KONY 2012: Fanaticism at it’s finest by George Mole
The cataclysm of ‘KONY 2012’ posts littering everyone’s FaceBook newsfeed was phenomenal. Post after post, like after like, and share after share, saw the video become the fastest viral video in internet history, hitting 70 million views in just it’s first week.
I feel that I was misinterpreted by a lot of my fellow FaceBook users when posting my skepticism with the whole thing. No one really knew what or who Invisible Children was, nor of Kony, but a slick 30 minute presentation saw thousands blindly empty their wallets, so I felt I had to raise the issue. This article will be aim to reduce the fanaticism of the campaign and introduce some rational skepticism, for your pleasure.
For the 1% of this audience that managed to sidestep the craze, the gist of the campaign is to raise awareness of the criminal and immoral actions of Joseph Kony (leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA]). The way to stop him? By “making him famous”. Kony has abducted children and made them murder their parents to pledge their allegiance to the LRA, before raping and murdering anyone else in the village. He has repeated this heinous act in countless villages across Uganda. Although this is an abhorrent abuse of basic human rights and every effort should be made to halt it, this is not a revelation. There are hordes of Western teenagers that falsely believe that the Western governments must not have realised that this was going on, or they would’ve stopped it. A basic knowledge of world history wreaks of the plight in Africa after decolonization, which created generally unstable states with intrinsically weak governments. In too many cases, the countries are too poor to build legitimate institutions, like an un-corruptible judicial system, and too weak to enforce a monopoly of power over militia groups. The KONY 2012 campaign is only revisiting a plight that has been around for the past century.
Foreign Policy conducts an annual report, analysing the strength and security of every state in the world. Needless to say Uganda didn’t rank very well…But the 2011 ‘Failed State Index’ illustrates this point. There is not one state on the continent that Foreign Policy deems ‘stable’. These regions are on the cusp of total failure, which means that there are either weak governments, institutions, and justice systems that are entirely corruptible, or they are non-existent. One explanation is the geography-hypothesis which sees the economic growth of a country in Africa severely hindered due to the harsh climate making farming almost impossible. The sharp impact of these circumstances tend to aid the rise of militia groups as the government is too weak to quash them in the early stages of uprising. The LRA, which started as a small fringe movement, led by Kony, started in this way and due to it’s religious dogma, will not stop until Uganda is theirs, or they are stopped. Odds are that the LRA will be stopped by intervention, but only if they begin to pose a threat to the West.
As an atheist and rationalist, the realization that I was not as naturally skeptical as I thought I was came as an inconvenient truth. I too re-blogged the video on our tumblr page without pause. After an hour or so I understood I had neglected to partake in my usual grilling of new information and set about some casual research.
What is the aim of the LRA and what is the context? The aim of the LRA is to instill a theocratic Christian led government in Africa, which explain Kony’s ‘Old Testament’ methods of persuasion (murder, rape, mutilation and sexual slavery). For some reason, Invisible Children decided to leave this small detail out – maybe to not scare off the average US citizen, who is a Christian? Further still, Invisible Children is not as transparent as it would like to come across. The video neglects to mention several more vital details on the issue. The campaign openly promotes the Ugandan military forces, who we are to believe will help stop Kony. This army, that were used to win the civil war is that of the quasi-dictator, Museveni. Not only has Museveni acted dictatorially as head of state, and the judiciary for the past 25 years, but he attained power with an army, heavily subsidized with child soldiers. Many of those who didn’t die in the civil war are in his army today. Next, Kony hasn’t been in Uganda for about 6 years, and now operates in small ungoverned regions in the Democratic Republic, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
In 2006, 1.2 billion barrels of crude oil were found in Uganda, a figure which rose to a confirmed 2.5 billion just last October. It was shortly after this discovery that US Special Op Forces were sent into the region to ‘defeat the LRA’ in the name of the AFRICOM programme. There are several things wrong with this scenario. One, there has been no humanitarian intervention from the US, only capitalist intervention. This underlines my earlier point that intervention will only come when it’s beneficial to the intervener. The AFRICOM programme is a US led mission to destabilize the region, in an attempt to recalibrate the balance of power in their favour. Two, this is only in order to acquire vast quantities of crude oil to heighten the wealth of the hegemony. So this has all, already happened…Interesting, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I commend the cause; War Lords in the vast ungoverned-spaces of central Africa need to be stopped. They abduct, mutilate, rape and murder thousands of innocent people. “Ross Kemp: Extreme World Congo” shows interviews with doctors in the region that are treating thousands of victims of these kinds of crimes. The ICC issued a warrant for Kony’s arrest, clearly a solution that lacked substance – I don’t know what else you can call the arrest of a suspect without a police force? Invisible Children, on the other hand, is a poor charity as seen in their annual finances, which aren’t even independently audited as is usually the case for a charity. Only 32% of their profits made it into the development part of the program. The rest as you can see (link below) was on salaries, film production, and huge travel costs. I’d like to think that some other charities allocate above 32% of their profits to improving the standard of living and facilities available to the affected persons. Yes awareness is important to the campaign, but that video could’ve been made for a lot less money, and awareness products are paid back (with a profit) by the donors anyway. This money should go back into development in my opinion, especially when Invisible Children wants the US government to do the actual arresting of Kony and the LRA. Besides, taking out one man will scarcely change things in Africa. The continent is infested with failing states with corruptible governments, warlordism, organised crime, and ungoverned spaces where there is no authority, facilitating terrorism. It goes way beyond Kony…
All in all, it’s my assertion that a healthy dose of skepticism is required in everything we engage with. Information can be portrayed in very specific ways with selective discourse, and so news broadcasts, religious teachings and even the meta-ideologies that we all accept in the West, such as Democracy, need to be challenged. It was a key theme of the Enlightenment over 200 years ago, for society to become one of rational thinkers, and this shrewd fanaticism brings our lazy nature into focus. It is all too easy to just ingest knowledge as truth, but this method of learning is infantile and should be abandoned. If my articles so far have done anything, I would hope they have made you question prior assumptions.
“There are no facts, only interpretations” – Nietzsche