Kony 2012 - the viral video or what?

Some of you may have noticed that James put up a short piece on ‘Kony 2012’ this week. He was particularly drawing attention to Charlie Brooker’s explanation of the 'phenomenon' of Invisible Children video on 10 O’clock Live on 14 March. What is it all about?

Early in 2003, filmmakers Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole went to Africa to make a documentary on the situation in the Darfur region. Whilst there, they changed their focal point to the conflict in northern Uganda. It is Africa's second longest conflict after the Eritrean Revolutionary War. The documentary film they made describes abductions of children who are forced to become child soldiers by Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The film looked at one group of Ugandan children who walk miles each night seeking refuge in order to avoid being kidnapped by the LRA. The film was used as the basis for a grassroots movement to mobilise thousands of American teenagers to raise money to rebuild schools in northern Uganda and provide scholarships for African youth.

‘Kony 2012’ is a version created by Invisible Children Incorporated to promote their 'Stop Kony' movement in order to make Joseph Kony’s name internationally known in order to lead to his arrest in 2012. The film spread virally. Until now the film currently has had over 74 million views on YouTube and over 16.6 million on Vimeo. There is also a ‘Kony2012’ website operated by Invisible Children. Celebrities such as Bill Gates and Rihanna have been asked to endorse and support the campaign. Invisible Children have also created action kits that include campaign badges, posters, wrist bands and stickers to help spread awareness.

Charlie Brooker’s presentation drew attention to the fact that Invisible Children has another main agenda as an evangelical Christian organisation, which is the evangelisation of young people. His approach somewhat trivialised, even banalised, what they are doing, however does draw attention to some very serious issues. Invisible Children are running a slick, publicity heavy campaign which looks more like profits for their board than any real benefits at grassroots. The YouTube video is too obviously propagandist to matter whether it is precise or not, it also excludes any counter arguments through its approach. LRA are undoubtedly a brutal and indefensible body who need to be called to account, but this is not the way to do it, especially if it is enriching people as well.

Invisible Children is an establishment funded ‘anti-establishment’ charity, who it has been revealed have been working with USAID, the US government agency that uses development aid as a means of extending US influence into new client nations. It has also been shown that Invisible Children attended the 2010 US State Department sponsored Alliance for Youth Movements (AYM) summit in London. AYM are alleged to have played a central role in preparing armies of US State Department funded, trained and equipped activists to bring about the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. That alone is food for thought.

Of course, this may appear to be an attack on a Christian charity because of its evangelical approach and clear fundraising strategy. That is not something I ever do. On my Facebook page people will find Glenn and Judith, two very committed Christians I am very close to. Indeed, the former is director of a Christian charity working in Kampuchea. I have worked with large NGOs like World Vision and several smaller ones who exist on a Christian basis over the years. I have also worked with Islamic, Hindu and secular organisations in the same way. I neither practice nor preach any religion but I respect those who do and do not attack their faith. However, since the early 1980s children’s rights have become focal in all people like myself do. Indeed, in 1989 I co-authored what was the first children’s rights book not written by lawyers and my reputation still rests largely on that part of my professional history today. In 1989 the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted and very rapidly signed and ratified by nearly all nations in the world. That is to say, all except two, Somalia which is not entirely surprising given their political situation, and the USA. The State Department, headed by one time advocate for children’s rights Hillary Rodham Clinton, is very supportive of charities such as Invisible Children who are distinctly not children’s rights organisations but are still delaying ratification for no precisely articulated reason. Those of us who work in children’s rights are not convinced things are as they should be and in the equation we see children as all too often ‘puppets’ being manoeuvred into political positions. The truth must out, those who have committed crimes against humanity must be called to account and put in front of objective, neutral courts who will surely find them guilty. Kony appears not to have been in Uganda for around the last six years, so whilst he should unquestionably be tried, so should others including President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who has been the brutal dictator of that country since 1986 and equally responsible for the deaths and mistreatment of countless children and adults.

What we do not, please, please not need, is a piece of film that is in part for the reputations of those who made it and the enrichment of the executive of that charity. What has any of this to do with SFN? The video went viral, therefore by one means or another it is likely that a goodly number of us have seen it. Some might be tempted to donate, support the campaign in other ways. In fact, this film is reporting events some years in the past, the LRA is still abducting children but is now a ragtag small force that is losing support and gradually dwindling. Across the world there are numerous more serious and urgent children’s rights issues needing immediate attention without entirely forgetting the plight of Ugandan children. What Invisible Children has done is divert attention to one of the many, thus away from the others, which for those of us who work in that world takes us several steps back rather than forward. Charlie Brooker tried to make the story somehow funny, in truth it is not, but at least he exposed the story before it became an unstoppable ‘cause celebre’ in the UK. Now for the rest of the world, a mighty big challenge.

look at:


then think again...

I think it's a very well made video, supporting the campaign, but I doubt that if you remove just one guy, that it changes much, I think that one of his fellow soldiers would take over.... you would have to disarm the whole LRA and not just capture or kill Kony...anyway my 2 cents on this.

yes, more or less what I was finding from other sources but nonetheless very well informed and what 'the people' should hear before IC's propaganda to thie own ends

Yes. The rule of thumb in journalism training once was at least three sources and "follow facts out the window."

It ultimately comes down to the reality that things are what they are. We absolutely must educate our children in critical thinking in their use of new media because they will have to develop the skill to go to seven or eight sources and make sense of things rather quickly at times. That means reforming education. The US educational system needs a lot of work.

I know. I don't even have the same faith I once did in National Public Radio. I turned to BBC, but even there, I'm not sure. Blogs are good as long as one considers possible bias from the source.

it's a sad state of affairs when people have to cross reference our news across at least 7 or 8 sources before believing it.

I like RT for news. Al Jazeera has some interesting tidbits, reuters is biased as sky these days, lol.

Mass media, well, wow...no accountability there. Here is one of my favorite spots - real news has a multi-part series.

Kony 2012 Hides US Support for Repressive Ugandan Regime


all you need to do is look underneath ANY youtube video to snatch a quick glimpse of the mentality of not just Americans, but people from everywhere. It always ends in "F you", and all because someone doesn't share the same opinion as another

I was talking at length about this Kony2012 business with an old friend recently who deemed it necessary to carpet bomb Uganda to "get kony" Turns out the media have already convinced quite a number of people that the US needs to further militarise Africa.

Hi Zoe, honestly, I didn't feel any offense at all. I'm not inherently very nationalistic. But in reading your post I realized that I am not practicing what I preach about face-to-face. I've been uncomfortable about Facebook for several reasons, so I don't follow it. The other day I did a couple of searches and was amazed to see my 92-year-old mother was an avid facebook participant.

I will look and see what people are saying about the issue.

Recently, we had a court case here involving a mother who was accused of her child's death and she was found innocent because the jury did its job as it was supposed to do. I followed it and with a concern for due process was horrified by the trial by internet of the jury, the judge, and the accused by "American people." This is clearly a world I need to understand better, so thanks for bringing the source to my attention.

Susan, you are not all American people, and, not all American people are you. I only have to scroll back on my facebook newsfeed to see the viral video by IC plastrered all over it, with "let's get this guy", and "we should get in there and do something" (actual quotes from people)

you don't need to take offence everytime someone names your country of origin.

Perhaps it is that, once you left the US, you evolved, as I did when I left my country of birth, but there seems to be a trend among fox viewers in particular, that the govt decides to blow some folks up, and the masses are 100% behind the decision, no matter what.

Mass media does that. Sick thing.

I think that is true. It is funny. I have been thinking about power this morning. I have completed a co-authored book and I am struggling this morning with the fifth draft of a proposal to the publisher, which I find harder than writing the book. It is about labor but more - it is fundamentally about forms of power.

I had an incredible teacher, Peter Knudsten. I told him once that I get hung up on words. He was a maverick in many ways. Anyway, he decided to leave the prestige (and triteness in his view) of teaching in a university and teach instead at a community college. He had a very diverse classroom. He introduced the idea of "unhappy consciousness " as his primary theme. Well, it was difficult to go to sleep after that. I've never seen anyone reach students of varying educational backgrounds the way he did. What he was asking us to do was to unpack the question of power and do so with information and discipline. Following that, the word that continued to fascinate me (and elude me) is "collusion." This is because it is while I've learned since then there are very deliberate attempts to distract from real issues, more often there is a product that is less conscious, but equally harmful and that is a collusion of interests that persists unchecked and produces phrases to coerce people, including those phrases that pit nation against nation. Things become normalized to an extent for those watching Fox News that accountability is no longer an issue. As part of this collusion, in my meaning of the word, we are part of the problem. When we point fingers without the required face-to-face understanding, we are running from ourselves which doesn't work. I hope this makes some sense.

extraordinary isn't it? most of my many american friends are saying 'uh-huh' let's look at this closer. it may well be that part of the dramatology IC is employing created this implication of hysteria/protest or similar to make it all the more 'human'. but like the many soap operas much of the world's population lives with as though they really are everyday life, sit and discuss it all and that all changes when people are reminded it is a product made to make them believe for the sakes of its success.

Being an American, I was wondering, who the "American people" are who are screaming? I'm not sure that reducing any nation to its people in this context is fruitful to identifying and solving wrongs. I haven't heard those screams from the people I know.

okay, that would be great.

drop me an e-mail via my message box and I'll send some child rights tidbits...

with you. I was taught by Jack Goody and we had Edmund Leech at hand, many other fine and famous names who crossed discipline boundaries in Cambridge. We were and I remain participatory actors within our own research. It has never made me a bean but I appreciate the human race which makes me rich beyond comparison.

I am a cultural anthropologist with great respect for figures from social anthropology. Many of my contemporaries headed for Africa or Southeast Asia. My focus was poverty and health in Appalachia in relation to chronic diseases. I wanted to know some of the effects of a large-scale federal program with preconceived agendas on generations.

I had decided to take the applied anthropology route and I thought there was a lot of promise in participatory research at the time in terms of changing some academic paradigms. I've taken many turns since then and sometimes it is very hard because I am still an anthropologist, but I've lived firsthand in the world longer and, of course, here we are today with hope and despair.

Maybe the only way out of despair is imagination.

Yes susan, I am a social anthropologist, so social scientist with practical bits. The world has particular problems at each end with others between. Choice and a bit of misjudgement got me to children and 40 or so years on I wonder if I should despair and quit, but how could I with a clear conscience?

I think I know what you are saying when you say "mild." I would appreciate your thoughts as they emerge.

Big world with an aging population and disenfranchised 20 somethings. We all have something to talk about!

As a social scientist, I think one can wonder about the production of iconic images of children and the surrounding polemics and one can hope that people receive food and shelter without indoctrination, and move in another direction to help build a future for children in some participatory manner.

I would love to know those cultures that do it right.

It is a big world in which much has yet to be achieved for children. If I can think of something I can offer by e-mail in the next few days I'll let you know. IC is mild compared with some things colleagues and I have worked with though.