Bruce A Dixon
Thanks to relentless promotion by corporate media, government, celebrities and politicians of both corporate parties, along with right wing church groups and foundations, the Kony 2012 video has “gone viral.”
Viewed on YouTube more than a hundred million times by now, it paints a vivid and simple picture, clear enough, its narrator says, for a five year old. But is it real, or is it propaganda, and for what purpose?
Joseph Kony, the Invisible Children YouTube video tells us, is a bad guy in Uganda. He's a lawless warlord leading something called the Lord's Resistance Army, which kidnaps, enslaves and murders innocent children by the tens of thousands. We're never told exactly why, as corporate media simply paint Africa as a hellish and inexplicable place where things like that just happen.
The Ugandan government, the video tells us, would gladly shut Joseph Kony down and bring him to justice if only the US would provide the advanced weapons, sophisticated tracking gear, military training and the boots on the ground to help get it done. To make this happen, all that Kony 2012's promoters ask of us is to help spread “awareness” of Uganda's “invisible” child soldiers by facebooking, tweeting and repeating the Kony 2012 video, and by emailing influential politicians and the one-name celebrities like Oprah, Bono, Rhianna, Cosby and Lady Gaga (OK, Lady Gaga is two names) to whom they listen.
The Kony 2012 video aims to bring this criminal child-enslaving Ugandan warlord to justice by enlisting tens of millions of us little people in making Kony's name an odious household word around the planet, after which Washington DC will stretch forth its military arm to bring Joseph Kony, alive if possible, before the International Criminal Court for trial and punishment.
Almost everything is wrong with this simple picture, from the missing histories and the hidden motives of storytellers and players to false statements of processes and problems real and unreal on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, Kony 2012 is not a search for justice. Kony 2012 is a corporate-style PR and psy-ops campaign, a cynical hoax engineered to justify US and Western military intervention to control the incredibly lucrative oil, mineral, water and strategic resources of the heart of Africa.
The kind of social media activism the video promotes is calculated to make Americans feel good about themselves for "spreading awareness" of child soldiering when they're really spreading racist ignorance and disinformation, building a misinformed public consent for ongoing, open and direct, as opposed to covert and indirect US military intervention in Africa. "Don't study history" the video's makers tell us - "make history!" But the history that a lied to and misinformed public makes is bound to not be pretty.
Black Agenda Report is far from the first or the only news source to point that Kony 2012 is a warmongering hoax, and we certainly won't be the last. As our contribution, we here offer our top ten reasons why Kony is phony.
10: Invisible Children is funded by a core of notorious right wing donors including the Discovery Institute, which Bruce Wilson fingered in a March 11 Talk 2 Action piece as the leading funder of efforts to promote the replacement of biological sciences in schools with “intelligent design”, along with the Caster Foundation and the National Christian Foundation, all prominent backers of anti-gay referenda, politicians and initiatives in the United States and around the world. The Ugandan regime of Yoweri Museveni is a favourite of theirs for having passed legislation making it a criminal offence to be gay, punishable by a life sentence. Credible African journalists like Keith Harmon Snow have also alleged that Invisible Children’s white and male leaders have direct personal connections to US intelligence agencies.
9: Invisible Children and Kony 2012 don't tell us that the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, one of the “good guys” in the Kony 2012 universe, shot his own way to power using an army that included enslaved child soldiers, of his own according to the same International Criminal Court they want to haul Kony before.
Bruce Wilson’s excellent March 8 Talk 2 Action article "Invisible Children" Co-founder (KONY 2012) Hints It's About Jesus, and Evangelising links to numerous sources for this and much else. You'd never know it from Kony 2012, Fox News or the New York Times, but Museveni is a brutal, murderous dictator, kletopcrat and genocidaire whom the International Criminal Court accuses of using thousands of child soldiers during its genocidal plunder of neighbouring Congo, where Uganda and six other African nations invaded and killed an estimated 5 to 6 million Congolese in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a larger death toll than anyplace on planet Earth since the second world war.
Like his colleagues in Burundi and Rwanda, Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni maintains a ridiculously large army for a country so small, which it rents out as “peaceckeepers” for whatever dirty work Washington needs done. Right now ten or twenty thousand Ugandan soldiers are occupying parts of Somalia to keep that country from assembling a central government of its own unfriendly to Western interests.
8: Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 video also don't tell us that Uganda's Museveni replaced a president and rival general from the Acholi region of northern Uganda, the same ethnic group as Kony's LRA. The Ugandan government has evicted hundreds of thousands of Acholi from their lands and confined them to desperate and squalid refugee camps since 1996. Kony and his LRA did commit monstrous crimes in previous decades, but by now are said to number only a few hundred combatants. Kony may not even have set foot in Uganda in years, but he and the LRA are useful as convenient bogeymen to justify the continued dispossession of Uganda's Acholi, whose chief misfortunes besides the LRA itself, are having produced rivals to Museveni and living at the edge of a resource-rich region that stretches across Uganda's borders for hundreds of miles into Congo and Sudan.
7: Invisible Children and Kony 2012 are lying when they attribute the disappearance of 30,000 missing northern Ugandan children to the LRA. The truth is that some of the child soldiers the Ugandan government used to commit genocide in neighbouring Congo were abducted in northern Uganda, nobody knows how many, and a large but unknown portion of that region's civilian dead, many of them Acholi, perished at the hands of Uganda's government, which always had far more firepower and resources than the LRA, and just as little regard for the property and lives of innocent civilians and their children.
6: Threats of massive foreign intervention into civil conflicts never bring adversaries to the table. The threat of foreign intervention prolongs civil conflicts by making it unnecessary for those on whose side the foreigners are expected to intervene to negotiate at all, while they leave nothing for the other side to negotiate over. Uganda needs an end to violence, and resources devoted to building its civil society, not more military aid.
5: The United States, the other “good guy” in Kony 2012's imaginary world invented the modern African child soldier in the late1970s and early 80s, so their commitment to “ending child soldiers” is a bit suspect. Apartheid South Africa was bordered by Portuguese ruled Angola and Mozambique, with their own vicious versions of apartheid until 1974.
In that year, despite massive US and NATO aid, the Portuguese army rebelled, refused to continue fighting against African independence and overthrew its own government at home. White South Africa was deeply threatened by having independent black regimes now at its borders. So, with US funding it helped create and arm “contra” guerrilla forces, UNITA in Angolan and RENAMO in Mozambique to burn schools and clinics, to mine orchards and roads, commit mass rapes, mutilations and murders, terrorising citizens in their own country. Lacking foreign troops or popular support , but with US aid and plenty of firepower, UNITA and RENAMO hit upon the innovation of kidnapping and enslaving child soldiers to carry out their despicable mission. Both were effusively praised and lavishly funded by Barack Obama's favourite president Ronald Reagan, and their leaders welcomed at the White House.
In his chilling 2003 essay, Barefoot,Sick, Hungry and Afraid – The Real US Policy in Africa, my colleague Glen Ford described how the chaos and social demoralisation spread by Western financed armies of nihilistic child soldiers made them an ideal tool for use in whenever the West needs to delay or prevent the emergence of African civil societies and central governments which might succumb to popular demands to develop a country's resources for its people rather than to benefit foreign interests.
This strategy was employed in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and elsewhere. “Failed states” infested by murderous child soldiers in the 80s and 90s proved to be incredibly good business environments for (mostly) Western extraction of hundreds of billions worth of timber, gold, diamonds, coltan and other vital African resources, and ultimately excuses to come in and install Rwandan and Ugandan-style dictatorships.
4: Depending on movie stars and celebrities to move public policy is the precise opposite of building the backbone and habits of a vibrant and self-aware civic movement. This kind of so-called activism is looked upon so favourably in corporate media because reinforces a slavish worship of celebrity culture, in which we carry out the will of corporate marketers who tell us what to eat, wear, covet, consume or shun and convince us it was our idea, not theirs.
The real deal is that FaceBook, Twitter and much of crowd-sourced consumer culture are fundamentally the master's tools, clicktivism, not activism. It's never easy, and may not even be possible for slaves to free themselves with the master's tools. After all, that isn’t what they were designed for. Most of those forwarding and FaceBooking the Kony 2012 video, including some of the celebrities, as Keith Harmon Snow points out, probably can't find Uganda on a map.
3: When both corporate parties, the entire corporate media universe, a constellation of celebrities and movie stars, all the right wing and much of the establishment liberal church along with the whole bag of bipartisan foreign policy experts agree on the need for decisive US military action, you can bet the course of wisdom and truth is just about always in the opposite direction. Republicans and Democrats voted to send troops to Vietnam, and only a single congresswoman voted against war in Afghanistan.
2: Kony 2012 and the campaign to keep US boots on the ground in Central Africa are all about the oil. And the diamonds. And the gold. And the coltan, and the water. Uganda's northern region contains vast oil reserves, and neighbouring Congo is the source of most of the planet's coltan, a highly conductive compound used in every cell phone, computer, aircraft, automobile, missile, GPS or other electronic device on earth.
1: It's all about white people, the white West and their First Black President doing their imperial and colonial thing, running the planet for their benefit at everybody else's expense and feeling good about it, saving hapless & hopeless Black Africans from themselves. Such a deal. If they wanted to take Kony down, they could have done it last week, last year, five or ten years ago. If they do take him down it'll because their Kony tool has outlived its usefulness, and maybe they need to plant a big wet sloppy kiss on Museveni and his gang, a bigger and more important bag of fools and tools.
The bad news is that US corporate media, Republicans, Democrats, the Obama White House and State Department as well as rabid Tea Party senators and congress creatures are all permanent cheerleaders for war and empire. So few of Kony 2012's many critics will get on the TV stations that caused Invisible Children's video to “go viral.” Corporate media don't cover Africa or the actions of the US in Africa. Thus the Pentagon's social media propaganda shops are free to spin and promote whatever fables they require to obtain our misinformed consent for the next oil and resource war- in Africa.
Mark Twain said a hundred years ago - talking about genocidal Western exploitation of the Congo, in fact, that a lie can flash across the world in the time the truth takes to put its boots on. But the boots are on. The truth is out here, and you are responsible for helping it overtake the lie.
Forward the link to this article to your friends. Put it on your FaceBook page. Tweet it and repeat it and send it to as many of your family, friends, colleagues, associates, bosses, employees and acquaintances as you can. The cure for fake “awareness” campaigns that justify US military intervention in Africa is the truth. Don't be used. Do study history, Africa's and your own. And do make history.
*Bruce A Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and lives in Marietta GA, where he is a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.