Not a Click Away: Joseph Kony in the Real World

by Dinaw Mengestu

In 2006, I flew with a group of journalists and United Nations officials to a remote village in Garamba National Park in eastern Congo, just on other side of the South Sudan border, for a meeting with Joseph Kony and the leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The meeting was to be held in a designated staging ground – a neutral space, deep in the forest, created by the UN as part of yet another protracted peace agreement between Kony and the Ugandan government. 

When we arrived, dozens of heavily armed LRA soldiers emerged from the forest and took their places among the stacks of rotting food that had been delivered to the clearing as an enticement and sign of goodwill. The LRA soldiers, dressed in camouflage pants and European football jerseys, spoke to no one and refused any attempt to address them. They were haunting, ghost-like figures that would have seemed beyond human reach had I not already spoken with dozens of ex-soldiers, boys and girls, who were rebuilding their lives and communities in camps and villages across northern Uganda. The heavy arms gave the LRA power, but many were still children, and even those who weren’t, despite the atrocities they had committed, were only marginally less vulnerable.   

While we waited for Kony and the other leaders of the LRA to arrive, I debated with a few other journalists if whether the most moral action wouldn’t be to wait until the leaders arrived, and then leave abruptly so they could be bombed or hunted down. Kony could have been killed then – it’s impossible to imagine any armed engagement in which he isn’t – as would have many of the boys, women and children forced to travel with him. Once we acknowledged that, our seemingly simple debate became untenable; there were too many complications to consider. 

Of course no one was killed or arrested that day. Vincent Otti, Kony’s second in command and one of the five men indicted by the ICC, arrived first, trailed by dozens of more soldiers, and then two hours later, Kony, with his own heavily armed team. Because of logistics and the long delay, I was able to stay only long enough to see the other leaders, who in their self-decorated military fatigues would have almost looked like children themselves were they not trailed by such a brutal, violent legacy. 

Kony was, of course, the main attraction. His arrival was instantly reported on the wires and appeared on the front of the BBC News website. Millions of people around the world read about him, but no one who was there that day, from the UN officials to the journalists, would have suggested that the surge in attention would somehow translate to his arrest and capture. He was famous already, and millions of dollars and many years had already been spent trying to stop him. A few days worth of news stories would serve as a necessary reminder of that fact, once again, but as one of the other journalists there noted, the most important people there were the reporters: “If we’re not here,” he said, “It’s like it never happened.” 

The necessity of information, of course, is one of the central tenets of journalism, and part of the drive behind Kony 2012, a film with the explicit aim of raising awareness and provoking action against Joseph Kony and the LRA. The substantial difference, however, between the news report and the activist video lies in the intent.  The hundreds, if not thousands, of stories written about Joseph Kony and the LRA over the past twenty years have tried to present a short and fleeting glimpse of the violence and havoc wrecked by the militia. At their best, they have also offered insight into the exploitation of ethnicity and identity in northern Uganda, and the role the Ugandan military has played both in arming, killing, and trying to bring peace to the region. They ask and demand nothing in return, other than the reader’s limited attention. 

Kony 2012 wants both. It wants to tell us about Joseph Kony and his atrocities, but much more than that, it wants to convince us that there is a solution – that we need not sit helpless on the sidelines while children in Africa suffer because there is something we can do, and that something is as easy as a click of a button. That solution, however, only works in the myopic reality of the film, a reality that deliberately eschews depth and complexity, because of course the real star of Kony 2012 isn’t Joseph Kony, it’s us. 

Kony 2012 is the most successful example of the recent “activist” movement to have taken hold of celebrities and college students across America. This movement believes devoutly in fame and information, and in our unequivocal power to affect change as citizens of a privileged world. Our privilege is the both the source of power and the origin of our burden – a burden which, in fact, on closer scrutiny, isn’t really a burden at all, but an occasion to celebrate our power. Mac owners can help end the conflict in eastern Congo by petitioning Apple; helping to end the war in Darfur is as simple as adding a toolbar to your browser. The intricate politics of African nations and conflicts are reduced to a few simple boilerplate propositions whose real aim isn’t awareness, but the gratifying world-changing solution lying at the end of our thirty-minute journey into enlightenment. 

In the world of Kony 2012, Joseph Kony has evaded arrest for one dominant reason: Those of us living in the western world haven’t known about him, and because we haven’t known about him, no one has been able to stop him. The film is more than just an explanation of the problem; it’s the answer as well. It’s a beautiful equation that can only work so long as we believe that nothing in the world happens unless we know about it, and that once we do know about it, however poorly informed and ignorant we may be, every action we take is good, and more importantly, “makes a difference.” In the case of Kony 2012, this isn’t simply a matter of making a complicated narrative easier to understand, but rather it’s a distortion, or at worse, a self-serving omission of the extensive efforts made over the past decade by the UN, US, Ugandan and South Sudanese governments, and numerous religious and civil organizations across Uganda, to bring Kony to justice. 

The most recent failed peace negotiations, of which that meeting in Garamba was one phase, involved years of coordinated effort between Ugandan, South Sudanese and Congolese officials and was proceeded by a US-supported military strike against the LRA that killed eight Guatemalan special forces as they tried to capture Vince Otti. That mission, and other attempts before it, failed not because of a lack of US engagement, or because Joseph Kony isn’t as famous as George Clooney. They failed for the same reason that it took us two wars, billions of dollars, and more than a decade to kill Osama Bin Laden. The capture of a single man whose forces are spread out in mobile camps across a vast, undeveloped region that covers thousands of square miles and includes not only remote villages, but also at least a dozen other armed groups, isn’t something that can be easily clicked away. 

What makes Kony 2012 especially frustrating, however, is that the film traffics in a sentimental and infantilizing version of Africa that is so prevalent we don’t even notice it. The idea behind a name such as “Invisible Children” is on par with the sentiments of the first colonists who claimed to have discovered the New World and Africa: We didn’t know about it, therefore it didn’t exist. The children of Uganda were never invisible to their families and communities, who long before the first flood of NGO’s to the region, worked for years to protect them. To claim they were invisible because a group of college students traveling through Uganda happened to stumble upon a war they were too ignorant to have known of before going to the region is, to put it mildly, patronizing. By the time the organizers arrived in Uganda and created Invisible Children, northern villages such as Gulu were crowded with NGOs and aid workers and the largest humanitarian concern, by far, was the housing conditions of the more than one million people living in camps for the internally displaced. 

That same self-centered logic is the driving force behind the film’s solution: Make Kony famous in America, and that will solve the problem. The movie claims to strive for awareness even as it deliberately avoids offering anything remotely resembling a full portrait of Kony and the LRA (the same is true as well for the website, whose “History of the War” consists of a few paragraphs). In its defense, the filmmakers claim that with only thirty minutes, there isn’t the time to offer a more complete portrait, which could be true if so many of those thirty-minutes weren’t spent on Hallmark images of college students putting up banners and of Jason and his son. 

The absence of nuance and depth isn’t a question of screen time, but of effect. The more you know, the more you understand that the answer has nothing to do with fame, money, posters, bracelets, tweets, or even sending one hundred military advisors to aid in the military efforts to capture Kony. The more you know, the more you have to question the millions of dollars in military aid the US government has already given the Ugandan government, whose president, Yoweri Museveni, has all but abandoned any prospect of democracy or dissent. It would also help to know that the last peace talks, which failed in 2008, included an offer of amnesty to Kony, the same amnesty that has already been granted to dozens of other LRA leaders who, despite having raped, abducted and murdered, can be found drinking in the bars of Gulu.   

The most common defense of Kony 2012 is that it raises awareness. This is the new activist model – to raise awareness through the power of our celebrities. In the context of African politics, both awareness and the answers to the challenges of violence, governance and development are yours to grasp in the time it takes to watch a sitcom. The problems and the lives affected by these are simplified beyond recognition, and since the problems are simple, so must be the solutions. Of the millions of dollars raised by Invisible Children for their version of awareness, what has changed? The LRA was already a radically diminished force. Many of its leaders, including two out of the five indicted by the International Criminal Court, have been killed. No one denies that Kony should be brought to justice. Millions of Americans may not have known that before, but millions of Africans have, and thousands of people have been working valiantly for years to do just that. Kony 2012 self-indulgently promises all of this will change because now we know, and thus we have the power. If there is one thing Invisible Children is right about, it’s that ignorance is blinding. 

Change has never come with a click, or a tweet; lives are not saved by bracelets.  We all want solutions, but why should we think or expect an easy one exists for a twenty-year-old conflict in Uganda when we have none for the wars we’re engaged in now. 

I’ve spent my career writing, researching and traveling through Africa, and what I am always astounded by is how little I know.  I couldn’t explain to my son, much less offer a solution to, any of the conflicts I’ve worked on, anymore than I could explain to him why so many people are poor or homeless in America, why our public schools are failing, or why we don’t have better healthcare. I can’t explain the world I have focused on daily for most of my life, and yet this film would have you think that in thirty minutes of child-talk, we can somehow understand, and then resolve, a conflict in a distant part of the world. 

The doctrine of simplicity is always at war with reality. Our best, most human instincts of compassion and generosity, if they are to be meaningful, can’t come from a marketing campaign as simple, as base, as an advertisement for a soft drink that promises you the world for a single sip. If we care, then we should care enough to say that we need to know more, that we don’t have an easy answer, but that we’re going to stay and work until we find one. You can’t put that on a t-shirt or a poster. You can’t tweet that, but you can live by it. 

Dinaw Mengestu is on the Advisory Board for Warscapes. He was born in Addis Ababa in 1978. A graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University's MFA program in fiction, he is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Vilcek Prize, and was named a "20 under 40" writer to watch by the New Yorker. His first novel, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bearswas published to worldwide acclaim and received a "5 under 35" award from the National Book Foundation, the Guardian First Book award, and the Los Angeles Times first novel award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book, among numerous other honors. Mengestu's second novel, How to Read the Air, was published in 2010, and was also named a New York Times Notable Book, as well as a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Granta, New York Times, and other publications.

 

Comments

  • Andrew Kul
    April 21, 2012
    Well done.
  • Andrew Kul
    April 21, 2012
    Well done.
  • Art Nouveau
    April 19, 2012
    I like to spend my free time by reading different web sites and today i came across your blog and I suppose that it is one of the best free resources available! Well done! Keep on this quality!
  • brittany fryman
    April 10, 2012
    Kony practicly is the states number one priority because in the video it says that he is the number one on the international criminal court list of worst people or something.
  • Rose-Anna
    April 9, 2012
    As someone who was first introduced to the LRA when I was 13 (roughly 7 years ago), while reading an article in the Montreal Gazette concerning rebel groups in the DRC, I resent the derogatory tone of your response, and firmly reject your cynicism. Perhaps you should register amazement at your own naivete. Yes, it is far more realistic for anyone--be they a politician, a celebrity, a human rights group, or a company--to reach us 'self-centred children,' as you so kindly call us, via social networks. For where else would you find us? How do you prefer your news? Cheerfully wrapped up in 2.5 minutes on your local news station? At eleven o'clock on Fox? In a newspaper? A magazine? A pamphlet distributed door-to-door, perhaps? I suggest you find a more appropriate medium which meet your standards, whatever those may be, and challenge you to distribute it to a wider audience than that reached by the Kony 2012 videos. (Which, incidentally, you should realize are targeting young people inherently by being 'simplistic,' as they absolutely are, and encouraging the use of social networks and e-mailing political representatives, while advocating further research online. The internet is the teenager's world. You cannot ignore that.) Finally, I question your sense of superiority in this matter. What makes you so fundamentally different than us, the teenagers you seem to abhor? You raise a valid, if dramatically pessimistic, point: HOW are we, the people who are paying attention and are trying to do something positive for this world, going to take effective steps to help residents of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and the surrounding regions? What?! The solution is as complex as the situation. Evidently you have observed this, but forgot to mention it in your post, as you failed to present any sort of ideas. Perhaps making a suggestion to the young readers you are clearly addressing would have been more apt? EVERYONE: Go visit the websites of your congressmen. Go on Barack Obama's tumblr. Visit Stephen Harper's Facebook page. START WRITING. Contact Romeo Dallaire, or Michael Ignatieff (if you're a Liberal or not, this isn't a vote; he's the guy who came up with R2P--check it out). Find out ways to get involved with rehabilitating child soldiers. Donate to African NGOs. DO SOMETHING ACTIVE. I feel, Scott, that you have completely missed the more important point of this discussion, which pertains to the content and the intent of the KONY 2012 campaign. With respect, Mr. Arnold, the media used to transmit the message is totally irrelevant to this debate, and you have failed to differ from the young people you so readily criticize.
  • DDB9000
    April 5, 2012
    Mr. Mengestu, you have written a truly brilliant article, which by reading some of the comments, has clearly shown the shallowness and tendencies of many Americans to be very ignorant of anything that goes on outside the US (whether they realise it or not). From the beginning, I was very sceptical of Kony2012, if only for the name. It sounds more like a campaign slogan FOR someone named Kony, that a repuditaion of him. Certainly the man needs to be stopped, but whitebread groups like Invisible Children will not likely affect this at all.
  • DM
    March 29, 2012
    Anna, you are one of those people I would never mind dedicate a post to...so I did. http://africaforafrica.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/when-africa-did-not-exist/ The idea that in a finite mindset, we have Junk Africanism- Although I fail to understand what this even means, you seem to think that Africans are seating down doing nothing about the situations around them. That is not true...and even worse, if you had gotten off your high chair, and did research, you would know that not to be the case. Whyd didn't an African make Kony 2012, because we have better things to do-Like actually tackle problems that do not surround the ego of one man, and the pupils who seek to destroy him. I trust you understand that KONY and his men are not part of a video game where you can hit replay and you start from the begin on a hunt for victory over a single individual. On an on that statement, there was a document by HOpe NOrth Uganda-I hope you check it out- that is our Kony 2012. Do you know what Ugandans are doing to defeat Kony? they are LIVING. They are moving on, picking up the pieces that were destroyed by the madness of one man. And maybe Anna, you should really choose to LEARN, instead of disrespecting Africans who are actually DOING something.
  • Andrea
    March 29, 2012
    Thank you for this beautiful article, which says it all. And I'm sorry it's been tainted by a bunch of stubborn, ignorant commenters (clearly summoned by an Invisible Children action alert or the like) who have clearly not taken the time to read your article or reflect on the points it so subtly and powerfully explores, and instead used it as yet another platform to loudly and obnoxiously trumpet their complete missing of the point. Speaking of the doctrine of simplicity!! The world needs more people who can sit with the moral and political complexity of life, reflect deeply, take responsibility for their own actions, and try earnestly to position themselves appropriately within the global and historical landscape so that they are in an ideal position to TRULY and HELPFULLY participate in the lifetime-transcending process of building a more just world.
  • Zephyr
    March 29, 2012
    What I believe is someone who has a mind of a devil that would likely obliterate other human beings. This man needs to be taught in this world something of intelligence to not hurt or utterly harm others in his grasp.
  • Zephyr
    March 29, 2012
    What I believe is someone who has a mind of a devil that would likely obliterate other human beings. This man needs to be taught in this world something of intelligence to not hurt or utterly harm others in his grasp.
  • Kevin
    March 26, 2012
    Fantastic read, thank you.
  • lele
    March 26, 2012
    Your words are beautiful, but to chase Kony to be active is the first need. Thats what Kony2012 asked for. Simply and brilliant. Hope they will catch him soon.
  • Mason
    March 26, 2012
    It sounds to me like the writer is simply envious of the tidal wave of response, after he, "spent my career writing, researching and traveling through Africa..." Perhaps this is what really shows the problem, "...I am always astounded by is how little I know. I couldn’t explain to my son, much less offer a solution to, any of the conflicts I’ve worked on, anymore than I could explain to him why so many people are poor or homeless in America, why our public schools are failing, or why we don’t have better healthcare. I can’t explain the world I have focused on daily for most of my life, and yet this film would have you think that in thirty minutes of child-talk, we can somehow understand, and then resolve, a conflict in a distant part of the world." Perhaps if you stopped trying to impress us with your intellectual writing skills and simply told the story - you might cause change. And to say that change has never occured with the click of a button - tell that to the "former" leaders of the countries removed during the Arab Spring.
  • Anonymous
    March 24, 2012
    The thing is....It's not like it was hidden. You didn't know about him because you've never bothered to read up much on major events in Africa. You wouldn't have had to dig very far - stories about this conflict and other major conflicts in Africa have been in the papers and serious news outlets since before you were born, every day, in world affairs, right in front of your nose. You just never read them. Maybe that's not your thing, you're not interested in world events, which is fine. I don't criticize you for that - to each his own. I just don't see how you can talk as if it's someone else's responsibilty that you didn't know about it. But I think that's part of the point here - just because a you and some of your friends personally didn't know about it doesn't mean that many people weren't already trying to do someting about it, and that there wasn't a lot of awareness about him already. And your personally knowing about it doesn't change anything in and of itself. I sympathize with IC's intentions, but wristbands and stickers relly are pointless in terms of actually creating a solution. And it REALLY matters that they don't portray the story acurately - to the point where it's very misleading. And it does matter that they focus instead on schlocky manipulative sentimentality. It's great when young people get enthusiatic about tackling problems, and as the authour says, it's not bad that IC is trying to raise awareness (it's just how they're approaching it that's problematic) - but actually solving such problems are tricky and complex and if you actually want to do it, you HAVE to understand and the things that the video glosses over or misrepresents. And you have to be willing to forsake what is emotionally satisfying for you, to understand what the people there truly need and want, and support them to do it. Because they are not helpless, and they may want something different from what you want to do. I would suggest that if you are truly concerned about this now that you do know about it, you should take the time to find out what's really what, and think about ways that it can really be tackled - from the perspective of the people there and not just "some college kids who stumbled into a conflict they were too ignorant to know was there." It's great that they wanted to do something about it, but learn from that - don't approach it with the same ignorance. No disrespect intended, and I encourage you to keep your enthusiasm.
  • Melissa
    March 24, 2012
    Or maybe the media today in the US is simply off target? Maybe US citizens are more concerned about pop-stars, food, and money..that to bring Kony to the surface is to change the interests of US citizens themselves? While citizens around the world take note of what is going around the world, I think it's about time US citizens catch up. I agree that the video is simplistic and plays to sentiments but I think that this video sheds light on an issue that is real and devastating. Also, it is my understanding that the name "invisible children" does not come from the fact that they were unknown to US americans but rather from the fact that these children are having their lives taken from them...their very lives are being taken away from them- somewhat like the "disaparecidos" or "those who disappeared" in Guatemala. peace, Melissa
  • Rob Morgan
    March 23, 2012
    Kathryn, there's nothing wrong with an awareness of injustice and need, and a desire to help out, in any way possible. The challenge for all of us, particularly given the very persuasive and credible Kony-IC video, is to understand how we can best do that. I've spending many hours of reading about Uganda over the past 3 weeks, with as much of it as possible sourced from Ugandans. I am now firmly of the view that Invisible Children has not represented anything like the reality of northern Uganda, the current nature of the threat from Joseph Kony and the LRA, and should not be regarded as the vehicle that we use to effect constructive action on the ground in Uganda. There are many other very good charities and aid organisations that have been working for many years in the region that are more aligned with helping the Ugandans. The Ugandan voices are pleading for help with Nodding Disease, not Joseph Kony.
  • Anonymous
    March 23, 2012
    I 2nd this.
  • sesty129
    March 23, 2012
    Let's focus on the wars we are currently engaged in...before responding with more military force Let's focus on American education and ENERGY POLICIES.
  • Scott Arnold
    March 23, 2012
    Wow! So many posts just parroting the line "Kony must be stopped!" and "How can this have gone on so long and I not know about it?" Well, gee, let's see. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you are self-absorbed children who can only be reached by someone posting on Facebook or You Tube? And, when you are finally made aware, what do you do? Spend money on a nice "kit" with posters, bumper stickers and bracelets, so that now you belong to the "in" group all who are outraged and "aware" and demanding something be done. At least you did a little Google-ing to get here. Are you really willing to do your homework to finally get a clue that you haven't got a clue what has already been done, what the real situation is on the ground in Uganda, the Congo, Sudan, and other African nations, and that you are totally out of your depth (as is George Clooney) in devising solutions to such things? Maybe this will spur some of you on to pursue international studies, regularly visit websites that provide useful information on what's going on around the world, and maybe some of those things will be helpful at some point. More likely, 6 months from now, you will have moved on to the next "cause."
  • Lorraine
    March 22, 2012
    Can any of the millions of young people moved by this video now locate Uganda on a map? Is tweeting a celebrity now called awareness? My 12-year-old sent the video to every number in his phone. When I tried to discuss with him the broader situation in Uganda, he couldn't be bothered. Did you know that the Ugandan army is also accused of having child soldiers, raping, murdering, and forcing people off their land? Should we take them out, too? The video prescribed an easy, brief, and painless way to "change the course of history". I would have preferred Mr. Russell use his prodigious talent to encourage young people to learn and serve, instead of post and purchase. One criticism of the movie is that it oversimplifies the problem. I think this is misplaced. My concern is rather that it oversimplifies the solution by proposing that the answer lies ONLY with the American military, and our ability to tweet it into action. Are there really no other options? "Get the bad guy" is not awareness. I "know" about Mexican drug cartels. If I demand the U.S. send troops, do I get credit for ending the drug war?
  • maneneko
    March 22, 2012
    Thank you for this beautiful article. I too, like so many others, was suckered into a strong sense of activism after watching the Kony video. After reading criticisms of the campaign, I thought, "Surely, this movement can't be all bad; my intentions are so good!" To find out more about the bigger picture, I went to my library and checked out a book on the current situation in the Congo. Within the first 15 pages, I was inundated with no less than 20 different names of people and groups who fight each other. There are over 200 ethnic groups. Whether you're the "good guy" or the "bad guy" depends entirely on which side you're on. Even the "good guys" use child soldiers, because they have to defend themselves. The entire country sounds like it's an all out gang war, and the government and other people in power use the discourse to their advantage to gain wealth and power. I have over simplified the situation, but it really isn't an easy problem to solve. Taking out Kony is like taking out 1 gang leader, and strengthening a corrupt government and military will do more damage than good.
  • Chris Brainard
    March 22, 2012
    When I watched the video of Kony 2012 it felt off to me, yet my lazy side fell into the trap of this marketing piece. Your article brings light the depth of current colonizing mentality that so many of us currently live under. It is so ingrained from birth that the feeling of swimming and drowning at the same time comes to mind. Your writing breath is like a life boat that allows the deeper understanding of what is not clearly seen. A thousand blessings on your family and friends, my you be blessed with abundance, joy and health. Chris
  • eclecticdog
    March 21, 2012
    Your article was very thoughtful and full of insight. I have followed this story for over a decade now and Kony looks to be on the ropes. But I am astounded by the condescending remarks and comments to you. You'd think the heart of Africa is as simple as driving thru McDonalds to take this guy out. It took 10 years to get Bin Laden in his Pakistani suburb! The tantrums of spoiled children not being able to get what they want now -- Kony's head.
  • Kathryn
    March 21, 2012
    Thank you for this thoughtful article. Please also consider the deeper work Invisible Children does (and has for years) that goes much further than awareness by reading here: http://www.invisiblechildren.com/programs.html. Many thanks.
  • Mark
    March 21, 2012
    You argue that the writer doesn't understand the purpose of Invisible Children. You say that the aim is to raise awareness so that we can "demand action." The problem with your post is that this idea of "demanding action" is vague. What do you mean by this? Military aid? Financial resources? Peace talks? People act like they can "make a difference" by "taking action" without an understanding of how those are defined and without a basic understanding of the country. Also, all of these interventions have been tried in the past! You claim that this commenter "act(s) like he knows something," which he certainly does. He has worked in the region and been up close with previous attempts to get Kony. Perhaps the argument that the events too "local" for us to understand them well has been used by despots. That doesn't mean that it isn't true. A despot may use it to maintain power. The writer says it to help us to understand that there are immensely intricate political and social situations in countries that we usually pay no attention to, and that we must consider them when we consider possible interventions. The writer is not saying that we shouldn't act, but that we should more carefully consider our actions and place them within the context of colonialism, racism, previous attempts at Kony, the will of the Ugandan people, etc.
  • Greg
    March 21, 2012
    It's easy to explain how/why there are homeless people all over the US. Having worked with many of them and heard their stories the answer is pretty obvious. They lack a job and the skills/motivation to have a job. The lack of motivation is usually brought about by drug/alcohol abuse or a tragic loss. Some people simply can't get trained to do even the simplest tasks. I, too, have traveled and study Africa for years and while more complicated than explaining why people are homeless, most of their conflicts are not too hard to get a grasp of. It all boils down to a few factors: religion, tribalism and the long-lasting effects of colonization. The video does not mention the crimes of the Ugandan army because the film is not about the Ugandan army. When one learns about WW 2 in the US there is little said about America war crimes but in Germany, for example, students do learn of it. It's ok to have perspective and bias so long as you don't deny it. Invisible child has never denied it (in fact, they state their bias of wanting to bring Kony to justice. Most African NGO's won't admit to their bias...even when they are worst than Invisible Children.
  • K Traore
    March 21, 2012
    Thank you for writing what I have been feeling.
  • Jack Tar
    March 21, 2012
    My father had a partner in a Geo-Physics Company from Uganda. He lost contact with his parents and flew back to Uganda to find them. He was not heard from again. That was around 1980. Kony's part of a long list of African troubles. We need to get rid of all Kony's. We need a long term and far reaching plan to fix this world. Someone I knew well wrote book titled American: The hope of the ages. I am waiting for the hope.
  • Jenise
    March 19, 2012
    I agree with you 100% the fact that this Kony situation has been going on for a while and has been brought to my attention just last week is crazy. I hope that the word about this can begin to be spread even faster now so that kony can be stopped.
  • leche
    March 19, 2012
    How come this has never been stopped or even been tried to be stopped?... very weird.Its been going on for to long waayyy to long 20 yrs..woow. someone needs to stand up and go help those kids./:<
  • idk
    March 19, 2012
    This is the new activist model – to raise awareness through the power of our celebrities.Kony 2012 is the most successful example of the recent “activist” movement to have taken hold of celebrities and college students across America.
  • Francisco Gonzalez
    March 19, 2012
    Kony's acts make him deserve the first place on most wanted criminals. That's exactly why he needs to be stopped and condemned. Our obligation is to make Kony famous so the goverment will care enough to help his capture.
  • woohdakid
    March 19, 2012
    America should take action on this subjuect. This man is too "powerful". He must be stop, but my only question is, how?
  • woohdakid
    March 19, 2012
    America should take action on this subjuect. This man is too "powerful". He must be stop, but my only question is, how?
  • Tackdy
    March 19, 2012
    We Need To Do Everything that is Possible to stop Joseph Kony From takng any more children to join the LRA!
  • B2 CHS
    March 19, 2012
    I think that Kony is a horrible man. This is not a great way to "gain power". Why is there a need to kidnap children? This article is a great way to show people the wrong side of him. He should be stopped right away!
  • CHS ALL DAY
    March 19, 2012
    Jospeh Kony needs to be stopped but to put down any effort to raise awarness isnt right
  • K2 CHS
    March 19, 2012
    this is a great way to send out the info about kony and what he has been doing to the kids of africa. I like the way we are trying to bring this man to justice
  • chs
    March 19, 2012
    kony 2012 video is misleading
  • Savage :p (CHS)
    March 19, 2012
    Joseph Kony needs to be stopped as quickly as possible. We've all been informed of the horrible things he's responsible for in Uganda. Its really sad how long these African children have been goin through this and the people of our country and other countries have recently become aware. I pray that this man is caught soon and before he has able to put any innocent children through what many others have experinced already.
  • Simratvir (CHS)
    March 19, 2012
    I agree with the article, wearing bracelets or tweeting isn't gonna do anything, it will raise awareness but thats about it. Something actually has to be done to stop Kony.
  • B.P. (CHS)
    March 19, 2012
    Joseph Kony needs to be found and go through serious painful consequences
  • Geass (CHS)
    March 19, 2012
    I agree, these actions should not go unoticed, and Joseph Kony should be severly reprimanded for his cowardice acts of pointless chaos. Although, I do find it sad that this topic is being brought to people's attention at such a late time. Not to mention that it's become such a trending topic due to the arrogance of people who feel that watching a 30 minute video and clicking a link makes a difference. I understand the honest intentions of these people,and they probably hold the best of intentions, but after doing two acts of which I stated prior, they deem themselves to be social activists.
  • Geass (CHS)
    March 19, 2012
    I agree, these actions should not go unoticed, and Joseph Kony should be severly reprimanded for his cowardice acts of pointless chaos. Although, I do find it sad that this topic is being brought to people's attention at such a late time. Not to mention that it's become such a trending topic due to the arrogance of people who feel that watching a 30 minute video and clicking a link makes a difference. I understand the honest intentions of these people,and they probably hold the best of intentions, but after doing two acts of which I stated prior, they deem themselves to be social activists.
  • Eric CHS
    March 19, 2012
    I believe that what Kony is doing is wrong. Kony should be stopped at all cost, not only is he commiting crimes but he's affecting our child of Africa.
  • chs
    March 19, 2012
    I say this country should finally stop stepping in other peoples doo doo and start solving our own problems..Maybe even africa can solve their own problem..by maybe a miracle though
  • PONY 2012
    March 19, 2012
    people keep thinking that they are making a big change by posting the kony 2012 video on facebook, or tweeting about it. before talking out about this, people should take some time out and do some reserch for themselves about the whole conflict that is happening.
  • 2795
    March 19, 2012
    kony really needs to be stoppped because he is torchuring young innocent children.
  • Angel CHS
    March 19, 2012
    Kony needs to be put behind bars. He is wrong for what he is doing, taking the kids making them be in his army and having them kill their parents. Millions of kids are dead and have killed their family. He has power he should not have, he doesnt have the mind and the knowledge to have power. Him having power is like children having power. it would nice but we dont have to knowledge to have power. Also, everything going on and the United States arent trying to do anything make us look bad. Finally we are making him Known so we can do something to stop him. PUT KONY BEHIND BARS!!
  • CHS
    CHS1000
    March 19, 2012
    I feel that kony needs to be stoped. too many young childern have been killed and sold for sex. Kony makes the kids kill there own parents and that it unbelieveable. there is no way someone should get away with that, he should be arrested right now. the united states sent over 100 u.s. troops to assist the current army in uganda. if we send over 1/4 of the amounts that we had in iraq we would catch him. Therefore, the u.s. should take part in what is going on in uganda because there is children involved.
  • followyourdream...
    March 19, 2012
    This is a contreversial scandal and has touched my heart in a way i can not describe even I tried. It hurts to even think how many children have been forced into this life of crime and chaos. Being a baptist and having the morals that I do; I feel that many of their crimes will affect where they stand with god. Kony needs to come to an end and he needs to stop dragging innocence along his violent trail!
  • Donavon L. CART...
    March 19, 2012
    "The real star of Kony 2012 isn’t Joseph Kony, it’s us." The only way Joseph Kony will be captured is if the PEOPLE make a difference. #KONY2012
  • MA Carteret Hig...
    March 19, 2012
    Kony has been doing this for too long. So many lives taken and families destroyed. Stop him before he causes even more danger.
  • Danelyz C. CHS
    March 19, 2012
    I have been tweeting #StopKONY and #KONY2012 . he really needs to be stoped ! i will be buying the Kit !!
  • Ajay CHS
    March 19, 2012
    Kony is a big example of people who will do anything for power he needs to be stopped
  • MichelleA. Cart...
    March 19, 2012
    Wonderful. This says all that needs to be said, and says it very well. Those who don't want to understand will continue to be confused.
  • A Student of CHS
    March 19, 2012
    I truly think this is a good way to spread the news about Kony 2012. Most americans dont know about knony and the terror he is causing Uganda. I strongly believe that Kony should be stopped. He has been trouble every family in Uganda. What human being would give a gun to a 5 year old and say go kill your parents and join me. No that is terribly wrong to do and it has abad affect on the children of uganda and the children all over the world who hear about Kony2012
  • Lovjoat Singh
    March 19, 2012
    Kony 2012 is a good program which I support. Kony should be stopped and taught a lesson!
  • someone from chs
    March 19, 2012
    events like this should not be allowed. kony should be stopped! I could not believe that for so many years no one knew about Kony and I recently heard about him as well. this man is insane to be doing the things he does. he must have no soul to force little children to do such horrendous things. with everyones help, Kony will be stopped.
  • Ashley V.
    March 19, 2012
    This isn't right at all, we should stop this & help prevent future sitiuations like this one. STOP KONY 2012!!!
  • Mariya B
    March 19, 2012
    Recently I've been rethinking and looking into this big Kony thing. I'm starting to have seconds thoughts about it, I've seen a video of a women talking about how everything is fine in Uganda, she would know because her family lives there. She had a very strong argument that this Kony thing is a scam! I think it is; they just want our money! If it turns out that all is true and people are being killed then we have to step up and do something! The U.S. dooesn't want to get involved, we are already involved! So if it is true we need to help..
  • A little part o...
    March 19, 2012
    This is needed very desperatly! Things like this need to be made famous so that people can be made aware of all of this happening all around the world. KONY NEEDS TO BE STOPPED! 2012 is our year! Lets do this for the kids in countries like Uganda. Lets end ignorance!
  • Mariya (CHS)
    March 19, 2012
    I believe this is a huge issue that needs to be taken care of! CHildren being killed and taken away from their families is not the reason we were put on this Earth! if we see something that's going on in the world and we dont do anything about it what kind of people are we. It doesnt matter if this isn't going on in our counrtry, as everyone says America is the greatest country with great possibilities for poeple but if we dont do anything about a serious issue like this than we aren't great. Joseph Kony needs to be stopped because the LRA isn't what we need it's peace we need!
  • Felicia from th...
    March 19, 2012
    Kony needs to just stop, first of all these little kids cant even defend them selves.... #Whack . Anyways , i feel as if Kony should be stopped , what if that was you in uganda & Kony made you kill your parent you wouldnt be happy , its sad how this guy can doo this too these kids and act like its nothing. people like this aggrivate me -_______- Just Stop Kony ASAP
  • CHS
    erik sapp
    March 19, 2012
    i believe that the general point of Kony is great thing.
  • Kevin Martinez
    March 19, 2012
    it's about time someone started to something about him, i honestly yhink that when we catch him we should have him do life in prision, or torture him to death by sitting him down in a chair infront of mirror nd look at him self till he dies
  • Lisa E
    March 19, 2012
    Kony has to be stopped , we have to do all we can to stop him . Our time is NOW!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Liana
    March 19, 2012
    We need too stop KONY ! beforee it gets even worst .
  • Anonymous
    March 19, 2012
    As you probably already know, there are not only many adults who have a basic idea on who Joseph Kony is and how to stop him, but so do the children. The problem is that these children dont have credit cards, and social network profiles. So what is something that they can do to help without social media and money?
  • Kathryn
    March 17, 2012
    I just wanted to thank you for writing your comment. I have been reading a bunch of criticism on Kony 2012 lately and have often felt like a deflated balloon. While I think it is good to question organizations, many of the critiques have left me feeling like a patronized ignorant idealist for believing in the cause. Reading these critiques and some of the negative comments, I often feel as though I am the only one still supporting Invisible Children and that in doing so I am in the wrong.
  • Sarah
    March 17, 2012
    You very oddly misquoted Anna... She asked - why didn't an African create the campaign? The people of Uganda have the very real and very hard task of picking up the pieces that Kony's LRA left. Some of the people of OTHER African countries are still living in very real fear that their lives will be further shattered by the same group. But as it was pointed out somewhere above - either way Kony was already well known in at least that region of the continent. So I am not sure why they would think it necessary to create a film fit for American consumption. As for the film as a whole - my take as I first watched it was that they were hoping that enough people in the US would see the film, feel connected enough to want to try to help, and sign up to "Cover the Night" in April with images of Kony on t-shirts, posters, and bracelets. It was THIS actual action that would put Kony on the map in the middle of an iPhone app obsessed world of visual clutter. Something that would have people asking - "What the heck? Who the heck is Kony? Why is he all over the place?" and at the very least go consult the googles. They weren't supposed to simply "click" and feel they'd accomplished something. I thought IC was looking for a core group of volunteers to help them amass enough lobbying support to keep the current funding going, as they were worried it was going to be redirected toward something that was higher up on Americans' radar, especially in an election year. I heard in many different initial articles and interviews that they were hoping for 500,000 views - BY THE END of 2012. Ironically, the video itself made the actual call to Action and Cover the Night events obsolete, and relegated everyone to simply reeling in the onslaught of the second wave - INVISIBLECHILDREN2012 - the takedown of an apparently evil, self centered, money grubbing, heartless group of ignorant Americans with nothing better to do (much like many bloggers out there, apparently). If nothing else, the number of comments I've read directing Americans to take a closer look at the games we have played and continue to play in other countries MIGHT actually reach eyes and minds and even hearts that were not dialed in before. Kony to Museveni to Israel to Palestine to Iraq to Afghanistan to Mexico to... MONSANTO. Yikes. So many more. 90 million views is a wake up call however else you slice it. People will be studying this as an event in it's own right in academic circles for years. (I know - that's also sad when there are so many more pressing issues to study. But someone has to get that next big social media grant, right?)
  • chs
    March 16, 2012
    kony 2012 shines light on a horrible situation in a noble effort to save childern
  • Sean chs
    March 16, 2012
    He needs to be stopped now and I will do everything I can to support. It's ridiculous how evil some people can be! I commend KONY2012 and all the awareness they have brought to it! Let's STOP KONY!!!!
  • Steven Benitez CHS
    March 16, 2012
    People will do anything just for "power" and Kony is a big example of it. He does not do it for money or for something to do. i really just dont see why people do such things. he has to be stopped......
  • anonymus 2350 (...
    March 16, 2012
    joseph kony has been abducting kids for 26 years now. that is a long span of time and i really wonder what have the ugandan police, government, military been doing about it. he has abducted more than 30,000 of the childrens and he should be in the prison right now. a person goes to prison if that person abducts ONLY 1 child but 30,000 + is a tremendous amount. by this i think that the Ugandan government, police and military are involved in this.
  • Grisel L. (CHS)
    March 16, 2012
    There are so many cruel people in this world. If I didn't hear about this I would've never known who Joseph Kony was or what he was doing with the children in Uganda. I agree with trying to stop Joseph Kony and setting April 20 to cover the night and make sure everybody knows about this cruel Joseph Kony!Hopefully they find him and punish him for everything he has done!
  • konymustbestopp...
    March 16, 2012
    I believe that what Kony is doing is wrong, and unhuman. Kony should be stopped at all cost, not only is he commiting crimes but he's affecting our whole lives. He may be commiting all these crimes in Uganda, but he has affected the whole world. We must make sure that every person in the world knows about Kony, and his crimes. All of those childeren in Uganda are being used, and damaged emotionally and mentaly. This should be stopped and hopefully it will, with the help of you, me, and the whole world, we will shape and reform the world's history. The future is ours not Konys, stop him.
  • Voice of Carteret
    March 16, 2012
    Well, this has been going on for as long as twenty years and yet I only find out about it today. It's funny how ignorant I was to such a tragic. Not funny, actually horrible.
  • Ruben (carteret)
    March 16, 2012
    I belive Joseph Kony deserves to be behind bars. He cannot be allowed to stay in africa, kidnapping young children making them join his army and kill there own familys. It is completly inhumane and very , very cruel. He needs to be found, stopped and taken out. A man like him doesnt diserve to be on this planet. He had pretty much killed many children and made them kill all there parents. He is evil and should the the United State's number 1 priority and there really is nothing else left to say, everyone has a say and the power to do something so if we all come together as one , then the world will see and we can all put an end to this nighmare and stop JOSEPH KONY.
  • UnNameCHS
    March 16, 2012
    Kony needs to be stoped,Its sad seeing what he has been doing for the past years! Hes not doing good for the kids or for himself. We need to be heard all over the world! KONY STOP!
  • CHS
    bsmCarteret
    March 16, 2012
    This is a good way to spread the word of kony keep this up and this war can end
  • Ishara Carraquillo
    March 16, 2012
    I've been telling all my friends about Kony. Most didn't know about him and if they didn't i explained who he was. If they did know we talked about him. He's all over Tumblr. Tumblr is a very popular site and a lot of people use Tumblr. I know we can catch him by this year. I'm going to go to a popular city and buy a Kony Kit and im going to keep telling everyone about him.
  • avery carter
    March 16, 2012
    I think that Kony is a sick and disgusting person, who deserves to be put away with the troubles and disaters he had caused before, and before he does anything more, they should handle the situation.
  • Ansy Deusimmediately
    March 16, 2012
    The absence of nuance and depth isn’t a question of screen time, but of effect. The more you know, the more you understand, Childrenn in Urganda are suffering and killing and getting killed.The thing that kills me is The U.S knew all along and haven't done anything about. We the people must do something about it, FAST!!
  • CarteretHS
    March 16, 2012
    This issue is being seen as a big issue in today's world. In contrast to kiiling osama recently, we should take small steps into solving such a big issue. We should think about the effects that killing kony will have on our world and the children of Africa. This problem shall not under any circumstance be ignored and everyone needs to get involved! There are children who are suffering each and every minute and second of the day waiting eagerly for help to arrive. Just realize how much these children have to suffer. Each and everyday they probably wake up to a danger thought running through their mind- KONY! We all have to come together and solve this problem- it is now or never. Influenece the children,women,men,and the elderly of this world about this issue, then spread the word and finally CAPTURE KONY!!! This is possible but only if we all come together and do it as one!
  • anonymous
    March 16, 2012
    I think that just advertising Kony2012 is not going to do anything. Bracelets and posters are not going to stop, or help capture him. Something more has to be done.
  • Annoymous Carte...
    March 16, 2012
    This article says alot about how people are trying to participate in all this Kony stuff like getting bracelets and banners but thats not helping whats really going on. People are just doing all this stuff but dont know the real situation. I think people should really read about like in this article that states alot about Kony 2012.
  • john doe
    March 16, 2012
    I think we should make kony famous because he needs to be caught and arrested
  • Gabby
    March 16, 2012
    Kony needs to be stopped! NOW!
  • barackisha obam...
    March 16, 2012
    we need to get it together so we can find him and stop him from taking these helpless children into his army.
  • Carlos Taco
    March 16, 2012
    We need to syop Kony right away. We might even have to go to war Africa. If we got to to that to stop Kony then lets do it.
  • Yala Pool
    March 16, 2012
    I believe this is stupid.
  • Zion
    March 15, 2012
    I totally agree with everything you said. KONY2012 have brought a lot of awareness however it was presented. A lot of people who never heard of the LRA before are now aware of it. They can do more research to find out more about the situation and it's complexities. The simplistic and sentimental style of the video is what made it reach millions of people's ears.
  • Val
    March 14, 2012
    Yes, Kony2012 has given us something to think about, to write about and to explore together. I find words like "patronizing" that some use to be pejorative in a discussion that should be elevated above such name calling. East and West, Africa or America, the dominant cultures, many, many co-cultures are seeking to understand and then to stand for right even when it's inconvenient. Let's keep talking but use respectful words even when you think someone operates in "ignorance." Aren't we all ignorant to one degree or another?
  • Neuza Arbocz
    March 14, 2012
    Awareness about Kony crimes is good, in my opinion. Even if it spreads out in a very sentimental and simplified way. The detail here, is that the video and the movement can now mobilize others countries and their citizens. This isn´t an USA's cause or Uganda's cause. It is a world's cause. This matter should be addressed in the UN Security Board and organize an international and intelligent force to deal with it. It is time to UN become a real and effective organism to deal with the worst of the human behaviour and bring social justice to Nations. Kony has offered peace many times, to only restart his crimes... People who suffered under his army deserve to have their sense of Justice re-established. That woths the efforts. As well as torebuild the affected countries. The movement can be simplistic, but who knows if it wouldn´t help new engagements and tactics to finally put Kony and his partners in jail.
  • Dominique
    March 14, 2012
    As someone currently living and working in Eastern Congo, I was appalled by the Kony2012 video as many around the world were. The information presented was not just simplified but largely incorrect. And like you said Dinaw, bracelets and tweets will have little to no effect on the war criminal that is now an internet super-star. Complicated solutions require appropriate approaches, an overly simplified take on the LRA and Kony makes light of an issue that has been plaguing Uganda, the DR Congo and neighboring countries for years before IC existed. As many other persons in the field I'm sure are, I'm worried by the light that this sheds on all of us out here representing our organizations. Will we now all be considered flighty Western activists taking African realities, sensationalizing them beyond recognition and raising funds that approx 70% of which will go to our own pockets and office expenses? Its laughable, patronizing and grossly incorrect to purport this notion that the sharing of a video will bring justice. Faced daily with problems I have no idea how to solve, and wouldn't dare believe that I had the solution to the many layers of challenges that face this country and this region, I was disappointed that this group of kids were suggesting that the 'problem of Kony' could be solved by purchasing their Kony2012 kit and through making him an internet sensation. Though social media is indeed a powerful tool for change, in cases like these, it is very much like waving a BB gun at an AK47. We must however thank Invisible Children for shedding light on the very important question of the efficacy of awareness raising and the correct way to go about it. I am excited that this debate is going on, because finally, intelligent questions are being asked, people are not simply accepting a Youtube video as gospel truth and some of us are sharing valid opinions that, if listened to - could help change the face of aid. We should no longer simply accept self-aggrandizing and hero-complex attempts at changing the world, and instead start looking at local solutions to local problems.
  • Emily
    March 13, 2012
    Anna, you ask why no Ugandan created a video like KONY 2012, and the answer is simple - they found it more important to rebuild their country and economy in the years after the war than going on a manhunt for one man. Not every country is obsessed with "justice" in the American sense (and for the record, I am an American), but rather they focused on picking up and moving on with their lives. Is this not a more noble and baloney effort that risking thousands of more deaths to capture one man?
  • Karungi
    March 13, 2012
    To Joe- you say "Increasingly, people are bypassing their governments and the other Powers That Be to say, enough. We see a problem, here's a solution" My friend- don't confuse issues. This is not an issue of who gets taxed what and how fair the taxation system is to WE the people. This is an issue of political and military complexity that WE the people cannot possibly offer a better solution for than those more educated than WE the people on this issue. It is so scary when people try and legitimize the view of the majority and couched it in democratic terms. We have, frighteningly, reached a point in this world where the word or idea of democracy can legitimize anything. The word "Democracy" or in your case Joe "the people" and its connotations are often utilized as a kind of end-stop to anything proclaiming an otherwise view. But if we are celebrating the fact that college students in America who have been given INACCURATE facts can go to their legislative representatives and inform how American policy toward this issue is shaped then we have BIG PROBLEMS. That social media has given a sonorous voice to a previously muffled general, universal population is great. But just because the general population is using its newly found voice doesn't mean that the general population has a clue.
  • Theron Mohamed
    March 13, 2012
    Dinaw, I take your point that the situation in Uganda and other African nations is much more complex than Kony 2012's portrayal, and a few million tweets, posters and bracelets won't solve the problem. This is a conflict that has been ongoing for two decades, and Kony has avoided being brought to justice despite significant efforts. However, I believe Kony 2012 is an incredibly valuable first step towards improvement in the region. The voices of the masses drive political decisions, and millions of people across the globe clamouring for Kony's downfall should mean more resources are allocated to efforts in the region. You're correct to say that simply throwing greater support and material resources behind the campaign won't immediately solve the problem, but making Kony a major media talking point will put pressure on those in power to do something. I believe that deploying more American personnel and state-of-the-art US tracking technology in Uganda would help to bring an end to Kony, and this is the likely result of the Kony 2012 campaign. You say that "the answer has nothing to do with fame, money, posters, bracelets, tweets, or even sending one hundred military advisors to aid in the military efforts to capture Kony". Perhaps you could offer an alternative answer to the issue, beyond a greater understanding of the problem?
  • Dinaw Mengestu
    March 13, 2012
    The idea of “awareness” and “action” are the most compelling and problematic points about Kony 2012, and any criticism, my own included, attached to the film. Do more people know that a man named Joseph Kony exists now than ever before, undoubtedly, but there is a vast moral difference between simplifying a complex issue so people can understand it, and brutally manipulating it so that at the end of the thirty minutes, people are convinced that there is an easy solution that demands practically nothing from them, of which that they can be a part of. (And yes, the film promises explicitly that there is a solution: “now we know what to do,” for example). We use the term awareness constantly when it comes to foreign humanitarian issues, as if it awareness was really just a matter of opening our eyes. I remember during the Ethiopian famines how aware the world became of the famine, and how ignorant they remained of the civil war taking place all around it, and how their desire to take action and donate food and money was used by both the government and the rebels as weapons. Knowing something exists is not awareness; I know people have difficult lives from environmental pollution in Papa New Guinea, but that doesn’t make me aware of the situation, or even remotely conscious of how to address it. The most common response to any criticism such as this is: well, it’s better than nothing, which is a miserably low standard to hold ourselves to, and sometimes the honest answer is no, it’s not better than nothing. If you can’t take the time, or don’t have the resources and understandably the energy to form a reasoned understanding, doesn’t it seem audacious to demand action and solutions. The awareness of Kony 2012, not only of Joseph Kony but of the efforts to stop him, is built on pure distortion. One of the more subtle and manipulative uses of imagery takes place twenty-minutes into the film with a few slowly fading shots of first the Holocaust and then the Rwandan Genocide. The films wants us to associate Kony and the LRA with the two greatest moral and human failures of the past sixty years, and it wants us to believe us well that what we are going to stop is not merely a man but a massive slaughter of equal scale. The LRA are down to a few hundred soldiers, many women and children who live by robbing and pillaging food. How is it “awareness” to associate them with the SS, Hitler, and the Rwandan Interhamwe (and yes, there are still members of the Interhamwe living and killing and looting in the same region as the LRA). The Bush administration manipulated facts, and outright lied to the country to convince enough of us that we had to get rid of Saddam Hussein—a man who could have stood shoulder to shoulder with Kony in the pantheons of evil men. The facts do matter—they always have and will, and so when the film says: “Here is the biggest problem: nobody knows who he is,” and the solution is to make “Kony famous”—I think back to the millions of people around the world who do know, and the thousands who have worked on this for years, and I think of the millions of dollars spent, the lives of the UN soldiers that were lost—and I feel certain that I am being lied to. I feel certain that we, as Americans, Ugandans, Congolese and human beings whose capacity for understanding and compassion are far greater than what this film supposes, deserve more. (As for the ICC--please read the Rome Statue in order to understand how the ICC works. It would take another response to address that properly.)
  • Anna
    March 13, 2012
    I guess as a writer it is your job to intellectualize but if the United Nations could solve a problem Syrians would not be dying right now. If celebrities did not shine a light on Egypt and Libya their tyrants would be shelling them Al-Assad is doing right now. Plus people who are being killed in that region do not have internet to document it. We are sick and tired of junk Africanism. I understand it is hurtful and upsetting to se White people yet again coming and dealing with something we have not been able to settle. So instead of whining and wasting your energy why don't you all just tacke the rapes in the Congo. Because the real question here is why did an AFRICAN not start the Kony2012 campaign? Then we can respect you phoney "African" intellectuals.
  • Tsion
    March 13, 2012
    The presumption that the ICC is the source of Invisible Children's information, is ridiculous. A million things have been written about Barack Obama and his administration. Is he the source of all of this information? Anyways, that is beside the point. What I really take issue with is your stance that the fact that many Americans are now aware of Kony is justification for painting an inaccurate, over-simplified, Marvel Comic picture of what's happening in central Africa. As history has shown time and time again, American military intervention is not the solution to every crisis in this world. In fact, America has a long and ugly track record in this regard. You say, "Increasingly, people are bypassing their governments and the other Powers That Be to say, enough. We see a problem, here's a solution." I see two major problems with this line of reasoning. Firstly, how are we bypassing our government if Jason Russell proposes that our awareness will enable us to lobby government to act? Secondly, who are we to presume we know the solution? The whole reason we entrust our governments and foreign policy experts with handling foreign affairs is because we can't or don't want to spend the time needed to fully understand problems abroad and attempt to devise solutions. The boys who made this film are film students, not even students of foreign affairs. That's why the film is so impressive while the strategy behind it is so unimpressive. Following your logic, if we want to bypass our government we should all take up arms and go looking for Kony. All Kony 2012 has succeeded in doing so far is putting American ignorance and arrogance on display across the world.
  • Keith De La Rue
    March 13, 2012
    I firmly believe that activism has a place, and that social media is enabling activism in a way that was never before possible. And, yes, this campaign has definitely raised awareness. However, as a part-time student of complexity theory, I also believe that in this case too many people are only becoming aware of a very simplified view of the situation. Complex situations can only be addressed using appropriate tools. Some of these tools may be simple in themselves, but no single simple solution can ever resolve a complex problem. This situation demands a deeper understanding before we can successfully apply solutions. We also need to understand the history - we must at least know which solutions have already been tried. When I posted some of the critiques of #stopkony, one person in my network responded: "This is not an 'either/or' situation - why not use all the tools in the tool kit?" My main concern with this approach is that it is critical to avoid the risk of actually making the situation worse with rash action stirred up by a shallow view of the situation. As stated in the article, one potential approach to removing Kony may also kill hundreds of his "warriors" – many of them also victims of his rampant abuse. Some tools in the toolkit must be used carefully. A toolkit may need to include an axe, but one cannot prune all plants with an axe.
  • msquabbles
    March 13, 2012
    Realize that the writer wasn't heavily criticizing KONY2012 for its raising awareness. He's glad it's there, but he's sad people are content with a simplified version and treat it as gospel (some of my friends were, or maybe still are, like this). And if you say you can't fault the film for being so godawful patronizing (I quit watching 5 seconds in when I wanted to know about what was this conflict and instead they showed me this huge globe that is totally irrelevant to anything,) since it's just 30 minutes long, why are the filmmakers still going about showing off their faces as the guy said? Seriously, get a grip. Awareness is great and all, but IC does nothing to clarify what's really happening. They don't point us to good sources of information, they don't even prepare a TEXT version of the video (what I would prefer) because they realize it is so godawful patronizing and unemotional on text that it will ruin them. Look, if you want to raise awareness, do it WITHOUT FORCING PEOPLE'S EMOTIONS INTO PLAY. Drawing compassion when none is needed is the LOWEST form of CAMPAIGNING.
  • Mel W
    March 12, 2012
    I partially agree with this article. It's true that the picture painted by Invisible Children is simplistic and patronizing. At the same time, they have succeeded in raising awareness among young people to a much greater degree than the NGOs who have worked in Uganda for decades. Awareness is obviously not the end, but it is a good start. I hope this starts a conversation that leads to one of the article's last sentences: "If we care, then we should care enough to say that we need to know more, that we don’t have an easy answer, but that we’re going to stay and work until we find one." Without Invisible Children's video, I'm not sure many young people even get to the point of caring, much less putting their efforts into figuring out what they can do to help.
  • joe
    March 12, 2012
    Journalists and writers daily simplify the world for people. They really have no other option. Space constraints alone force everyone to simplify. Simplification is not to be confused with simplicity. That is the cardinal error in logic in this article. It is almost too silly an error to address. They are not the same and if you think they are the same, you do not understand how people communicate. Just one example: the stop sign on your street. Telling someone to stop could involve pages of instructions - just the basics, where, for how long, etc. The why of stopping could take pages more: safety, security, order, etc. would have to be covered. Stop signs apparently are enough to do the trick: because there's an iceberg of presupposed knowledge and experience. The stop sign simplifies stopping but it does not make doing so simple. Since the Kony campaign began I've wondered, where are the attacks on the ICC? Certainly they bear some responsibility for this video - and they wholeheartedly support it. They are the experience and knowledge so easily abbreviated into 30 minutes. Ironically, the ICC was established because people wanted a way to identify and pursue those who violate human rights on an egregious scale. The students abbreviated the story into its core points, but they did not make it simple. If you have problems with their logic, I suggest you go to the ICC. Surely, as the primary institution charged with deciding who should be apprehended and why, they should bear the brunt of any criticism. The students also made the issue emotional. Which is something journalists are discouraged from doing all the time (but that's another matter). Second point: Good advocates know that the first battle in any effort to change a policy, bring leaders to act or otherwise care about a cause is fought daily on the front pages of the newspapers, on the radio and on the TV screens across the world. This is the reality we face. Social media has changed the job of the gatekeeper (editor) who, previously, could make these decisions unaffected by anyone except the people in power and her correspondent in the field. Reporters could collect and interpret facts - and affect how they appeared in the next day's papers, on the radio and TV, after getting by the editor, who then mediated any issues with those in power (every editor with any experience has had That Call - from the big advertiser, the politician, or other powerful person seeking to quash or alter a story). But today this is no longer the case. And this really is what is at the heart of the problem for the people against the Kony2012 campaign - and actually is the most exhilarating aspect of the students' effort. The gatekeepers have been quite casually pushed aside - and many of them are advocates who once pursued these issues with similar zeal and idealism as the students (more irony). Increasingly, people are bypassing their governments and the other Powers That Be to say, enough. We see a problem, here's a solution. The best bits of this piece are those that offer advice about what that solution should be. In no part of the video that the campaigners released did I personally see a dogmatic obstinacy, an arrogant "our way or no way" attitude. In fact, I was tempted to contact them to say, "You know, did you consider X or Y?" Alas, I am not an expert on Uganda and the LRA. The Kony campaigners simplified the story but again - I never got the impression in their video that they thought the solution was simple. So much is being read into it, it makes me very suspicious of those attacking it. Where are you getting these ideas? Is it just cynicism? Or have they actually insisted there is No Other Solution but a military campaign to capture the guy? Nowhere, too, have I seen any deeper examination of how they reached their conclusion - only attacks on it. What has been defended as "reasonable criticism" has never, oddly enough, sought comments from the students or posed them questions in some sort of honest inquiry. What we have, in effect, is a bunch of "experts" saying you, who have seen an injustice, you are simple-minded and foolish; go home and shut up. Now, I'm reading into your criticism; somehow I doubt you mean to say this, but that is the effect of your words here. "The world is too messy for any simplifying (despite that I do that every day of the week to reach people with my stories)." I find this offensive to the history of human rights campaigns anywhere and everywhere in the world - but not surprising in the least - it has quite often been the response from the Powers that Be. So, you see, the lack of imagination in the unpacking of this campaign, the certainty in the prescriptions from experts, it all leaves me feeling very, very discouraged with how we actually address human rights issues.
  • John
    March 12, 2012
    The irony of your post is the beautiful writing that obscures your lack of understanding of what Invisible Children and other so-called slacktivist organizations are trying to do, and why. The idea is not that because we are aware the problem will be solved. The idea is to raise awareness so that people around the world (not just the West) can demand action. It would be a Good Thing if every genocidal maniac and despot were famous, if governments around the world were forced to do something about genocide. The notion that this kind of situation is a local matter, that people need to understand local complexities, has been nothing more than a prop used not only by Kony, but by most despots around the world. Your post amply illustrates that other tactics haven't worked. This one has already with dicators already removed from power. You do a profound disservice to Invisible Children and those who engage in online activism, but more importantly, you do a disservice to all those who suffer from similar crimes in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. You act like you know something others don't; you lack the ability to understand the basic truth that we are all humans; we can and must stand up for each other, no matter the distance imposed by language, culture, geography, or race. You need a rethink - your position is a recipe for disengagement, disaffection, and abandonment of millions of vulnerable people around the world. All seemingly because you want to act like you know something - when you don't.
  • peacetime
    March 12, 2012
    Well, you must give the campaign credit for getting you to write about Kony and myself taking the time to read your article BECAUSE of the campaign which opened my awareness to the situation. So, the movie (criticizable, like all movies)roamed where your articles haven't. One clue might be in the discussion: http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/profiles/blog/show?id=780588:BlogPost:712022&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_post touching on micro & macro levels of peace which aren't necessarily directly connected. Any way of getting important ideas & knowledge out of the ivory tower and into action should be a priority.
  • Sophia
    March 12, 2012
    We need more voices like yours in this era of Responsibility To Protect. As for the awareness argument of clickactivism campaigns, Avaaz's main argument for example is to say that traditional NGOs who depend on governments and UN for their work, as well as governments themselves, have failed to deliver real change for good, and even humanitarian aid sometimes. While community based activism doesn't have these obstacles. The real problems however are: Where is the accountability in this kind of activism? What is their decision process? Whom do they represent? Is it possible that a sample of humanity can decide for others without a bit of scrutiny and if scrutiny is not possible then they represent absolute morality, in other words, God!
  • Teju Cole
    March 12, 2012
    Wonderful. This says all that needs to be said, and says it very well. Those who don't want to understand will continue to be confused. Thank you, Dinaw.
  • Michael Kirkpatrick
    March 12, 2012
    Some of the conflicts are internally provoked and some of the conflicts are strategically externally provoked. Only dealing with facts and the truth will bring sustainable solutions.