Foreign Intelligence Briefing #398: On The Campaign To “Make Joseph Kony Famous”

The campaign to make the Joseph Kony famous in 2012 is underway, and we’ve never seen anything so worthwhile trend so suddenly and enormously. Kony is the religious extremist leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group roaming central Africa with the aim of establishing a state ruled by the Ten Commandments. He has forced an estimated 66,000 kids to fight for him and has displaced some 2 million people in several countries, some of the world’s poorest. He’s been indicted for war crimes, but he’s still at large. The ace up his sleeve? No one with any power to interrupt his assholery has stepped up to stop him. This campaign aims to change that.

If it works, it will likely be seen by future historians as a watershed moment in the annals of how we deal with very bad people. World governments only commit to “police actions” if it serves the interests of either their supporters (ie. big oil) or their national interests (ie. big oil again), a fact that has allowed folks like Kony to carry on unmolested. There’s nothing in the rulebook that says citizens can’t kick and scream about issues they care about, and that’s never been more true since the advent of social media. If we want Kony’s days to be numbered, we’re the ones holding the calendar. If a big enough stink is raised, Kony will be brought to justice.

What can you do? For starters, watch the film above if you haven’t already, and think about joining thousands of Vancouverites at the Art Gallery at 8pm on April 20th. Details on the gathering here.

  • Geoffro

    Because someone has to: http://innovateafrica.tumblr.com/

  • Heather

    Fun-buster here.

    Worthwhile issue of course, but I’d encourage everyone to do their research before supporting IC or this initiative.

    Start here:

    http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/

  • rr

    expected a bit more research from “foreign intelligence” than simply reposting press releases.

  • Scout Magazine

    Agreed, though financial support is one thing and making your voice heard is another entirely. There have been no shortage of people/publications casting doubts as to the worth of the organisation behind the campaign, but that doesn’t change the fact that the LRA and Kony should be shown the door.

  • Scout Magazine

    Yikes, you should see the local organisation’s press release. This was hardly it. And Kony is hardly news. I’ve been reading about the LRA for years. It’s awesome to see so many people becoming aware of what’s happening.

  • David

    Agreed, but the apparent method preferred by Invisible Children is direct military intervention by the US. Putting aside the dubious notions of colonialism this raises (Africa unable to sort out African problems), where would this interventionism end? There are several diabolical warlords all over Africa, and many more regimes that routinely oppress and torture, do we give the US carte blanche to go police the world? I think, sadly, that this may in fact prove to be a moment historians look back at and realise the limits of social media activism.

  • http://flavors.me/stefanszary Stefan

    I have to agree with rr. “Foreign Intelligence” is staple of the Vancouver blogosphere as far as I’m concerned, but this is an example of social media naivete in the extreme. You want to sell a lot of crap to “caring people in the first world”, play to their genuine desire for good, go heavy on shock value, light on content, design a cool t-shirt for sale and convince them they are making a better world by buying it and “liking” it on Facebook.

    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. To think otherwise is simply childish. When we can’t social-media away the shortfall in First Nations amenities in the first world, how can we hope to social-media away genocidal maniacs in the third world who are a hell of a lot more ruthless a than INAC?

    A little fact checking by “Foreign Intelligence” would have help quantify Invisible Children as well. Just because social media in its current flashy form seems to be the domain of left-leaning political thinkers and open-minded individuals, does not mean that every slick vimeo production or flash website is what it seems. Invisible Children supports direct military intervention in Uganda, while having no Ugandans on their board of directors. So then, aside from some grand humanist desire for the betterment or our fellow human beings who’ve had the shit luck of being born in Uganda, what is Invisible Children’s goal, or simply, cui bono?

    Again, contextualize. Uganda’s (new) northern neighbor is South Sudan who happens to be extremely well endowed with oil and other natural resources. Where does more of Invisible Children’s funding come from? Do they focus on other nations, or just Uganda? With no Ugandans on their board of directors, why the sudden interest? What universities did the founders of Invisible Children attend (with respect to certain republican academic domains such as Rice) or what is their work history (is the Cato Institute or other such heavily-right think tank mentioned on any CVs?)

    Again, “Foreign Intelligence” is awesome, I love it, but please keep the later word in mind.

    Check out Invisible Children’s website, it’s touch to navigate the flash-heavy beauty while you try to find out about the organization, but it’s super easy to buy flashy sovereigns though.

    Turning on my inner capitalist though, this is an exercise in aggressively subversive and manipulative marketing par excellence!

  • Deana

    Doesn’t read like a press release to me. I realize the issues surrounding the Ugandan government, army and military intervention are very complex, and bear doing more research. But this whole argument about Kony2012 being a fraud because they spent money on filmmaking rather than direct aid (which I have read multiple times today) is misleading. They are doing just what they said they were going to do: raise awareness through this film. If the way it’s trending in one day is any indication, they are already having far more success than traditional means ever have.

  • Money Gaem

    Not a bad racquet, if I do say so myself

    http://c2052482.r82.cf0.rackcdn.com/images/737/original/FY11-Audited%20Financial%20Statements.pdf?1320205055

    Invisible Children Director Darrne Hardy on Secrets to Making Money

  • Scout Magazine

    Thanks Stefan. You’re absolutely right in suggesting that I should have contextualised. In my defense, the “Invisible Children” fundraising machine wasn’t of interest to me (note that I didn’t call for funds or link to their website, or mention them at all). It smacked of “white man’s burden” from the get go. I was more interested in how fascinating – historically – it was that the subject was trending in social media, and how that attention could possibly affect change with respect to the future of Kony and the LRA. Granted, the change needed in this particular regard is far more complex than a slogan that can fit on a bumper sticker or in a Facebook post, but that was beside my point, which was that if you want to change things, it’s important to show up when the opportunity presents itself. If it doesn’t present itself, you have to force it. I like it whenever I see it, though its sheep quotient is not a little unnerving. Still, in the end, apathy isn’t an end. It’s the end.

    Your points are all fair and right. I’m sorry if I gave you the impression that I came to this blind. For what it’s worth, I was living/studying in South Africa when the LRA was getting particularly nasty during the mid to late 1990′s. Kony has been a bogeyman of mine for nearly two decades, as my beat at the University of Cape Town was Liberation/Colonial History, where Kony was a hot topic of discussion. I have travelled to half a dozen countries in southern and central Africa, and feel confident enough to venture a few thoughts on whatever is happening in those regions, particularly when it comes to political movements. Perhaps I should have written longer on this subject, but please don’t mistake my brevity for ignorance. As you may have noticed, FIB’s are nothing if not always brief. Glad to have sparked the conversation though. Thanks for reading and adding your two cents.

    PS. Social media isn’t the exclusive, prancing domain of the new left.

  • Scout Magazine

    Just read this critique from a Yale asst prof:

    “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. It’s often not an accidental choice of words, even if it’s unwitting. It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming. The saving attitude pervades too many aid failures, not to mention military interventions. The list is long. One consequence, whether it’s IC or Save Darfur, is a lot of dangerously ill-prepared young people embarking on missions to save the children of this or that war zone. At best it’s hubris and egocentric. More often, though, it leads to bad programs, misallocated resources, or ill-conceived military adventures. There’s lots of room for intelligent advocacy.”

    Yes, yes, and yes, but where? Uniformed, active zealots are dangerous, sure, but informed apathetics maintain the status quo by virtue of their inaction. If the goal is to shut down Kony, then the ancillary financial motivations of Invisible Children (if there are any) are a little less worrisome.

  • Mona

    egads. this plus the tea and two slices bs? think scout magazine should probably just stick to covering restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques.

  • Clive Ashworth

    mona oh mona you are a voice of reason