Shortly after I posted the StopKony video, when I looked further into it I started to feel a little queasy…as documented in that post and on the Guardian and many other places including this infographic, Ugandans as well as people who work on the ground in Northern Uganda have questioned the approach from Invisible Children, the top-down daddy-knows-best Imperialist subtext, the external militaristic solution, the fact that things have changed in the area and even within the LRA.
The message coming out from Uganda is that it’s more about dealing with the after effects of war, and more pressing concerns such as high fuel prices and tension with DRC over oil discoveries, strikes, Walk to Work opposition to Museveni’s several decade rule, the anti-homsexuality bill including originally a death sentence and this scary new Nodding Disease which I tweeted about a while back.
So those that shared the video or watched it I think should also watch this response video by Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire…I think it shows the shortcomings of the campaign, and why it’s probably not helpful to those in Uganda, and shows a situation from 5-6 years ago which isn’t the case now. Also as she points out those people terrorised or lost loved ones to the LRA, still living in fear, maybe the last name they want to see splashed everywhere on fashionware is Kony’s? I must say even I winced at some of the tshirts such as I <3 The LRA.
Now in DRC, Congo and CAR Kony’s gang is still terrorising people, and that seems to be the case, but not on a scale suggested by that video, and as Rosie points out, an external solution won’t help, especially with the complexity of the frictions in the area. The StopKony campaign seems to be manipulatively aimed at children and teenagers, and presented in such a falsely upbeat fashion about a complex issue and misleading statistics. I bought into it at first, I ‘believed’, but at the end it seems more a fund-raising campaign for the filmmakers and also a push for the US dominance in the area (and even maybe supporting Museveni’s push for resources in nearby countries – already the UDPF has been accused by other governments stealing diamonds and other resources when supposedly looking for Kony – and as I’ve written here before, Uganda’s human rights record especially in LBGT issues is terrible). I’ve also read in several blogs there is also a call for a South African style Justice and Reconcilliation in Uganda re: Joseph Kony, so people can just get their children back and move on, which doesn’t fit the IC revenge/justice script either, but might be more realistic – civil wars are settled usually at the negotiating table rather than the court.
And most recently this social media manipulation is shown in the bullfighter Álvaro Múnera Builes seemingly giving up in the ring and devoting his life to animal rights post doing the rounds on Facebook – it turns out the picture isn’t what it seems, it most likely isn’t Álvaro, he was paralysed in a fight before he became an anti-bullfighting activist, and some doubt that even the ‘quote’ comes from him. But people blindly shared it as ‘fact’ on Facebook and blogs across the internet.
This shows a trend I’m seeing on social media – emotive campaigns that actually twist the truth and show a extremely partisan approach in the form of documentary fact. These campaigns use the fact that those critical filters people use for other media I suspect haven’t been built up yet for social media. When something like these emotive appeals appears in newspapers like The Sun or Daily Mail, or for TV or radio broadcasts, of course people understand the role of bias, spin and even factual innacuracy within that – although those organisations have to at least fact-check, something these ‘campaigns’ do not have to do.
Online, it seems people seem happy to click share without doing the most cursory Google or Wiki search – then get all emotional and defensive when challenged about it (I was called out as ‘buying into propaganda’ as if I was some evil Kony-supporting WTC-style truther for doing so, strange because the StopKony campaign is definitely using propaganda techniques and even possibly slightly cult-like in it’s methods). We see this with false death notices and memes, but in a way those don’t matter or are quickly corrected, whereas this kind of factually dodgy or misleading, or simplistic approach can lead to political decisions and pressure forming and unintended consequences that cause a lot more damage. Think of the Weapons of Mass Destruction for instance – just imagine how THAT would have spread and misinformation could have leaked through the wires if Facebook was big then?
So the moral of this blog is always question, always google, always check. And think about the wider issues – there are hardly ever only two sides to anything (if it is being presented as such you’re probably being conned or forced into a rhetorical corner), simple solutions usually lead to a complex impact and unintended consequences. Everyone has an agenda, good or bad – but sometimes they are knowingly or unknowingly playing into imperialistic concerns. And simplistic good vs evil belongs in Star Wars only.