The White Saviour Industrial Complex

Some of the more interesting examinations we’ve seen of the Kony story over this past week:

Jeff Sparrow: Good warlords, bad warlords and the #kony2012 campaign

If you visit the Kony2012 website, you find an image gallery entitled ‘the Culturemakers’, encouraging visitors to tweet to Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, Bono and other celebs, since “when they speak, the world listens”.

Yes, elsewhere the site solicits messages to ‘the Policymakers’ (a cabal of mostly American current and former politicians). Nonetheless, the message dispersed so phenomenally not through John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice but via Jay-Z and Taylor Swift, neither particularly known for their insights into geopolitical crises.

Not surprisingly, the clip (Ruge dubs it a ‘self-righteous idiocy train’) is seriously misleading, falsely implying there’s war raging in Northern Uganda when there’s not. In fact, Kony has not been in the country for six years; his group is a much-depleted rump, numbering a few hundred people at most.

Richard Seymour: Stop them before they kill

There’s a shady crew roaming around Uganda which must be stopped. It is a dangerous personality cult, it openly calls for violence, and it uses children in its campaigns.

Its leaders have been seen waving guns around. We must catch them, disrupt their organisation by any means necessary, stop at nothing. We don’t have long to act. The deadline expires at the end of 2012, after which it will be too late. We must stop Invisible Children before they do more harm. And I’m going to tell you how to do it.

Xeni Jardin: Kony 2012’s Visible Funding: Invisible Children’s anti-gay, creationist, Christian right donors

Over at Alternet, Bruce Wilson digs in to the sources of funding for the group behind “Kony 2012,” and discovers 990 IRS tax forms and yearly financial disclosure reports from the nonprofit and its major donors “tell a story that’s jarringly at odds with the secular, airbrushed, feelgood image” it has cultivated.

The documents show that Invisible Children, Inc. received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the biggest financial backers of California’s anti-same-sex marriage Proposition 8, with links to James Dobson, The Family (see Jeff Sharlet’s excellent book on the subject), and ideologically similar Christian Right entities.

Elliott Prasse-Freeman: No Kony Is an Island: Death and Profit in Central Africa

Despite what Invisible Children might have you believe, Joseph Kony is not the only “bad guy” in sub-Saharan Africa’s story of militias and armies abusing citizens. Throughout the two-decade-long war and the Ugandan Army’s (UPDF) attempts to hunt down Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the UPDF has repeatedly terrorized communities they were meant to protect. Just last week Uganda newspapers reported that the UPDF was raping and looting in its Obama-enabled search for Kony, the very project that Invisible Children would have us mobilize to support.

But the UPDF is more than just a brutal sheriff’s posse. As William Reno documents in a fascinating study, Ugandan (and Rwandan) armies used the pretense of security threats from armed militias such as Kony’s LRA for years to establish their own extraction rackets in the provinces of southern and eastern DRC where state control is still mostly absent.

Uganda’s President Museveni, after attaining power in a 1986 coup, solved the peacetime problem of a glut of unskilled and jobless former soldiers by exporting them to the DRC to find “jobs” for themselves. By deploying improvisational extra-territorial tactics, the Ugandan military essentially became a military business, repatriating millions of dollars’ worth of gold, diamonds, and timber to the home country for export, a process which generated foreign exchange and balance of payments improvement.

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  1. Like a lot of people in Australia, I heard about the Kony campaign on TV and online last week. After seeing the doco on TV, I thought I’d try to find out more. A quick search through the New York Times made it clear that this issue has been well covered over the last few years (at least for readers of the Times) so it’s not like the information on Kony isn’t out there. And as for alerting US policy makers, both Presidents Bush and Obama have personally signed off on policy directly related to Kony and his army (maybe they read the Times?). Most recently, in October 2011, Obama signed off on the deployment of 100 military advisors to help find the guy. I’m really at a loss to see what else Americans can do or hope to achieve from this campaign – the highest levels of government and diplomats have known all this for years and seem to have acted as much as they could in the affairs of foreign nations. Failing a full scale American invasion or nuclear strike (of which country exactly? Congo? Sudan? Central African Republic? No one seems sure where the guy is), I don’t know what else Americans can hope to do.


    1. Jacinda – Thanks for this. I’ve followed Kony2012 with great interest, for many reasons but not least of which is that the campaign manages to be simultaneously very sinister and extremely hilarious. There’s been a lot of interesting comment, some of which you’ve summarised, but Charlie Brooker’s rave covers much of it. And gives a great perspective on a very weird and creepy event.

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