Before I go any further, I want to be clear. I strongly condemn Joseph Kony and his so-called Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). They allegedly kill civilians, maim children, abduct thousands of children, force boys to serve as soldiers and force girls to serve as sex slaves. Obviously, they should be captured and tried for crimes against humanity. However, I do not agree with the tactics and motives of Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign.
By now, I am sure that most of you have seen the Kony 2012 viral video. Before jumping on the Kony 2012 bandwagon, one must know about the organization and carefully analyze the facts. We live in a time when many people no longer read newspapers. They do not conduct research. Unfortunately, they rely on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for news and information. Substance is replaced by short paragraphs, entertaining videos and catchy slogans. Critical thought is minimized, and the herd mentality becomes the norm.
As a result, the masses are more susceptible to propaganda. That is part of the reason why that Kony video has been so successful. It is one of the most effective pro-imperialism, pro-militarism pieces of propaganda ever produced.
As defined on Wikipedia, propaganda
"is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the desired result in audience attitudes. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of political warfare."Through Twitter, Facebook and mainstream media, the Kony video has been repeatedly dispersed worldwide. When one's cuts through all of the sensationalism and emotionalism of the video, the purpose is clear. Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign seeks to persuade the American public to promote its goal. Its ultimate goal is to support, sustain and possibly expand US military intervention in Central Africa. It urges the public to pressure Congress to support the Ugandan military. Obviously, such an objective is pro-militarism. Western troops occupying African land is imperialism.
Invisible Children's purpose cannot be to truly assist the Ugandan people. Although Invisible Children mentions its life saving projects in Uganda, such programs constitute a relatively small portion of the organization's expenditures. As reported by ABC news,
But Visible Children pointed out that although Invisible Children had spent more than $8.6 million last year, "only 32 percent went to direct services with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production."Like most propaganda, the video omits and/or glosses four key facts. Such glaring omissions make me question Invisible Children's true motives. First, although it calls on us to support the Ugandan military, it fails to mention the human rights violations and atrocities committed by the Ugandan government.
Russell defended the group's spending, saying that Invisible Children needed to spend money on advocacy and awareness of young people, especially in the West.
As reported in the Washington Post,
[C]ritics here said the video glosses over a complicated history that made it possible for Kony to rise to the notoriety he has today. They also lamented that the video does not inform viewers that Kony originally was waging war against Uganda’s army, whose human rights record has been condemned as brutal by independent observers.Second, it fails to mention that the United States intervened in Uganda in 2008. That year, United States Africa Command launched the failed Operation Lighting Thunder. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Operation failed to protect civilians. More specifically, a Council of Foreign Affairs article titled Obama Takes on the LRA notes that:
"Operation Lighting Thunder, and other such missions to fight the LRA in the Central African Republic and in southern Sudan, served mostly to kill efforts to keep beleaguered peace talks going. And, far from neutralizing the LRA, they prompted a strategically effective and ferocious response. In January and February 2009, the LRA abducted around 700 people, including an estimated 500 children, and killed almost 1,000."In light of that history, it is clear that increased military operations in Central Africa may only exacerbate the problem by increasing the number of civilian causalities. Although we all want to do something to improve the situation, US military intervention is not necessarily the best course of action.
Third, according to Amnesty International 2011 Annual Report on Uganda, Northern Uganda is currently, "relatively calm". That fact is glossed over and only mentioned briefly in passing on the Kony 2012 video.
Finally, as part of its sales pitch, Kony 2012 emphasizes that the US has no strategic interest in Uganda. Invisible Children uses that as a primary reason for demanding that the public keep up the pressure on politicians and celebrities. However, the Kony 2012 video conveniently fails to mention that in recent years oil was discovered in Uganda. According to the Wall Street Journal, Uganda could become one of the top 50 oil producers in the world. Under the circumstances, stability and US influence in the region could serve American corporate interests.
Perhaps, this explains the Obama Administration's and Invisible Children's sudden interest in the region. The United State rarely acts solely for humanitarian purposes. Kony and LRA have been committing their brutal crimes since the 1980s. Of all the many vicious dictators around the world, maybe oil is the real reason why Kony has been singled out. Again, those four important omissions cause me to question the motives of Invisible Children.
Instead of depending on some suspicious Western organization to play the role of Tarzan, African people must find African solutions to African problems. Rather than drinking the Kony 2012 Kool Aid, I recommend that all concerned citizens financially support organizations that are really doing work to assist the Ugandan people. I agree with something that one of my critics said. We must create our own social media campaigns to serve the interests of the Ugandan people in particular and African people in general.
This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.