Yesterday, the online campaign to bring Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony to justice went viral. More than 30,000,000 people have watched a 30-minute call-to-arms produced by an organization calling itself "Invisible Children Inc."
Emotional extortion ensued.
The project was born in the spring of 2003 when three young filmmakers (Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole) flew to Africa to document the Darfur genocide. Unwittingly, these intrepid documentarians crossed into Northern Uganda and stumbled -- quite literally -- into a slow-burning civil war that's been devastating the country since 1986. Undoubtedly attracted to prospect of "getting the scoop" on a lesser-known conflict, they produced a film about child soldiers, kidnapped and pressed into service by Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army.
Titled "Invisible Children: The Rough Cut," the movie debuted in 2004 to rave reviews. It has since metastasized into a full blown, grassroots social movement. Tens of thousands of American teens and twenty-somethings have mobilized to force congressional action to save the children of Uganda. And they've been successful -- indeed, they were influential in prompting President Obama to deploy the small force of American military advisors to Uganda, last October.
To be clear, Kony is an ugly, awful despicable excuse for a human being. He's literally Public Enemy No. 1 at the International Criminal Court -- guilty of all sorts of atrocities including rape, murder, and mutilation. However, the crime that's now making him famous involves the abduction and forced enlistment of 66,000 children made to fight in his unholy army.
Now, the Invisible Children organization is turning up the pressure to get their man. Their flagship project is a beautifully edited 30 minute video that imparts logic a four year old could understand (the filmmaker/narrator literally frames the plan to his toddler) and provides tools of social activism immediately accessible to naïve college students with just enough scratch to donate to the cause.
30,000,000 views in the past couple days suggests they've found an audience.
But that's not all. The producers have enlisted a murderer's row of liberal celebrity starpower from DC and Hollywood to spread the message -- the list includes such "notables" as Lady GaGa, Bill Gates, George Clooney, Bill Clinton, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, and Harry Reid. The plan is to prompt public awareness, and spark activism towards the end goal of "capturing" Kony before the end of 2012.
On paper, "Kony 2012" sounds like a noble, if slightly adolescent project. However, I believe there's something far more nefarious at work here.
First of all, the whole campaign smacks of antiquated notions of noblesse oblige, hoisted upon the American taxpayer to pay down "the white man's burden." In reality, their "battle" boils down the latest incarnation of liberal Imperialism masquerading as transnational faux-tivism.
To be clear, the Lord's Resistance Army is a shadow of its former self. It no longer threatens the government in Uganda and boasts fewer than five hundred Kalashnikov toting bush-fighters. So why pressure the American military to reprise its role as "Globo-cop?"
As our own Doug Bandow noted back in October, when President Obama deployed troops to Uganda:
The president's new Afrika Korps demonstrates how the "Defense" Department only rarely does defense these days. Most money goes for offense --intervening hither and yon for reasons having nothing to do with protecting America or Americans. With a world filled with various guerrilla bands, separatist factions, and terrorist groups, the potential for more wars is almost infinite.
Someone ought to remind these young activists that since the word "war" was substituted for the more benign "humanitarian intervention" during the Clinton years, it has not ceased to involve the vast arsenal of modern warfare. Soldiers, fighter planes, cruise missiles and helicopter gunships do the dirty work, while policy makers in Washington are tasked to pick sides in distant civil wars. The benign label assigned a "humanitarian intervention" belies the "dirty hands" that relieves the innocent man of his virtue.
Cradled in the rubric of just war theory, it is important that the hard facts of intervention (however charitable and "civilized") are not ignored.
But there's another problem with the "Kony 2012" project; namely, the questionable character of the enterprising Invisible Children Inc. project team that's actively encouraging America's military incursion.
Stated plainly, there's every reason to believe that this is a shifty non-profit, that's in the business of pulling on heartstrings for personal profit. Foreign Affairs accused them of "manipulating facts for strategic purposes," they received a VERY marginal rating from Charity Navigator for opaque financials, and by their own admission, only 31% of the millions they've raised in charitable donations actually goes to the children in Uganda they're supposed to be saving.
One might safely assume that the remaining cash has been used to grow the business and line the pockets of America's newest war profiteers -- with the avowed blessing of America's liberal left.
And to think, these guys weren't even aware Africa's second longest civil war was being fought when they stumbled into it. Imagine their good fortune.
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