ONLY bringing awareness to an international tragedy that failed to catch fire when even heartthrob Ryan Gosling was railing against it? They can go screw themselves.

    1.  Sorry that’s not Liberal guilt, that’s “cynical asshole” guilt. Cynicism has no political bias.

      1. Terry here: Don’t get me wrong. As a proud liberal myself, that’s not a knock against liberalism per se, but against a certain blinkered strain of the philosophy which suggests that because something ought to be a certain way, it’s wrong–immoral, even–to act as if it’s not that way. Because Americans ought to have the same feelings about Ugandan children being slaughtered as they would about their child’s classmates being slaughtered, the author is suggesting, it’s somehow unserious and bad to not pretend that’s the case.

        A perfect example of this is the liberal radio show “Ring of Fire,” which features a deep-voiced Mike Papantonio and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who sounds like an ailing 88-year-old woman, due to a disease called spasmodic dysphonia. While I agree that, in a perfect world, the messenger would matter less than the message, that’s simply not the case in this world. Yet overly idealistic liberals want to act as if acting like the world is perfect can create that perfection, so you end up with RFK, Jr., against a panoply of right wing baritones (Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, et al.) whose ideas are repellant when one engages with them, but whose voices draw the listener in.

        The reason it feels like liberal ideas aren’t broadly accepted–despite issue-by-issue polls showing that, as a whole, Americans are getting more liberal every year–is because we suck at understanding how to create effective, simple messages and deliver them with a touch of showmanship. These filmmakers did that and it’s stupid to bitch because they acted according to the needs of the message instead of some critic’s belief in Utopia.

    2. So why am I supposed to think it’s a good thing that they try to use my subconscious racism by exploiting that I care more about one white kid than hundreds of black kids? Yes these are the basic tricks from the first pages of the marketer’s handbook, but they’re also morally questionable. Like selling wristbands: these only exist to exploit people’s need to set themselves above their peers by publicly showing that they donated, because just forking over 100$ doesn’t leave visible traces on your person. And, basically, a charity shouldn’t do morally questionable things. Like spending only 1/3 of their collected money on the actual cause for instance. (And I know that, apart from short-term disaster relief funds, all charities exploit these low instincts, you’ll just have to set a bar how much bullshit you’re willing to put up with. And in this instance, it’s just too much.)

      Plus, why is it even important to “raise awareness”? We have discussion this every year with pink products month. Awareness is worth nothing. It matters nothing to international politics if I know about Kony. It matters even less if I sign some bullshit pledge. And politicians don’t care for long lists of (electronic, too!) signatures somebody printed out. You could just as well slap a copy of the phone book on their desk.

      This plays well into the racist undertones the drinking game posts points out: the campaign suggests some white Americans being “aware” of the issue was somehow worth more than diplomatic pressure.

      1. Actually, they’re building that pressure, so your complaint is silly.

        As for what the charity does with its money, its success in raising awareness is likely to do much more good (and bring in more money) than they could provide in their own.

        And I’m not saying it’s racist, I’m saying it’s more about culture than that. If Ta-Nehisi Coates had made this film about his own middle class children, I think it would have had the same impact. Frankly, your purist notion that acknowledging your audience’s inherent need to receive messages in a specific manner us “morally questionable” is ridiculous. Good changing anyone’s mind about anything with that mindset.

        1. Of course they have some effect, but it’s one of the least efficient ways to go about it. Directly lobbying the people they want to reach (i.e. a handful of politicians who might care and drive something forward) is always the better option. It just doesn’t fit into the slacktivism scheme very well, and it doesn’t scale. If you have to resort to these shotgun approaches of mass mailing congresspeople and signing useless pledges online, you have essentially given up. It’s the spam approach to lobbying… (not that it’s not working, which is why we see astroturfing everywhere, but only after the professional lobbyists got too annoying).

          That moral thing is just my personal way of scoring these things, but the point is: when you have to resort to such obvious manipulation as they are, you’re doing something wrong. And don’t tell me it’s not obvious, in all other discussions of charities’  stylistic failures I’ve seen yet it was mostly about their underlying values, not their marketing. (for example: the typical racist motives of all “generic africa” charities that show that one hungry savannah kid with the fly in the eye or “breast cancer is an important subject because men like boobs”)

          1. “Directly lobbying the people they want to reach (i.e. a handful of politicians who might care and drive something forward) is always the better option.”

            I’m not jumping entirely on the Invisible Children bandwagon by any means, but, well, did you watch the 30-minute documentary they put out? Because they did that exact thing.

          2. Of course they tried lobbying directly. Michael Moore tried reaching Roger Smith, too… that it’s the starting point for their narrative is just coincidence.

    3.  Sorry, but lefties have been talking about this for years.  Maybe not the “liberals” that you mention, the white knights of The West who think brown and black folks just need a good military intervention and civilizin’.   Like so many stories, it just wasn’t sexy for the MSM.

       Toyg had the winning post up near the top btw.

      Here’s The Exiled’s “War Nerd” on Kony 10 years ago:

      [WARNING, not for the squeamish, this is pretty “offensive” gonzo writing]

      Altar Boy vs Altar Boy in Uganda – The Lords Resistance Army & Joseph Kony

  4. To be fair the Ugandan government does spearhead some morally reprehensible stuff.


    Printing names and addresses of gay people in the newspaper was more than enough for me to place them in my “shit country” category along with others such as Syria, Israel, Russia & China.

    How about think of the children (or whoever these idiots are) draw attention to the life and struggles of David Kato who was brutally murdered there last year for standing up for the rights of homosexuals.

    1.  Ah, so, the fact they’re ONLY focusing on the 30,000+ children abducted and forced to become soldiers or sex slaves makes them “idiots”? How about you get a camera and go to Uganda and cover the issue you’re talking about. I think everyone here would agree it’s completely awful and we look forward to your documentary on the topic.

      1. Africa is a bottomless pit of suffering. If all hipsters start making viral videos about their pet African cause, they’ll need a dedicated youtube. We could call it YouGuilt.

      2. So unless we  are ourselves documentary film makers who have worked in Uganda our opinions are meaningless?

  5. All other points aside…
    There’s apparently some kind of “wear red this friday to raise awareness about this!” thing going on. I’m not entirely sure why anyone thinks that anyone who doesn’t already know why you are wearing red would magically know what’s going on. It’s not like anyone’s going to ask you “so, why are you wearing red today?”

    1.  For the same reason the LRA tell their child soldiers that getting baptized will make them bullet-proof: superstition. “I want this to work, even though I can’t tell you why it would work, but I want it to work, so it’ll work!”

  6. People all het up about the LRC now should remember that this is one more reason to hate Rush Limbaugh. He actually spoke up in FAVOR of the LRC. 

  7. Too little too late. Deal with on going US-sanctioned terrorism while it’s occurring, instead. Just an option for y’all. Eh.

  8. Slacktivism, fuck yeah. 

    Also: kudos to IC for the manipulative brilliance to take the emotions you feel in seeing a video of someone hearing their own voice for the first time, and connecting it to a criminal in central Africa. I said it couldn’t be done, but here we  are. 

  9. Having watched the film- because it’s set up online in most places in such a sneaky un-explanatory manner that I felt I had to- I can confirm that they explicitly state that Kony has moved from Uganda now. “He is on the move” I believe is what they say- which makes it sound like he’s conquering territory instead of running from the Ugandan forces (which is what he actually is doing apparently). 

    Yes, the issue is highly simplified. The Ugandan forces we’re helping over there also have a record of human rights abuses themselves. But often when activists look to motivate a wide range of people things get simplified in the explanation in order to accomplish a goal- only time will tell if this was the right decision. Yes, the filmmaker’s white son features in the film, though it is debatable how prominently. He features initially at the beginning of the film as a way to couch the motives the filmmaker has for doing this, then again at the point where he explains the situation with Kony to us (hint: if this kid can understand this, so can you- and these are the terms in which he couches the oversimplified version of Kony’s activities in). But the figure that sticks out in my mind the most is Jacob. Who has apparently been forgotten about in the course of the discussion above. This kid who- yes, has been rescued- is the face for the first part of the discussion about the conflict. He sits there on camera and calmly explains that he would rather be dead, that there is no hope, and that he wants to go see his brother (killed years before as a result of the conflict) and then breaks down in tears on camera. This was the part that got to me. The part where I broke down. But, hey, that’s the emotional appeal in the argument. That’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s also where the filmmakers states the promise he made to Jacob- unsure how he would accomplish anything at the time.

    Now you don’t have to agree with the politics involved (they’re simplified, yes, but it’s hard to have a complicated discussion when people are dying- that sort of thing is the luxury white people in civilized countries enjoy if you really want to discuss white privilege here). And you don’t have to agree with the methods of Invisible Children (there are other charities with better track records you could also donate to- find some of them and donate to them if you want). 

    But I think the main goal here is to educate the overwhelmingly stupid majority, who probably have no idea there has been violence going on in Africa all these years. Or if they do, have no idea exactly what is going on. Or how to help. Or where the hell to start. This offers a suggestion. It speaks loudly at the moment in hopes of getting something- anything- done. In a way, perhaps echoing the frustration of those who’ve watched for years as friends (or family) in Africa have died in these conflicts in places like Darfur, Uganda, Somalia, etc.

    So, yes. You could be a hipster asswipe- and suggest that this is some white man’s burden motive. Or you could be a human being, to other living human beings. Find your own motivations that get you up off your butt. And do something. Or you could stick your head in the sand- enjoy your position of comfortable first world privilege, and go play some video games or watch some TV instead of participating. 

    Me- I’m at least going to talk to some people about it. And maybe if I find some people smarter and more driven than I am to talk to- something might get done. I’m not doing this because I feel guilty because I’m white. I’m doing this because my parents raised me this way. And because I don’t like to watch people struggle or suffer. And because, at the moment, some other white guy has allowed me, through even my most minimal effort, to help my fellow human beings.

    So there. I’ve said my piece. You can have your fun now.

    1. “getting something- anything- done” is exactly what people like these would like you to do:  
      Now, regardless of this being a “conspiracy” or not, the fact is that an emotional, knee-jerk approach to foreign policy is what has kept NATO forces bombing rocks in Afghanistan for 11 years and running.
      (btw, Mr. Butt Naked does in fact exist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Butt_Naked )

      1. Agreed- regarding your statement about knee jerk foreign policy. But we’re not talking about foreign policy here. We’re talking about whether the citizenry should educate themselves enough to give a care. After that they go poke policy wonks, and famous people who can also poke policy wonks, with a sharp “get up off your ass” stick. These people, smarter than you or I (or at least they should be) then go out with their Harvard and Yale PhD’s in foreign policy advocacy and, presumably understanding the situation in a far more nuanced and specialized way than you or I, make decisions that are hopefully the right ones. It’s a risk. Doing nothing is the safe choice I suppose though. So you can go with that if you like.

        And as for foreign policy in Afghanistan: maybe if the U.S. had been a little more passionate we’d have built some schools, hospitals and realistic infrastructure in the country we’d just helped to destroy. And we probably wouldn’t be there now as a result. Just a thought.

        (Thanks for the update on General Butt Naked, btw.)

        1. The policy wonks you mention have already done their homework: as the clip states, Obama has already sent military aid to the (shitty) Ugandan government a few months ago. Mission accomplished. 

          So what is this new campaign going to achieve, apart from strengthening this sort of attitude, i.e. more US troops in Uganda, more money for a dubious regime, and more support for bone-headed interventionism? Even if Kony gets captured and tried at The Hague (where he’ll eat and sleep better than wherever he’s hiding now, btw), what is this going to achieve? Shall we lynch him or send him to Siberia? A new warlord will just replace him in no time, because power abhors a vacuum as much as nature does. The new guy is probably there already, he’s just not been found by hipsters yet. It’s not like African warlords don’t know that the chances it’ll end up badly for them are high, and they love being able to use the colonial angle to get support (it’s what keeps Mugabe in power almost single-handedly). 

          Mobilizing the masses for unclear goals in order to raise some easy money will only result in more overall charity-fatigue and less money for better causes. Oh, and publicity for the film makers; but they do it for Love, I’m sure, and nobody got paid to produce that (very expensive-looking) video. This is certainly not about “educating the citizenry”.

          On Afghanistan: you can build how many schools as you want , and then teach what, exactly? that everything their tribe elders say is superstitious b*llocks? Because more or less this is what has been done, and it will go down well, I’m sure, in a couple of generations. The truth is that instead of going in like cowboys in 2001, there were so many other things that could have been done, at least starting in Pakistan… bombing only when and where (and if) it would have been conductive to a stable situation. This idea that the whole world is like one giant Nazi-oppressed Europe waiting for “liberators” to come and teach us The Way of Capitalistic Democracy is such a simple-minded view, only a 5 year old could still share it today, in the third millennium AD.

          I also find it funny how you throw around the term “propaganda” as an insult, when the original video is exactly that: an expensive propaganda video (ab)using a 5 year old to raise money for a shitty African regime. But I’m sure you can rationalize it better than I can, with your superior power of ironic ad-hominem.

          1. I had this really long and great response to what you’ve said above, but BoingBoing’s stupid login eated it.
            Long story short? I wanted to say that I agree with most of what you just said. And that should you ever choose to take a stand on something that I was also passionate about that I would stand with you. But what I can’t take is the idea that you seem unwilling (or unable) to look at the problem (i.e., people are dying while we sit here and banter over this) in your argument. 

            You won’t get disagreement from me on this: U.S. foreign policy sucks. A lot of things my country does sucks. Afghanistan was done wrong. But we should clean up the mess we made. As to what they should teach in schools? I think they should get to decide that. A school is just a building. That’s all I thought we needed to give them. 

            As to the use of the word propaganda as an insult. You’re right, the original video is propaganda. I should have thought of that when I mentioned the term. I guess what bothered me more was the image you posted was a fairy tale made for the express purpose of fomenting disagreement. Whereas in the case of the video the propaganda is about a fact: “people are dying at the hands of Kony. Here are some reasons to give a shit.”

            Beyond that there’s likely nothing I can say that will make you see my point. Which is this: all you have to do is listen long enough to understand. If you want to act, pass the knowledge along. I don’t care if you donate or take action. Other’s will in your stead. But please don’t simply ignore this out of hand.

            And in the end, to me at least, that’s what it feels like you’re doing.

            If you want to discuss this further, please feel free. I don’t have all day, but I will give you some of my time. Whether you believe it or not, what you think about the world does matter to me.

          2. I agree with vinegartom23 because what I hear you saying after reading your cynical post after cynical post is this:

            “The problem of human rights is too intractable and hopeless to do anything about because everything is corrupt so even good motives will get turned into bad results… SO DON’T EVEN TRY, and if you do, you’re helping the enemy.”

            When your cynicism at how badly the global system is gamed against justice has gotten that deep, that it basically overrides your basic humanity — which should always motivate you, when you see atrocities happening, to scream out that they are unacceptable, and to inform as many other people as possible — you need to take action to recapture it.

            Living with that heavy a burden of cynicism has to be demoralizing, and refusing to take action — saying we just need to leave vicious murdering warlords alone because another will always pop up, or that we shouldn’t raise awareness because bad military intervention will result — is only adding to the dearth of humanity in the world.

            Come back a little closer to optimism! We have hope (and cookies) over here! We’re willing to share! Join us!

    1. errr, Kony’s no longer in Uganda, which is indeed a country in Africa.  The documentary states that the LRA is “on the move”, which doesn’t imply running which is what he is actually doing.   And by the way, where he’s running could be the DRC, Central African Republic, or South Sudan.

      which are all also countries in Africa.

      but that’s just me being pedantic and trying to point out that many of the people who watched Kony 2012 had very little knowledge of Africa before they watched it, and frankly, still have very little knowledge of Africa after watching it.  

      The film and campaign is a brilliant piece of social media manipulation that yanks on all the right emotional cords.  Even the much stated goal of purely increasing “awareness” isn’t bad in and of itself, especially as it’s sparked this obviously long and passionate debate.  I think the problem that many people have with the film and it’s boosters is that it seems they don’t necessarily feel that it’s necessary to learn further about the issues and the context of Uganda and the Africa Great Lakes region.  They just need to get Kony, thereby reducing a complicated 25+ year ethno-political struggle to the “Underwear Gnome” theory of development.

      More importantly, either when Kony is caught/killed or 2012 ends without it happening, how many of the 50+ million viewers of the film are still going to give a damn about the ravaged communities and victims of the LRA in Northern Uganda?  After having seen one western, glitzy, instant gratification campaign after another invariably fizzle out with questionable results and outcomes, there isn’t just compassion fatigue, there’s recipient fatigue as well.  Why should developing communities pay any serious attention to what western donor countries and individuals say when we’re so obviously driven by passing trends and fads.

      if you want to help out Ugandans (or Congolese,  or Sudanese), do sufficient research to find out what NGO’s are doing good work there in the long-haul and contribute your time, money, and voice.  Learn more about the entire situation and don’t get boxed into the, “doing anything is better than doing nothing!” camp.

      Yes, maybe it’ll result in you feeling a bit helpless and frustrated, but that’s better than being easily gratified by contributing to something that is justifiably harmful.  It’s a sign of maturity and will also help develop some humility and self-reflection in the face of an admittedly horrible situation.  Then, when you’ve sorted out what you would genuinely like to accomplish (and I’m hoping that it’s helping people, rather than getting the bad guy), do it in a more informed and constructive manner.

  10. What people miss is the areas where Kony operates these days (border regions of DRC, CAR and south sudan) are essentially lawless. Nearest police might be hundred miles away and not equipped with cars or fuel to reach you. Police officers of remote corners go sometimes months without salary and thus depend on bribes for living.

    It is this power vacuum that allows LRA (and other armed gangs) to operate. Killing Kony will not remove the power vacuum, other groups will simply move in.

    What needs to happen is to bring law and order to the region. That is what happened in northern Uganda where Kony was evicted from.


  11. I kinda wonder if I watched the same video as the one people keep critiquing? The main issues people keep mentioning is the fact that Kony isn’t in Uganda anymore … well yeah – they state that he has changed location in the video. Also the promoting of violence to kill Kony – Again I didnt get that from the video – The video more states that they wish for him to be arrested and brought to court over what he has done.

    But for me, what I really got from the video – and what it has more than succeeded at – A week ago was Kony a household name? No. To me what I got from that video wasnt “oh hey bad things happen – lets throw our cash at it and hope it goes away”. It was much more a – “so, bad things are happening on the other side of the world at this current moment. Sure there might not be anything you can personally do – but by becoming a little bit more aware of things that happen outside of your own personal happy bubble, and by coming together with other people and discussing it on a public forum such as the internet – you can let governments around the world know that – hey, this isnt on – you can tell the media what you want to know through it (because really – who cares what absurb name a celeb is calling their poor unfortunate child)”. 

    I’m far from saying the organisation is flawless – I think its very bad form to put a video up like that online and then wait 24 hours before posting the references. I myself watched the video and then went to the website looking for some “hard” evidence – and there was NOTHING on the website. But I think from a “knowledge is power” perspective what they’ve done isn’t wrong. As the video said – by getting so many people involved online we can shape what gets discussed, what gets actioned etc … That I do believe in.

  12. This man must be brought to justice. That is the bottom line. He can not be allowed to continue to breath.  EVERYONE on this planet should know who he is. How we deal with Uganda. I support leaving that decision to the people of Uganda However KOBY MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE> Everything else is pure BULLSHIT> 

    1. Some people seem to have misunderstood the fact that Team America: World Police was satire.

      1. sometimes, when a people have the POWER to do something, they are forced to make a choice.  Intervention in other country’s to prevent atrocities is the burden of being a superpower.  As much as you seem to want to deny it, sometimes the powerful have to defend the powerless.

        1. As much as you seem to want to deny it, sometimes the powerful have to defend the powerless.

          Why does defending the powerless usually result in the destruction of the powerless’s infrastructure and lots of economic opportunities for the superpower?

    2. I’m cynical enough to think that more US military aid is probably not the solution to this, or any African problem.  And from what I’ve read, the Ugandan army is no bunch of sweethearts either.

  13. SO when we have Hitlers we are not allowed to mention Hitler or we will break some Godwin law made up by a computer geek to win fights with trolls. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING. 

    1. Mike Godwin is an attorney for EFF, hardly a “computer geek” (and how’s that glass house working out for you?).  And the point of discouraging Hitler and Nazi analogies isn’t that they’re invalid, merely overused to to point of self-parody.  

    2. The point of “Godwin” is to stay on topic rather then to resort to cheap emotional manipulation. If something is bad, simply state what is bad rather then go for the easy shot that causes a discussion to break down.

      But all of that is still rather minor compared to the bigger issue that the charity itself is highly dubiouse and should not be supported, no matter how noble their goal.

      1. Koney is a war criminal that murders children. His Atrocities are in line with Hitlers. This is not comparing Rush Limbaugh to Hitler. THIS is comparing a genocidal maniac to another genocidal maniac. THIS IS THE TOPIC.   If he Kidnapped and forced 5 children to murder their  own parents he should be brought to justice. HE kidnapped over 30,000 children. YOU PEOPLE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE WHO WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT IT?  How do you sleep at night?

        1.  Well if you’re planing to inspire Americans to stop a Hitler, then you’re shit out of luck. Unless the Japanese form an salience with this Hitler and bomb your navy again.


        2.  Sleeping is not the issue, again, to agree with the goals of the campaign is one thing. For instance the main goal of the video, is stated several times, bring him to justice. However, then what?

        3.  So, you take this man out.  Then you have the people who would step into power.  They rape and murder children also.  There is a delicate, insanely complicated cultural situation in play here, but because you watched one video made by a group of evangelicals with ties to the Gingrich campaign, you now have all the understanding needed to fix Africa?  A continent which has for years been colonized, recolonized, abandoned, protected, given aid, not received enough aid.  In short, screwed over by the Western world.  Under the guise of ‘helping’.

          Are you aware that Uganda has lots of oil?  Just curious about that.

      2.  I suppose in light of the fact that the only goal of the campaign is to act with malicious force, as opposed to actually solving the issues of safety, infrastructure or longevity of the goals.. . The other half of my concerns travels to the lack of understanding of viewers that it perpetuates colonial violence.

        Perhaps,  although very powerful with the use of emotional images, fear instilling stories, and motivational talk of “activism”; the campaign is very well designed, the model of local to global is very impressive, and the concept of putting a halo on to save others is again, a notion that people want.

  14. It’d be one thing to just be wanting to bring attention to Kony and what he’s done, but what really, really rubs me the wrong way about this is that they’re soliciting donations that will basically be used to line their own pockets and those of the Ugandan regime. You don’t need to be an expert on Africa to know that just about any monetary aid given to a corrupt regime ends up disappearing into their leaders own pockets rather than going to anything worthwhile. Even if the money were to be used as intended that’s still a highly dubious and morally questionable thing to donate to.. Giving money for a manhunt, really? A far better idea would be to provide food, education and health care to those affected by Kony’s actions, especially since Kony is a shadow of his former self.

    1. The whole world needs to know about this man and he must be brought to justice. Every war criminal must be brought to justice including BUSH CHENEY AND BLAIRE>  A far better idea is to purchase the products of Uganda made by the poorest people of Uganda.
      You are Exactly right about not supporting corrupt Regimes.

  15. Everybody please tone it down.  Argument is fine, but you’re not allowed to be rude and insulting here.

      1. Go live in the Gaeltacht for a few weeks to brush up, it would be nice if you mastered one language.


    Give someone a fish
    and they’ll eat for a day.

    Teach them to fish
    and they can eat for life.

    Avoid bombing or otherwise clearing the forest
    from which they make fishing rods and boats,
    refrain from growing cheap beef or coffee
    on land where they might raise or gather the fibre crop
    which they use to make thread and nets,
    fail to poison bodies of water near their home where fish swim,
    and they could show you they knew how to fish all along.

    Try not to shoot at them,
    hold off asking them to repay loans made from wealth
    your ancestors stole quite recently from their ancestors,
    resist buying cheap natural resources from nearby warlords,
    especially the produce of forced labour,
    restrain yourself from selling weapons to same,
    and generally keep your god damn hands off them
    while they fish,
    and they might get quite good at catching fish,
    maybe offer you a fair swap for some excess seafood.

  17. I really think you all need to read Invisible Children’s responses to these criticisms. While I have no way of proving the veracity of their statements they say, for instance, that they have never given money to the Ugandan government or military. They also state clearly that a large portion of their money goes to awareness. You might not feel that has any value, but it is a reality for anyone trying to run a nonprofit/NGO and a valuable tool to creating future programs that might meet your self-righteous blessing.

  18. Look at the photo for cripe’s sake!  Are you kidding me?  Yeah send those dudes your money……

    When things smell wrong from the get go, they probably are.

  19. Yeah.  Godwin’s law is about when the discussion is over.  It’s not worth discussing anymore if one party thinks the other is Hitler.  In this case, no one wants to to discuss anything with Koni, we just want him arrested and tried for crimes against humanity.

    The video didn’t make a big comparison to Hitler, but I after living in Uganda for a year or two I think it’s apt.  Koni doesn’t act for any political cause or in the service of some greater good.  He’s purely evil for evil’s sake.  He has a lot of blood on his hands and dick.

  20. When do they break ground on the cult compound?

    I am a rebel soul: dream evangelist. I am obsessed with people. I tell stories by making inspiring movies that move people’s emotions, and then I take those emotions and transform them into action. My middle name is Radical. I married my best friend. We have known each other since we were six and seven. I have a three-year-old boy named Gavin Danger & a one-year-old girl named Everley Darling. I truly believe I am the luckiest person on earth because of my family, friends and the ability to go to a dream factory every day for work.

    I am from San Diego California with an upbringing in musical theater. I am going to help end the longest running war in Africa, get Joseph Kony arrested & redefine international justice. Then I am going to direct a Hollywood musical. Then I am going to study theology & literature in Oxford, England, and then move to New York to start “The Academy” – which will be a school where the best creative young minds in the world attend.

    1. Then why raise money to help the UGANDAN army fight a renegade force that isn’t within their borders anymore? Why raise money to convince the US that 100 army advisers are kept in UGANDA (despite no withdrawal having been mooted)? And why not mention the apparent affiliation with more dodgy forces in Uganda’s neighboring countries?

      1.  Well, because Africa’s borders are not as solid as ours are. Not to mention, continental cooperation has improved over the last couple decades. Slowly, but surely there is a growing consensus among Africa’s more stable nations that more problems can be solved when there is cooperation. It’s in their best interest – in the long haul.

        Also, yet again – you’re looking at this from some kind of idealist perspective about who we should help and who we should not. This is extremely unrealistic. As a self-described cynic, you should know what is practical and what is not. 

  21. Let me add a differently themed smarmy comment, then ask a semi-serious macro question.

    1. Did it matter that Rev.  Jim Jones moved his wacky camp to South America when it was clear “something was wrong with that guy”? If Congressman Ryan had shown up with 10 US military advisers and 100 Guyanese soldiers would things have turned out different for 900 people?

    2. In the 80’s we had the “USA for Africa” campaign to help with the famine conditions. We’ve had Somalia, Rwanda, and other regional conflicts in Africa since then. Did we just perpetuate a cycle of borderline conditions in large parts of a continent that can’t sustain itself? Or is this the result of meddling, gun-selling white people?

  22. Fad or not, people don’t seem to respond to this sort of thing until some Anglos make it cool. Uganda’s biggest problem is the person of Mr. Kony, much as the person of Mr. Savimbi was Angola’s biggest problem. Remove the person, and the main driver for the problem is removed. If the Kony 2012/Invisible Children guys can help speed Uganda to that goal, it’s cheap at twice the price.

  23. It will be interesting to see how effective this formula will be for mobilizing a critical mass that will implement the desired outcome.

  24. It’s sad that we all seem to have such strong opinions about the perceived merits and flaws of an internet video but nobody seems to have anything insightful to say about the horrific situation it describes.

    What, if anything, do you think should be done about this?  How does one enforce the rule of law in this situation?  The Ugandan army has failed to solve this problem for over a decade, what’s the next option?

    These are important questions.  Armchair film critiques and nonprofit bashing are boring.

    1. “nobody seems to have anything insightful to say about the horrific situation it describes.”

      We let Ugandans speak for themselves without telling them what to think.

      1. There’s a pretty obvious difference between having a discussion on how to prosecute an internationally wanted criminal and “telling Ugandans what to think.”

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