The problem with 'Kony 2012'
'Kony 2012'- a campaign to help bring Joseph Kony, leader of Ugandan guerrilla group the Lord’s Resistance Army to justice. Felix Nugee problematises the hype surrounding the online documentary which today took the internet by storm
by Felix Nugee
Thursday 8th March 2012, 01:36 GMT
I had planned on working this afternoon. Then afterwards I was planning on going to Cindies, getting shitfaced and carefully removing all tags the next morning.
This all changed when I logged onto my Facebook after lunch. At first I was intrigued to see what was filling up my news feed quite so much that was unrelated to either an Arsenal match or the X-factor. 'KONY 2012'.
I then became rather indignant at quite how insulting the video was to people’s intelligence before becoming outraged as I read further into the situation. Having calmed down a bit now, I thought I’d look into what was quite so fascinating about the reaction to the ‘KONY 2012’ documentary, as well as try and digest what the impact will be and why we should be wary about Invisible Children and its aims.
What was so incredible about this was that it took off quite so quickly; I received one notification about it last night and by this evening I could count over 100 posts either of the video or of reactions to the video. Nearly every conversation since this afternoon when I noticed it had reference to the video or people’s frustration with it at some point. The video’s explicit aim was “to make Joseph Kony famous” and it has in a way that no other documentary or news story ever has, certainly amongst our generation.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, has been terrorising central east Africa for 26 years and yet the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to today had never heard of it before. Whether this says more about the quality of the coverage of international conflicts or about to the extent our generation overlooks these stories as numbers, it is certainly shocking.
I do however think it’s important to not conflate finding the marketing strategy impressive and finding the content impressive. Yes it is fantastically well done (on a side note I don’t buy the argument that the directors are overpaid because they’re obviously doing a very good job) but that doesn’t mean we should be drawn in. It is patronising in the extreme, likening Kony to Darth Vader where all the problems will be solved when he is defeated insults our intelligence.
Yes Kony is categorically a “bad” guy. That doesn’t mean that Invisible Children are good because they oppose him. It is vital to remember that the enemy of our enemy is not our friend. You can see this in what they suggest as a solution: liberal interventionism on a major scale. This is problematic for a number of reasons, the chief amongst them being: LRA doesn’t operate in Uganda anymore and any mission to bring him to justice would involve escalating armed conflict in four countries.
Escalating conflict should never be done without precaution, and a video that captures the imagination of the general public does not satisfy the conditions of a just war. Even if it was the vehicle that Invisible Children would use, the armies of South Sudan and Uganda are hardly the correct ones. They have both been exposed here as complicit in rape and looting and President Museveni has been in charge of Uganda throughout Kony’s reign of terror. Increasing funding to these organisations can only further destabilise the region.
Another gripe I have with this video is that it could have been made about any number of atrocities around the world: the Mexican drug cartels, the crushing of the Syrian uprising or drug and prostitution rings in Thailand. The fact that it was made about Kony was purely arbitrary and detracts from the other serious situations throughout the developing world. The best case scenario according to Invisible Children is that Kony is captured and brought to trial but unfortunately the result of this is that the public will see the situation as solved.
The comparisons to Osama Bin Laden and Hitler (it is tempting to invoke Godwin’s law and nullify the whole argument) in the videos don’t help matters. This is not a case of getting the US Navy SEALS squad in to take out the leader and the conflict will be resolved; even less so than in Pakistan. Uganda and the countries to its West and North face serious long term institutional problems that won’t be resolved by capturing Kony.
Kony is a symptom of the problem in East Africa, not a cause. As nice as it would be to believe that capturing one man and nullifying the LRA would stop conflict in this region, it’s unfortunately simply not true.
And the worst case scenario? Nothing happens. There is an increase in funding for President Museveni’s government and Kony continues to hide in the jungle. Either way the disillusionment that results will mean that people will be less inclined to share a video like this in the future.
Yes the video has been a massive success, I have friends who have donated to the cause and everyone now knows who he is, yes Kony is a despicable man who should be stopped and yes the situation in east Africa needs to be improved.
But that doesn’t mean that we should jump on the bandwagon before we seriously consider the implications, and I fear that this is what too many people have done by clicking share today.