Revealed! Kony 2012's sinister Musical Comedy roots

From the first time I watched "Kony 2012," I always sensed a link with the storyline of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's Book of Mormon musical. But sweet fancy Moses, I did not know how closely linked the two truly were.

Aaron Stewart-Ahn tells us about the video above (which has been taken down by Invisible Children, but mirrored elsewhere):

Here's where the money has been going to: Invisible Children founder Jason Russell's vanity dance musical numbers which start off with exploitative footage of suffering children. How did no one else catch this? It makes the Kony 2012 video look subtle and sane. He's basically using this to fund his desire to make Glee.

This is where the millions are being spent: vanity musicals. Did Trey Parker write this??!! Russell has mentioned repeatedly how his ambitions were to make musicals. He intimated that he was going to make the musical popular again á la Glee, but this didn't work out—so he ended up in advocacy. It was that chat at the evangelical conference. So, here's a direct youtube link to 9m 10secs in the video where he talks about making musicals, and casually talks about his dream of documenting genocide.

That bit with the t-shirt with the African child on it is just... I'm speechless. Wonder why they've removed it from their YouTube channel, since it looks so damn expensive? It's insane, isn't it? I mean, seriously: it makes Scientology videos look charmingly naive.

UK funnyman Charlie Brooker has a bit of fun with Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 viral phenomenon, in the video embedded below.

Bonus round, below. Brooker asks, "Can ANYONE explain how this EPIC visual embarrassment helps Africa? OH GOD THERE'S MORE. Also: how much did this cost, did donations fund it, and what the TWIRLING FUCK does it mean?"

[Video Link]

[Video Link]

(thanks, @maureenjohnson and others!)


  1. Holy hell, we were joking about these charity dollars funding his eventual musical vanity project in the last Kony post here and it.was.true.

  2. This sort of makes the original complaints about “oversimplification”  seem like a minor point.

    Also, how does this fellow intend to make “Glee” if his allies are giving gay men the death penalty?

    1. Also, isn’t the press the “Fourth Estate” and satire the “fifth estate”   what is with them calling their creepy boot camp that?

      1. At the risk of being the first to break out the Godwin here, “Fourth Estate” does sound a bit like some kind of sequel to “Third Reich.”

      2. Mostly I think they’ve read a wikipedia article on the French Revolution and then made this piece of whatever you want to call it. They probably didn’t know about the Fourth Estate being the press. Just thought they were being profound and stealing a revolution for their own nefarious purposes.

  3. Guys, something is wrong with your advance post scheduler.  This was supposed to be held in wait for more than two more weeks, on April 1.

    That is what happened, right?

    Please tell me that’s what happened.

  4. I wonder how much of a riot this would cause if this was shown in Uganda along with the KONY film.  I’m guessing less rocks and more fire.

  5. The intersection of vanity and charity is soul crushing.

    I think it is fair to say most evangelical religions use vanity disguised as charity to motivate their people.  “You have been chosen, go save those fools over there!” 

  6. Observations (in no particular order):

    1) The production quality and dancing in this are really, really impressive.  This isn’t some little amateur production.

    2) Was there a single person of color anywhere?  Not even a token?

    3) They seem to have been extremely careful not to allow any trademarks on clothing to show in the video, except that more than one kid in the bleachers is wearing a black t-shirt with the Hebrew שחה (an archaic word for bowing) written in huge letters, which appears to be for the evangelical Christian hip hop group of the same name.   Cross-promotion, I presume?

    1.  Googling Invisible Children and Shachah brings up some results suggesting that Shachah has played benefit shows for IC in the past.  So I guess it’s not that surprising that their t-shirts would show up in an IC video.

      All these videos make much more sense when placed in the context of the world of contemporary evangelical Christian youth ministry, with its unironic high-production-value appropriation of whatever the ministers think will appeal to the kids (from raves to extreme sports to… well… irony).

      1.  I kept waiting for somebody to jump into frame and rip a phone book in half, but it never happened :(

    2. I agree with 1) and was coming here to say the same. The song is a little cheesy, but really, not bad, and the production values are high. Likewise, the dancing is not top-notch, but the choreography is quite good–I think I see some MJ inspiration in it. Is this really any weirder than “We are the world”? Except that had celebrity backing to counteract its saccharine.

      1. WATW was a case of artists using their talent to fund a charity. IC is a case of…people…using a charity to fund exhibitions of their “talent”.

      2. “The song is a little cheesy, but really, not bad, and the production values are high. Likewise, the dancing is not top-notch, but the choreography is quite good-”

        It’s all quite bad, actually.

    3. “1) The production quality and dancing in this are really, really impressive.  This isn’t some little amateur production.”

      Impressive  ?   It’s fucking awful.

  7. Don’t be quite so unkind. Regardless of how you feel about him, Trey Parker *is* a better social activist than these guys. 

  8. Just vomited in my own mouth a little.   But then I swallowed it when they reassured me at ~6:52, “It’s much more than a publicity stuuuunt!”

    Seriously, these guys ought to hook up with the Imperial Stars, the band who blocked all that traffic  for self-promotion — and then tried to say they did it for the homeless children in order to get leniency from the judge:

    Also, why did the kid wink at the end after he said “See you there!”  Does that mean he’s not coming to the overnight Global Commute?

  9. What the TWIRLING FUCK does it MEAN?

    There’s vast unexploited oil reserves in Uganda?

    I’m just guessing over here.

  10. The triangle design element in the Fourth Estate logo looks hway too much like an inverted $cientology pyramid. Brrrr…. (trademark war soon?)

  11. Please advise when someone decodes what I just watched.  I’m not sure when the last time was that I felt so confused by a seven minute video.  Reading the comments here has not helped, either.  I don’t know if I’ve ever said this before, but I think I need someone to talk down to me.  In plain english:  WTF?

    PS:  The Onion is now officially deader than dead.  Satire is a fifth wheel.

  12. Just watched the video with the vans and copious air guitar.  At the very end they flash a few charity names otherwise I honestly would have had no clue what that video was for.  I am floored by these people

    1. I’m sure if you asked him nicely, Charlie will sell you one of his old tee-shirts. Or tear out your liver with his teeth, one or the other.

  13. It’s amazing to witness the raw power of all this Christian, homophobic, self-loathing, closeted-homosexual angst within these boys coming out in creative spurts like this.

    They’re staying in the closet…  bottling it up… and throttling up the vans.

  14. Well, thanks, Invisible Children. You’ve now made the job of everyone trying to tap the Internet’s potential to galvanize positive social change infinitely harder. Next time someone with a perfectly legitimate cause shows up, they’ll have to waste valuable time convincing everyone that they’re not you.

    1. It’s not that hard. When advocating a cause just make sure you’ve not given documented talks about covertly furthering your evangelical christian agenda, and skip a bit further into the Advertisers Handbook, beyond the chapter “How to be so blatantly manipulative that even people who think Reply Girls are video bloggers begin to feel cheated”

    2. “You’ve now made the job of everyone trying to tap the Internet’s potential to galvanize positive social change infinitely harder”

      Good. People should be more cynical about pious frauds and “awareness” as an end-goal.

  15. A really weird thing happened to me.  The whole Kony thing passed me by, I didn’t hear about the video or see posts on it or anything.  All I’ve seen is Kony backlash and it’s a pretty unedifying sight.

    I know a bit about the LRA from a general interest in that sort of thing, and I’m pretty sure that everyone agrees the situation he’s helped to cause is teeth clenchingly awful.  So now he’s in the public eye, people who never cared about Africa or warlords care and all I’ve seen is snark about Invisible Children.
    Now they might be a bunch of idiots, but they’ve opened a door for a lot of people into a new world.  So maybe people who ought to care more could use that doorway to try and dig out some good PBS or BBC documentaries on it, link to better charities, start a debate on the things we can or can’t do.

    Oh no wait, HA HA HA look how silly IC is.  OMG look how right wing IC is.  Truely these are the issues we should be addressing when the most viral web video ever (apparently) opens the doors on suffering in Africa.

    1. IC is looking for (and finding) donors. Kony 2012 is in many ways a fundraising operation. Potential donors should be made aware of the nature and practices of the organization before donating.

      1. “Kony 2012 is in many ways a fundraising operation”

        It’s in every way a fundraising operation for IC. It’s an ad/infomercial and not an actual documentary.

    2. Yeah, because a lot of the discourse has led to people interviewing people in Uganda, actual reporters and people living there who have things to say. These people, ironically, are the voices missing in this massive fundraising effort in their own name. So yes… it’s important to push back on it. It’s always important, actually. 

      1. “a lot of the discourse has led to people interviewing people in Uganda, actual reporters and people living there who have things to say. ”

        Right, but these people were not “invisible”. They’ve always been heard. The idea that we need a white savior to publish these voices that have BEEN CONSISTENTLY PUBLISHED AND COVERED is what’s ridiculous. Turn off your TV and destroy it if you think that this campaign is more useful than watching international news.

    3. Atrocities in Africa?  Who knew?  All of us.   We’ve all known that Africa has suffered greatly under people like Joseph Kony since the media started reported extensively on it (I guess in the 80s).    We’ve all been fully aware of things like child soldiers, and the barbarity of wars there.  

      So what has Invisible Children done?  They’ve made people aware of themselves.   The Kony 2012 video isn’t really about Uganda, or Kony.  It’s about people in the West making a token gesture to alleviate the guilt that was put upon them by the video itself. 

      Except, it’s worse than that.  IC barely spends a third of their money in Africa.   The majority of their money goes towards ego-boosting projects for a bunch of dicks in California.   Did you even watch the last video?  It’s just a fucking lip-syncing video to what I presume is a Muse song.    It clearly cost several thousand dollars to make, and helps Africa this much: not at all.

      Charity and awareness have a place and a role in the modern world, but this implementation of those ideas is frankly evil.    

      But there’s a further truth that we are missing behind our justified mocking of IC.   The fact is that most of us don’t really care what happens in Africa.  I don’t.   I feel bad for them, of course.   I also feel bad for workers at Foxconn, for abused horses in Spain, for the plight of the Tibetan people, for species that are going extinct, and for a million other people and things in this world.

      But the rollercoaster of daily life is enough for me to worry about.  Maybe if I made more than minimum wage, I’d consider donating to a charity.  But I also wouldn’t be so naive as to think that my 5 bucks a month was going to change the world, or even start to make it better.  

      And I certainly wouldn’t believe that falling for a slick viral campaign run by ego-centric fucktards like IC would do anything except pay for half a second of a ridiculous music video created by people who truly deserve every single ounce of scorn poured upon them.

      1. “So what has Invisible Children done?  They’ve made people aware of themselves”

        Yup. “Well *I* know now”

        Oh really? You know surface-level bullshit and have helped enrich yet another zealot at the expense of Africa.

        “Awareness” is one of if not the worst thing ever to happen to private charity.

      2.  Depends who you donate to. Malaria and Soil Transmitted Helminth charities can do quite a bit of good without much money. For example, $5 a month would supply 30 or so kids with preventitive medication for helminthic infections, assisting in their eradication and protecting them against death, disability, malnutrition and sickness.

  16. There are way too many South Park parallels going on here.

    The Fourth Estate/Chinpokomon thing tipped the balance for me…

    Matt & Trey have obviously found a better way to do satire. This must be their magnum opus.

  17.  Now, if you just took this logo (see attached), and replaced the “P” with a “K”, somehow it would all make sense.

  18. I can’t be the only one to think that this Jason Russell chap is as gay AND camp as houses at the same time? I mean, we all know the whole hot evangelical white boy using the most extreme MISinterpretation of the Bible to hide his boy on boy urges is a story more frequently seen to be true than any in that camp cares to fess up to…. ;)

    and while it is too hilarious *i shrieked the first time I watched it, lol*  the whole crypto fascist children’s crusade vibe makes it hard to completely laugh at…

    (also Xeni, M’Lady, thank you ONCE AGAIN for making my bloody late evening-since it is no longer day)

    1. “I can’t be the only one to think that this Jason Russell chap is as gay AND camp as houses at the same time”

      Maybe, but like plenty of evangelicals before him, he’s got a wife, a kid, and sponsors a rabidly homophobic army that introduces “kill the gays” legislation.

  19. You see, this is why there should be a waiting period to own a video camera, in addition to short test involving questions about Georges Méliès, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, and Adam Sandler.

  20. They blocked a lot of their music videos.  Please tell me someone has archived them for mashup purposes.  Please. Dear god.  

  21. A warlord who shoots people in the face. What’s so scary about that? I must trust that my Lord is mightier, and always has my back. Now I must be completely devout. I can’t have even one shred of doubt…

    1. More specifically, putting ME as the star of my Broadway fantasies, only through that can Africa be saved!

  22. the freakiest one’s been removed from you tube? anyone have another link to it?

  23. I don’t have anything against awareness but the amount of money they’re spending on making internet videos is astounding. Organizations that are actually going into Africa and it’s impoverished countries are doing a lot more with a lot less. They seem extremely egotistical. They receive donations from anti-gay initiatives so their character is questioned right there, but they are receiving donations from large and powerful institutions to make musicals that don’t mention their cause? But they did get awareness out, even if Kony is a bit outdated. I think George Clooney being arrested today achieved what IC did with a fraction of the cost.

  24. Any mirrors for the vans video? It looks like they’ve made it private since this was posted.

  25. Ryan Hansen (he of Party Down/Veronica Mars etc.) is married to Jason Russell’s sister, which is a thing I only found out because HE IS WEARING PRIMARY COLOURS AND DANCING IN THIS VIDEO.

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