Kony 2012: Please, don’t be fooled

Posted on March 8, 2012


If you do anything on the back of watching the #Kony2012, the 27-minute viral sensation currently embarassing the world wide web, it’s to investigate exactly where it’s come from, who is behind it and why people have been so taken in by it.

I actually find it amazing that people can suddenly care so much about an issue that they presumably have a superficial awareness of already, just because of a social media campaign led by Twitter and Facebook twinned with a baseless campaign that aims its cross-hairs on the Western all-feeling heart.

Not a new issue  

How many people have seen Blood Diamond? On its opening weekend in January 2007 it took £1,471,104, two months later it had grossed £7,269,409. Blood Diamond also features scenes with modern African problems – the diamond trade, vicious rebel militias and child soldiers. One of the main sub-plots of the film is saving a child soldier, and returning him to his family.

This is not a new issue, nor is our awareness of it. People chose to ignore it, until now. And yet there doesn’t seem to be even a single dose of self-consciousness. We should be ashamed.

Campaign poster for Kony 2012. Photo credit: nick shultz

I’ll save you the biography on Joseph Kony, militia leader of the Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, since the film does it so well. The most important point here is not who he is, or what he has done (which is already known, and of course, disgusting) but what is the film and who is behind it?

Aside from Invisible Children’s suspect finances (in which around 30% of its income is used for charity business), worse is the fact so many people could be duped by a video that explicitly calls for a US-led intervention in Central Africa. Invisible Children wants its young and beautiful community to directly fund the Ugandan National Army (itself guilty of atrocities against civilians, according to Human Rights Watch), which will be led by “American advisers.”

For someone who comes across as a good Dad and a great all-round guy, Jason Russell is peculiarly fond of using Pentagonese, the opaque, Orwellian language of the military-industrial complex that gave us “collateral damage” (civilian dead), “immediate permanent decapitation” (death) and “pacification” (destruction).

What are these advisers going to be advising about? Who will their advice be advised to? Will it be good advice?

If Invisible Children is anything to go by, probably not. Because Russell and his Hipstomatic-schmaltz wants “direct foreign intervention” in Central Africa – that means boots on the ground, drones and jets in the air and the next inevitable step in America’s programme of endless global war.

You would think we had learned something after wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have already killed over 1 million innocent people, with a 90% civilian death rate, and a “textbook” intervention in Libya which has resulted in regime change and with it the total destabilisation of yet another Middle Eastern country. This, as they say, is what democracy looks like.

Just another manhunt

A coincidence, perhaps, but since last year the United States military has been running an extensive programme under AFRICOM, the United States African Command. This includes a string of new drone airfields in the Horn of Africa (conveniently in-land enough to deal with Uganda and Kenya too), and the trans-Saharan Operation Enduring Freedom, to “fight al Qaeda in the Maghreb.”

But what about Central Africa? Last October President Obama deployed around 100 US special ops troops to Central Africa, reportedly “to assist African forces in the removal of [LRA leader] Joseph Kony and the leadership of the LRA from the battlefield.” Perhaps these are Russell’s faceless “US advisers.”

And yet there has been no reported (and verified) LRA activity in Uganda since 2006, and it is widely accepted that Kony is no longer in Uganda. Does the West really want to inflame another region by pursuing a small, embattled radical organisation and giving it indispensable credibility and victimhood? The last 10 years has told us that that policy blows right back up in your face.

“Free flow of natural resources”

There is clearly more than Kony at stake here. Central Africa is well known for its rich natural resources – including copper, cobalt, gold, uranium, magnesium and tin. Once ravaged by King Leopold II of Belgium, the 21st-century American Empire now wants in

At an AFRICOM Conference at Fort McNair on February 18, 2008, Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller declared the programme’s mission meant maintaining “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market.”

Not only that. Ugandan President Yower Museveni has for some time courted Iran and President Ahmadinejad “in all fields.” There is a new Scramble for Africa – a sick twist of history in which global powers are returning to old hunting-grounds and fiefdoms, perhaps in preparation for a renewed proxy war much like the Cold War.

So where does good Dad and all-round great guy Jason Russell fit into this, at the forefront of the Kony 2012 campaign? I wouldn’t want to contribute to the conspiracy theories just yet, but the whole thing stinks of some kind of front organisation.

If it’s not, it’s a direct attempt to align social media, activism and youth political disengagement with the United States’ economic, military and imperialist interests in Africa. Think of it as America’s answer to the Arab Spring.

Please, don’t be fooled.