How do you solve a problem like Joe Kony? There's nothing like an evil bogeyman dictator to rouse those emotions.
One would have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by the plight of poor Jacob, the young Ugandan who stars in Kony 2012, the 30 minute documentary by charity Invisible Children which went viral this week. With 72 million views and counting, Kony 2012 exposes the evil atrocities by militia chief, Joseph Kony's rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army which kidnapped children enforcing them into child soldiery.
Slick, big-budgeted, persuasive - and indeed - sensationalist it is hard at first to doubt the altruism and sincerity from the filmmaker, Jason Russell. Filmed in 2004 and released to little attention in 2006 Kony 2012 was recut and released (to the tune of millions of dollars worth of backing) on the 5th March this year.
Cleverly targeting the international youth demographic, the film is an impassioned call-to-arms. It ropes in celebrities and influentials to join the crusade in begging the State for intervention. We see heartstring-tugging footage of Russell discovering young Jacob in Uganda, pledging as his words repeatedly echo, "We are going to stop them..."
But when you go a little further down the rabbit hole, there appears to be an altogether more sinister agenda behind Kony 2012, far, far from the philanthropy it purports. Establishment fingerprints are all over it, it's so well choreographed and styled there is little that smacks of humble grassroots uprising. In truth, Kony 2012 is nothing more than an emotive war propaganda psy-op exploiting people's empathy and designed to get the public backing an occupation of Uganda whilst simultaneously lining the pockets of Invisible Children. Audaciously, deceptively selling international military intervention under the guise of 'humanitarianism', the film serves to drumbeat for war and Western Imperialism at its worst.
Kony 2012 documents how their social media 'Invisible Community' gained a groundswell of global donations and youth support thus enabling Ugandan schools to be opened and lives to be rebuilt. So far, so benevolent right?
Well, no, actually. After all the touching propaganda, what do Invisible Children offer as the solution? The film cleverly persuades viewers into believing that because US government 'doesn't care enough about Kony', they will only take you seriously if you buy a $30 Kony Kit containing posters and other 'get Kony' ephemera so his name will be everywhere and Uncle Sam won't be able to ignore the bad man any longer. And what do they purport to do with the funding? Why to fund, train and arm the Ugandan Army of course! The same Ugandan Army which rape, loot and pillage equally as much as the LRA and even recruits ex LRA child soldiers!
"It's undoubtedly hell on earth for those involved," Begins historian, economist and geo-political expert Dr Webster Tarpley. "But what are Kony 2012's demands? They say the Ugandan Army must be strengthened! Are they nuts? The Ugandan Army is party to the biggest genocide in the world since WW2, which was the Congo War, killing 7-8 million. Uganda invaded Congo and carved out the country."
That Kony himself is one hell of an iniquitous fella is not under question. It's that Kony 2012's dubious solutions to the problem only seem to further Western colonialist, corporate political agendas rather than the blighted Ugandan children. Joseph Kony is, in the big grand scheme of things, a two-bit, nobody warlord who's not been in action since he went into hiding in 2006. His atrocities in Uganda have been partly enabled by President Museveni - someone whom Clinton is a big supporter of. Given Museveni is committing far worse acts than Kony (even coming in third in last year's 'Worst of The Worst Tyrant' list), why Kony's highly bankrolled witchhunt isn't extended to Museveni too is at the very least, cause for serious questioning.
The film simperingly acknowledges, "All this was funded by an army of young people who put their money towards their belief in the value of human life. They gave a few dollars a month of what little they had." Yes, IC, Indeed they did.
Why then has a beyond paltry 32% of money raised gone to direct services in Uganda?
Why then does Invisible Children's accountability and transparency score two our of four stars on Charity Navigator?
Why then do it's directors allegedly receive salaries of up to $160,000?
Why then is Invisible Children Inc without an independent and external auditor?
A bit fishy, eh?
But, of course, what it all really boils down to as usual, is oil. Oil and whatever can be mined. In early 2011 at least 2.5 billion barrels were discovered along Uganda's border. An October 2011 report concluded it is also rich in cobalt, gold, iron ore, steel and other minerals. Whether consciously complicit or politically appropriated, Kony 2012 is furthering Western and United Nations neo-colonial self-interests masquerading as altruism. Whilst churning out gung-ho, 'power-of-the-people', 'let's turn the system upside-down' youth-appealing maxims, Kony 2012 simply plays lip service to what the US and UN actually want: hi-jacking other country's resources.
"The common denominator of all these African wars," claims Tarpley, "Is really that British and US want to drive the Chinese out of Africa, in particular this strategic important area as it's one of the main concentrations in the world for minerals and raw materials."
Complex, international, geopolitical humanitarian issues have been reduced to a, 'let's wade in and get the bad black man!' mentality. It's all very White Man's Burden.
What does the Kony 2012 phenomenon say about us? How readily we place faith and trust in a viral YouTube video, without further investigation into just who and what we are funding - however benevolent yet naively misguided our efforts are? It certainly taps our mood for social justice. For all its well-engineered blackmailing and shrewdly packaged marketing of 'war as humanitarian' to the anti-war left, if one good thing comes from the Kony 2012 (aside from the 32% that actually reached Uganda) it's that the young generation are capable of pulling together for a greater good and that philanthropy is alive and well.
That many of Kony 2012's youth demographic are becoming aware of the scam illustrates an awakening to a profound level of political and social consciousness. When this hits critical mass, there will be nowhere for the truth to hide and thankfully, further pulling together for an even greater good.