Joseph Kony and Crowdsourced Intervention

Jason Russell has an idea, and that idea is to arrest Joseph Kony. Jason has made a movie to explain how he is putting his idea in motion: crowdsourcing military intervention. Well, he doesn’t quite phrase it in that way, but that is what it amounts to. Armed with #KONY2012 hashtags, posters, bracelets and viral movie clips, Russell aims to make Joseph Kony public enemy number one (on a global level). As the name of a warlord from the middle of the African continent is now the top-trending topic on Twitter, I’d say he’s off to a pretty good start.

Let’s make no bones about this, Russell is pretty much on the money about the nature of Kony. If such things still existed, he’d be a prime example of hostis humani generis. But if this works, then the world gets a little bit more dangerous.

Russell’s film is hopeful (it even has the Obama ‘Hope’ guy in a fraction of the film). It presents a pretty simple and powerful idea: we identify a prime candidate for global public enemy number one, we get his name to the entire world with viral marketing and then leverage that to get policymakers to go after him. We the people speak, they the administrators listen and Kony gets handcuffed and dragged before the International Criminal Court. Russell even goes into the nuts and bolts of it – America needs to give the Ugandans the equipment/advisors to track him down.

To re-visit the “Underpants Gnome” model of foreign policy:

1) Give Uganda things.

2) …

3) Get arrest.

While this is in no way a criticism of the choice of Kony, here’s my problems with the above setup:

As the film indicates, the Lord’s Resistance Army operates in a pretty big swathe of Central Africa. Kony is pretty decent at manouvering between borders. It has kept him alive for the past couple of decades, so on a planning position, let’s take it is a given that he will carry on doing this. The LRA is currently operating somewhere between the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Combined with Uganda, those four states have him penned in. The problem being, pressure in one will lead to him skipping across the border into another. Unless Kony 2012 want state militaries to start walking across borders after him, that’s four pretty weak state governments that need to be considered. How much will their armed forces cost to bring up to scratch? The alternative might be to arm one, and let them play Texas ranger across the borders of three other sovereign states. I’m not using sovereignty here as a barrier, but it’s something to consider. Helpfully, the video excludes the fact that Uganda helped invade the DRC in the 1990s, DRC politicians are currently under indictment for war crimes committed in the CAR and when Uganda went into South Sudan to chase Kony, their own troops were accused of killing and kidnapping South Sudanese civilians. I’m no Africa specialist, but that sounds like a disaster in the making if one of them is going to be given carte blanche to go after Kony, if such a thing is possible.

Second problem: let’s assume that somehow, a government, or collection of governments, is armed and trained, and sent off after Kony.  The immediate question is whether he is captured or killed. Might not be too tasteful if millions of youtube viewers worldwide wake up to the fact that they are directly responsible for the decision to go after a man, that gets him killed. I wouldn’t shed a tear over kony’s death, but it is worth considering. The second consideration is what happens afterwards. Will the armies involved give all those cool new toys that America has provided back? I think not. If America is induced to conduct a mass technology transfer, we wind up with 1-4 newly empowered state militaries. At least, technically state militaries. Lest we forget (or the helpful film casually ignores) the relationship between soldier and state isn’t the same in those four countries as westerners expect it to be. Have Kony 2012 put any thought into what the knock-on effects of the mass empowerment of these military forces might do? You only have to look at the role of the military in South Sudan’s internal conflicts to know that putting better guns and equipment in the state’s hand might have unforseen, lethal, consequences for the citizens that have to put up with the state long after Kony stops trending on twitter.

Third, and perhaps most important: Crowdsourcing intervention. Russell has picked an easy target: Joseph Kony. Why stop there? More to the point, if this works, will it ever stop? Will simplistic explanations of long-running wars, delivered in a Facebook-friendly manner become the future of foreign policy? If the opinion of Rihanna and George Clooney is going to dislodge ‘technocrats’ who do things like read the Military Balance, then what’s to stop intervention in Syria? Pretty much everyone with a passing interest in military affairs says “that is a very bad idea and lots of people will die” but I’m pretty sure that a bright person with access to youtube can come up with a better argument for a brighter world in which taking Assad down is an expression of democratic empowerment. The point about war and military affairs is that at some point, it requires restraint. That restraint is entirely arbitrary (and unfair) but it stops people getting killed. If Angelina Jolie in combination with Condoleeza Rice are to dictate American strategy, then restraints to force will disappear into a blur of “Let’s go get the bad guy” activism that is almost entirely ignorant of the second and third order effects of those decisions.

To finish: Joseph Kony deserves to be put in cuffs and dragged before the ICC. Raising the profile of the heinous nature of the guy’s crimes is awesome. The idea that popular opinion can be leveraged with viral marketing to induce foreign military intervention is really, really dangerous. It is immoral to try and sell a sanitised vision of foreign intervention that neglects the fact that people will die as a result. That goes for politicians as much as for Jason Russell.

 

Edit – For a continuation of this article that goes into a bit more depth on military questions, click here. Jack

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148 thoughts on “Joseph Kony and Crowdsourced Intervention

  1. Pingback: Catching Joseph Kony « Backslash Scott Thoughts

  2. Eric Zogbi says:

    I really like your post. But the thing everyone, including myself, is wondering about is why it took so little thinking to intervene in Irak, Afghanistan and Libya… Why did the American government thought that these wars were worth fighting and they would cause less death…

    • Andy says:

      That’s easy, the above mentioned countries have access to oil & precious metals, Uganda – not so much.

    • Quintin says:

      Not quite… this region is rich in both.

      As attractive as the over-simplified proposition of it’s about the oil, stupid may be, not everything that happens in International Relations can be attributed to an international conspiracy of oil barons. Like the Easter Bunny, such a conspiracy does not exist (the existence of large deposits of gas and oil in central Africa proving the faulty logic behind such theories).

      While we are at it, there is also no such thing as an international conspiracy of arms manufacturers either. Really… Politics and International Relations are far too complex to be explained away by such neat and simple devices.

    • Steve says:

      1)Oil – check
      2)Precious metals – check
      3)A deep harbor and pre-existing infrastructure of efficient evacuation – not so much

    • Jenna says:

      Really, Ben and Andy? The stuff going on in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya directly threatens the American people. It has nothing to do with oil (how much have we gotten from our intervention? Try none) and everything to do with using *our* military to protect *our* people. Use your brains.

    • Richard says:

      In what way did Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya threaten America? Iraq was put up as a front of W.M.D’s…something which was not existent, i.e. not a threat. Afghanistan was to prevent terrorism, there was one major attack from someone independent, and they instantly went in, guns blazing, killing hundreds of people who had no links to ‘terrorism’. Attacking something like the Al Qaeda doesn’t prevent terrorism and protect the USA, it creates terrorism (seeing your family getting blown up for something you’re not affiliated with hardly makes you want to wave the stars and stripes around), and how did Libya threaten America….at all? Every country surrounding Iran now has a military base upon it, it doesn’t take a lot to work out that this is an attempt for complete control of the Middle East, and when they threaten military action if Iran cuts off its oil, then it quite clearly has something to do with resources. Uganda has large deposits of natural resources, which China wants a part of. Small skirmishes have already been taking place in the area between Chinese and American mercenaries to take control of these resources; something like this charity is just an excuse to bring in more troops.

    • Pat says:

      Given your assertions, I’m sure *your* people will remember that the hijackers were mostly Saudis and that no attacks on *your* country were ever attributed to one government or country. I’m sure *your* military has done a lot since to intervene in the country of origin of most of the hijackers where, in 2011, they established a court specifically to charge and sentence human rights activists.

      Since America as a whole is obviously very aware of this, I’m sure *your* people will remember the Saudi King being quoted as saying, “It is absurd to impose on an individual or a society rights that are alien to its beliefs or principles.”

      I’m sure *your* people are acutely aware of the very alien beliefs and principles the Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans threatened to impose on you, requiring *your* military to intervene and establish *your* own beliefs and principles, which are of course, universally accepted and understood by all other societies.

      I’m sure *your* people can easily point out explicit examples of how these countries directly threaten *your* freedom and lives when the intervention of *your* military in those regions has essentially driven them to the brink of civil war.

      I’m sure *your* people can easily explain how people who live under the constant threat of military/militia/resistance fighting and attacks originating from *their* own population are a threat to *your* ability to go complain that you can’t find a cheaper TV at Wal-Mart.

      I apologize if this makes no sense, I might not have been using my brain properly.

    • Steve says:

      I nearly fell out of my chair laughing in reference to South Park’s Underpants Gnomes.

      That said, it is an excellent observation of their lack of geo-political insight with regards to the logistics of what they are proposing.

    • Matt says:

      I read the above post and I agree wholeheartedly regarding the complexity of the issue. I wasn’t trying to trivialize the issue as one of just oil but to point out to what degree this resource could play in any geopolitical strategy.

    • Kate says:

      It wasn’t about oil. It was about American companies that manufactured specialise warfare weaponry, equipment and vehicles making a hell of a lot of billions of dollars at the taxpayer’s expense. America’s “National Interest” in those wars was, obviously the “interest” of a small few, but very happy men.

    • Charles says:

      on a trivial note, good to see someone use the word ‘leery’ – it’s not used anywhere near often enough. Kudos!

  3. Adam says:

    Very well put. The idea that the best way to improve conditions in northern Uganda is to stoke up the ill-informed and the Golden Globes audience and then to lob these fair-weather indignants towards militarisation is gobsmacking.

  4. Bob Hadley says:

    I saw the Kony1012 video after my son had posted it. Your article sums up the points made in a very balanced way and I feel that you have shown the issue of mass communication turned against major wrong0-doers objectively. I saw the video and was convinced that something had to be done; I e-mailed my MP, I phoned the local radio station and I e-mailed half a dozen trusted friends who would respect my opinion. Producing the video and communicating the idea is just the start, however. I find your view of public intelegence to be cynical and I looked for a You Tube feed to give me a balanced view. having found one, and listened carefully to the admirable and intelegent content I still feel that something must be done about this issue. It is the raising of awareness that is the breakthrough here. it is the people that empower govenments and if enough people make enough noise, someone has to take notice. Your worries about “Who will be next” should be adressed to the people that have allowed this situation to develop by turning a blind eye to it in the first place. Richard Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy)) defined an SEP as Someone Else’s Problem and the LRa hasd been an SEP for too long. Governemnts are letting Joseph Kony get away with what he is doing by turing a blind eye – this is the man who is at the top of the wanted list of the ICC as your article states, and yes there is a very delicate balance of power in the area of Centra Africa. What would you, through your article, have the world do – nothing? That has already been tried and has been current policy for 26 years. Please do not take issue with someone who is sufficiently motivated to do something positive to end the reign of terror impsed by the Kony and the LRA. I feel that you have under-estimated the sincerity of the people behind the campaign. It takes a brave man to make a stand and it takes far less to criticise!

    • Andy says:

      Bob,

      I agree with you that something should be done about the atrocities that have insued in Central Africa for the past three decades, and I think that we all can respect the ideology and moral principles which are being challenged with the issue at hand….

      What I think that is failing to be seen here (and this is what the author of this article was discussing in a round-about type of way) is that the gravity of a government’s choice to fund a project such as this and provide both military personel and hardware will have a enduring effect not only on the affected region of Africa, but here at home as well. Put aside the fact that we would be arming the third world (once again) with advanced weapons and equipment – Put aside the fact that we…as a world…would be giving the power to a social media “””company””” like facebook to effect something as dire as U.S foreign policy.

      The real important issue here is that even though the United States armed forces are “a power for the greater good,” they are not the world’s policemen. The U.S. enjoys the luxury of being among the most elite powers on this Earth because it ALWAYS puts its own interests first. Even if those interests are waging war because of cheaper petrol prices, or because another country infringes on our capitalistic ideals, the fact stands that we are not responsible for solving everyone else’s problems – and we shouldn’t do so. Yes, I know what you’re thinking…”But…the U.S HAS to be the ones to save the day, they’re the biggest world power, therefore they are responsible for doing so”

      ^^^I’ll close by saying this – Yes, something should be done about the indignant slaughter which has been going on in Africa for so long now. Yes, as a man of certain moral convictions, I can sympathize with the “Kony2012″ movement. But, at the same time (and in combination with other arguments above) there would undoubtedly be far, far, far to many consequences and challenging concepts at stake for a country such as the U.S. to completely shatter its own (generally successful) foreign policy.

    • David White says:

      You may not have an answer to this, but what, then, should happen? Sure it’s a dog-eat-dog world and we–though one of the largest powers–are definitely not invincible, but should we just stand by and watch it happen?

      I think the crucial link that is forgotten is the U.S. government. We have obviously seen this problem before and gotten into a mess that was out of our hands to fix; do you not think that those in charge would use that wisdom in a fight like this? I would like to think there is a way to take care of this problem. I am sure your opinion is shared by some of those in power.

    • Andy L. says:

      (Put the “L” behind my name as to not be confused with a previous, different Andy)

      David,

      Well, that is the inherent problem isn’t it?…And a difficult one at that.

      A situation such as this definitely puts our government inbetween a rock and a (very) hard place. Undoubtedly, inaction by the government will only make the problem worse for itself. Apart from the blatant ignorance of any kind of morals and character (which will be seen by the entire world and properly chastised for it), inaction will be seen as ignorance towards an entire nation’s opinion. Furthermore, and most importantly, ignorance will show weakness. Weakness of our decision-making processes – weakness of our foreign policy – and certainly, a weakness in our country’s current finance crunch.

      At the same time though, action would be a very difficult thing to orchestrate….Africa is a big place, with a lot of places to hide. Heck, how long did the search for Osama Bin Laden go on for? And the middle east is a much smaller place. And the best US soldiers were out after him. My point in all of this ramble being that the potential cost of capturing (in my opinion, preferrably killing…but I’m from Missouri. Ha.) Kony could be a monumental debt to take on – and tack on – to our already rampant national debt. Also, assuming that the government wouldnt go as far to put actionable soldiers in Central Africa and chase him ourselves, I’m reeling just thinking about the length of time it would take for our government to approve giving Uganda aide, then ship supplies, hardware, etc., then train the Ugandans how to use our devices, then actually have the Ugandans go out and successfully find this guy.

      While the American gov. has dealt with similar problems, this one is in itself VERY special. Rarely has our government’s actionable response been a product of a mandate from the people, especially people worldwide. Every action we take from this point on is going to be scrutinized and picked apart in meticulous detail like never before, because millions of people at least say that they care about this issue, therfore they will actually be paying attention and staying updated on this issue. There’s little room to make a mess of things here, which is why the past 30 years have seen no US involvement…at all…

      So….action?….Inaction?

      I personally would like to think that we will see action on this one. This problem (thanks to Jason Russell) almost forces the government to take action, because the consequences of not taking action would be nothing short of losing a bit of creditability.

      Also, one must consider how many American voters are taking interest in this issue right now. It is an election year!!! You know what that means – action.

      Also, sorry for ranting, I’ll step off the soapbox. You were right, i dont have an answer for ya. Certainly this atrocity must see action, but I certainly dont have an answer….probably for the same reasons that the government doesnt have an answer.

    • David White says:

      Andy L,

      Well then we do have quite the issue since at this point inaction really isn’t an option it seems–or at least it soon won’t be. I am pleased with this since I certainly wouldn’t be able to handle being human if we were forced to overlook this in order to preserve our own interests.

      From an optimist’s perspective, I am going to stick with the “There must be a way” stance. If this movement gets big enough, then maybe the whole of western (and eastern?) society can begin aiding too. Then I–not optimistically but realistically and sincerely–believe then there would be some real problem-solving potential.

      Perhaps here is where I can make a notable point about the difference between what this would be and previous conflicts that the U.S. has been involved in: motive. If we are doing this somewhat selflessly instead of for preserving particular political ideals or financial investments like we have in the past then surely there is a greater likelihood that other nations would be interested in aiding here.

      Thoughts?

    • Andy L. says:

      David,

      Sorry to shelf this discussion for a bit, but even though I’m a Missourian, I’m currently pursuing studies in the United Kingdom. To be blunt, its 5am here, and i havent had a shred of sleep yet. Ha.

      I’ll type back later today – sorry to keep ya waitin.

    • Brittany Lauren says:

      Agreed and very well said :)

      I think it is very important for everyone to educate themselves, though, on all sides of these complex issues. This article made me think of a quote I have always remembered that I once read from a war photographer, Don McCullin, in Rolling Stone Magazine :
      “I have only ever considered myself a photographer – nothing more, nothing less. I went to war and thought of people and pain, not exhibitions and awards. I looked into people’s eyes and they would look back and there would be something like a meeting of guilt. As a war photographer, you cannot escape guilt, particularly when the man in front of you who is just about to be shot appeals to you to help him.

      Photography is not just about photographs; it’s about communication. It’s not about you. It’s not about art. You’re there to record. Sometimes, all too rarely, what you record is acts of human decency, of kindness and compassion – I have seen men cradling dying comrades and weeping. But that’s the only side of war you will see that is beautiful.”

  5. H. Catherine says:

    ^^^^^

    I agree with the above statement.

    The point of the whole KONY 2012 awareness is to help free the children that are hopeless in their own country. If this was happening in our country, would you hope that the rest of the world would shown concern, or turn a blind eye, which is what I took from your statement.

    We at least have the freedom to voice our opinion, which so many other countries do not. So, as your opinion is noted. Let the others that want to help and make a difference, do their own thing and you shouldn’t criticize them for that!

    • The point that I am making is that they have no idea about how to ‘free the children’ other than arming a military who have a less than perfect record. Awareness is fine by me (as stated), intentionally leveraging public opinion to support a military intervention based on… hope? That is very dangerous and will get people killed. Okay, people are dying right now, but sending American (or other) troops into those circumstances without a clear plan of what they are there to achieve and how they are to achieve it (the operational area in question being potentially the size of Europe) is an odd prospect. The assumption in the plan is that ‘saving the children’ can be achieved, that local governments want to eradicate the LRA and that a military intervention to capture Kony won’t cause greater suffering, harm and conflict than the situation as exists now. Unless it is known that the children can be saved, that local govts won’t stall the campaign and that intervention won’t do more harm than good, then that intervention shouldn’t occur. As it is, these are highly technical issues, and every person that I know who works in the area says “don’t do it”.

    • I don’t think the problem can be solved with pure military force, and I don’t think that killing/capturing Kony will solve the underlying problems. I’m not an expert on Uganda/DRC/CAR/South Sudan, but the above was written because I can tell a bad idea when I see it. The people that can answer that question better are the people who specialise in the field. There’s plenty of them out there (and from what I can tell reading today, some differences of opinion). Hopefully the upshot of this whole debate is that the issues are pushed up the political agenda, and the people that know what they’re talking about and don’t consider military intervention to be a silver bullet get more money and more face time with important decision makers.

      I know the above sounds like a cop-out, but any opinion that I offer on potential solutions would be no better nor worse than the average joe.

  6. A Johnson says:

    Call me a cynical old man but conceptually this is the same as the furious pamphleting on Ottoman atrocities in Bulgaria. However, “going viral” is indeed an interesting new evolution of the (in one model of things) media push effect on interventions, because there’s no broadcast editor controlling who clicks to watch what.

    Here’s another thought: in cases less clear-cut than Kony, what happens when counter-narratives go viral on YouTube? Imagine it’s 1998, but with today’s Internet, and both Kosovar Serbs and Albanians are busy throwing up video compilations of the other community’s crimes.

  7. David Matisse says:

    I agree with the comment from Bob Hayley. The point here is that people are trying to make a change in the world that is right. This is inspiring.

    We ALL agree that this man should be stopped and that these children should be protected. Nothing was being done by governments.

    Regular people are trying to do something about it. Its easy to be on the outside criticizing. But what are you doing about it then?

    • Andrew says:

      Your argument is precisely the logic I believe the author so accurately points out is flawed. There are real consequences to both ways to act on the issue, and to wrap this issue in a feel good, touchy-feely nature is simply doing a disservice. I will leave the economic and political repercussions to others, though they are extremely evident and clear. The disservice I’m talking about is to the Ugandan people and activism in general. I have been all over Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia with the Peace Corp, and trust me, I truly believe in the power of hope and altruism. I witnessed the power of hope while working in Cambodia. I saw the real impact of altruism in Romania. Yet, though maybe not Russell’s intention, I believe Russel’s type of campaign epitomizes the nature of major sources and inspirations of fauxtivism: the movement and people I learned to seriously have my doubts about while working around the world. People will post about this on facebook because it takes 5 seconds, then they will pat themselves on the back. A sort of power of now/self-help wrapped up a thin blanket of altruism. Remember the whole “Blood Diamond” craze. Everybody was activist for the time being. What happened after a few months?

  8. Tania says:

    I saw this post from Al Jazeera. Can someone tell me where it came from. It was credited and linked to this blog but I cannot find it. These words are powerful and the idea frighting!
    “The idea that popular opinion can be leveraged with viral marketing to induce foreign military intervention is really, really dangerous. It is immoral to try and sell a sanitised vision of foreign intervention that neglects the fact that people will die as a result.”

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  14. Paul Flavell says:

    Jack…..an outstanding article in response the the film. It is a real breath of fresh air when somebody states a well informed and educated view on the interweb….rather than attempting to stir up mass hysteria. Having been involved at the sharp end of bringing an end to the violence in Sierra Leone by Foday Sankoh and his RUF (backed by Charles Taylor) I totally agree with your opinion, 2nd, 3rd and 4th order effects are often skimmed over or just not considered at all by many in the West/ so called developed countries. These are complex issues that are rarely, if ever, solved with the ‘band aid’ approach. I do however think that well informed (rather than just well meaning) debate and publicity will help educate the world of these injustices and hopefully at least create an environment where decision makers will be forced to at least look at the ‘art of the possible’ in dealing with these issues.

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  17. Lulu says:

    But he’s a criminal. He has mutilated and murdered thousands, displaced millions, forced girls into sex slavery… I could go on and on. I do think that the life of one resting on popular opinion has potential to be dangerous, this is a no brainer. He should have been captured and trailed a long time ago for his heinous crimes. This campaign merely brings this into light, and encourages those who have the power to not stop searching for such an animal of a man. (as a side note, as an American, while I will agree that my country has seen better intellectual days, it’s quite offending when people accuse us all of being extremely stupid. How’d you like it if I asked you all if you would care for some tea and crumpets over at buckingham palace? Yeah, I thought so.)

    • Adam says:

      Well, erm, technically that last comment would just be an example of ignorance and stereotyping by an American, so really not a good analogy. I certainly disagree with the silly notion that all Americans are stupid, but it is perhaps fair to argue to that there is a much reduced understanding of international politics than in smaller nations. America has something of a bubble.

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  20. Angelica says:

    This is what is wrong with this country.. It is so beyond selfish that we begin to be afraid of risking our own lives to save others aside from the American troops protecting America. Uganda obviously cannot do it on their own as they have tried already, they are unfortunate to have an army as strong as ours, so we need to come together. Humanity as its own cannot just let this slide through and let these children get kidnapped, murdered, raped, and forced to kill their own families. To every change there is going to be risk, and this risk must be taken for the better. The world does need to come together and if our country were suffering from horrible crimes such as the ones in Uganda, we would be yearning for the world to help too. We do not realize what others suffer, Americans do not stop to put themselves in others shoes because America is so blind with their power and fortunes. This movement is what puts those people into another countries place and makes them realize we are the ones who can make the change. Amongst all of this I do agree that giving the Uganda army access to our weaponry is dangerous but as I said before, to make a change is to make a risk. We don’t have an established trust with them and that may be why this is so dangerous but maybe they feel the same way, maybe they think one of the American troops could go against their word as well. If America began to suffer from this attempt and the world knows our intentions then other countries could potentially come to our aid. There are many outcomes to this decision but we cannot just let Uganda’s children suffer because of our own selfishness and fear. Just think how much fear and sorrow these children experience EVERYDAY.

  21. Hello,

    My name is Adrienne Huen and I am writing to you on behalf of CBC News Network Television (The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) here in Toronto, Canada.

    We were wondering if you might be able to assist us in contacting PhD student Jack McDonald?

    We are very interested in speaking with him on his opinions on the Invisible Children’s viral video and Kony 2012 campaign.

    We are looking to do an interview with him on Thursday March 8th, sometime between the hours of 1100 a.m. to 1200 p.m. local time in London (0600 a.m. to 0700 a.m. local time in Toronto).

    The interview would be conducted live with our host Heather Hiscox and would last approx. 5 minutes in length.

    Would this be something you could help me with for the morning?

    Thank-you for your time,

    Adrienne

    • Adam says:

      You’re a star!

      But seriously, look forward to seeing this contribution in video.

    • Laura says:

      Jack thank you for putting words on this unsettling feeling I’ve had all day as I was watching my friends on Facebook and Twitter relayed by celebrities posting that video all over the internet. At first I felt guilty for being bothered by a movement for such a great cause and I thought I was being too cynical, but you really pointed out the problem: “The idea that popular opinion can be leveraged with viral marketing to induce foreign military intervention is really, really dangerous.”
      Even if the cause is without a doubt legitimate, two words come to my mind when I look at this campaign: “propaganda” and “manipulation”. Does the end justify the means?

    • K Mitton says:

      Make McDonald famous!

      Did this interview happen, and if so, is there a video of it somewhere?

      Appreciate this article. Some reassurance to those questioning elements of the IC campaign that they may yet have a soul. Maybe.

  22. Joe Mack says:

    let me start by saying that if it werent for the #KONY 2012 video i wouldnt have had my eyes opened to this problem. i literally cried the fist time i watched the viral video, admittedly i have a soft spot for an suffering child, most do. i am not on facebook or twitter. i stumbled upon the video after seeing #KONY 2012 for the 1000th time on a YoutTube video comment on very unrelated #KONY 2012 videos. finally i gave in. My first thought was i need to do whatever i can for the #KONY 2012 cause. But i am very neutral in all my beliefs so before i gave in i had to play devils advocate and i sought after articles like this one.

    Not only have i read a lot of articles like this one but i have also read almost all of the comments. the #KONY 2012 movement has a genuine cause but it is understating the problem and giving the wrong solution. I personally believe anyone who takes away a child’s innocence deserves to die, but im american. we are brought up to cherish our young, like the video focus’s on.

    The Answer………… forgiveness.

    i stumbled upon some great videos on YouTube by journeyman pictures. There are 3-4 videos that i found that all are 20 min long all on the subject of issues with central African youth, terrorism, and military. They are just as moving as the Invisible Child videos. But what i took away from them was far different. the majority of the Africans that were interviewed were preaching forgiveness. that it was the way to fix the entire problem.

    at first i didn’t understand how anyone could forgive Joseph Kony, but hear me out.

    The man that inspired me the most appeared in 2 of the videos. He is a priest. His daughter committed suicide after she was rapped and tortured by members of the LRA. Then years later his wife was killed by a LRA land mine. If his story is true, he truly has seen and suffered from an evil that i can never understand.

    Since his wife died his mission has been to preach peace and forgiveness. He hopes with them(peace and forgiveness) he can help others to never go through what he had to go through. and it makes sense.

    2 things come into play for me…..

    1. the Ugandan government has already granted amnesty to anyone who defects from the LRA.

    and

    2. Joseph Kony uses children as his defense.

    it is estimates that 90% of the LRA have been abducted and forced to obey. So why should they be punished for wanting to survive???

    any force that goes after him will probably have to kill kids to get to him. even though i despise this man and i would love to read a headline that he is dead…. i couldn’t kill 1 child to get to him in order to arrest or assassinate him. nor would i be able to ask anyone or expect anyone to be able to do that.

    by killing or arresting Joseph Kony you are trying to fix evil with evil.

    Invisible Child/#Kony 2012 movement had the right idea by exposing everyone to the injustice but they forgot to leave their american ideals out. If peace is their mission why arent they preaching it? i personally think they are telling the people how to fix the problem and not asking them how they would like it to be fixed.

  23. Pingback: Kony2012: Without facts but with opinion « We are proud to present:

  24. Pingback: Invisible Children & Kony 2012: Cause and Controversy « Dr. Hasan Abdessamad

  25. Pingback: ‘Kony 2012′, Cont. »

  26. Pingback: Get Kony goes viral: questions raised about charity’s social media blitz | newsworlddigest.com

  27. Pingback: KONY 2012 – Why the Campaign is a Sham « Les Masquent L'enfant

  28. Pingback: Get Kony goes viral: questions raised about charity’s social media blitz | Five Star Web Solution

  29. Amy says:

    Laura, I too have had the same “unsettling feeling” all day! Attached with guilt also. The word “propaganda” also passed through my mind several times over the course of the day. After some research I thought perhaps the holes in the organisation were what was bothering me from the beginning, but after IC answered those questions, I still didn’t feel satisfied. I feel like this is what I’ve been trying to find all day, thank you.

  30. Pingback: Invisible Children: KONY 2012 « Love PR?

  31. Tim says:

    THANK YOU Jack McDonald!
    It is comforting to know that not everybody out there is so rash and emotionally persuaded so easily!
    Ever since I watched that video for the first time I’ve had this unsettled feeling in my stomach. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Jack; something must be done about Kony, but it must not be a rash decision. We must learn from our past before so quickly running headlong into war!
    I believe that Jason Russell’s video is too powerful and persuasive for it’s own good; it certainly is a dangerous weapon. I just detest that the target audience are very, very young people like myself (I am soon 17) and that nobody else seems to have one shred of doubt when it comes to this fight; I’ve seen people at school, full of anger, condemning Kony for his actions and demanding that we take strong and decisive counter actions RIGHT AWAY. It has only been 3 days since the video was posted, and it’s inspired anger in 27 million people around the world.
    What happens when there are 27 million people worldwide angered by one man’s actions? They demand that military measures be taken straight away, and the government must, as the video states, comply with the majority of the people.

    What my biggest question is how long will this war last? Kony obviously has spent the last twenty years winning the battle; it will not be an easy fight. What if the war goes on for TOO long? What happens when the people lose interest and belief in the war? Then do we just exit out of it? Do we abandon the cause just as in Vietnam? Just like what we’re doing now in the Middle East?

    This video is indeed dangerous; dangerous in its speed. Everything is moving way too quickly.

  32. Pingback: Who is Joseph Kony? | newsworlddigest.com

  33. Pingback: KONY 2012- Learn from History! | sambaltempoyak

    • Ed (the real one) says:

      Thanks for brilliantly solving the problem, Shaun.

      By the way, where should they go to capture Mr Kony? I assume you have his exact location.

  34. I looked at their expenses report they have a 6 mil surplus and spend nothing on redevelopment or direct support of the children they are trying to help! It should be less on-sided and pitched at the idea of helping the region regain economic and political stability, and bringing a fair trial to Kony. He’s good at marketing this Russell bloke.

    • nitpicker says:

      Yes, Yasmin, every nonprofit should always provide direct aid because the 6 million (which would go very quickly as redevelopment funds) couldn’t possible be better used in bringing attention to this issue (and maybe much larger sums in support?).

  35. nitpicker says:

    Yes, it’s so wrong for people to get behind a cause and force their countries to act to prevent murder, kidnapping and rape. Let’s get back to letting the masters of the universe decide these things for us, as they so ably did in Iraq.

    • johanna says:

      who’s to say the masters of the universe aren’t behind this? Who’s to say that this Kony 2012 movement isn’t a masterfully disguised piece of propaganda used to manipulate the masses into believing we need to militarily intervene in Uganda? Who’s to say the masters aren’t keen on getting their hands on oil in Uganda, just as they’ve wanted with other parts in the middle east?

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  37. We need to do something and waiting we have already tried. I believe that yes he has included stars but he has also added politicians. Human rights and justice needs to be more important then oil. Instead of trying to destroy the credibility of this video lets have a long look at what it has already done. People in the world want to stop this NOW and proof of that 20 million hits on a You Tube video over an extremely short period of time.
    Hey we are talking about Kony 2012 at work today that means something.

  38. Tim M. says:

    I think, all hyperbole aside, that the most effective solution here is both complex and long term. It requires an active, continuing engagement from all citizens. The kind of changes necessary to halt Kony and prevent more like him don’t come through military intervention or ‘Seal Team 6′. It may make us feel better but it changes nothing on the ground. And as a note– I’m seeing a lot of people agitating for military intervention but that’s remarkably easy to do when it’s not your children that are put in harm’s way. If you feel so strongly about affecting change in the region get over there and join an NGO or any number of other agencies dedicated to making a real difference but stop volunteering other people to fulfill your need for ‘justice’. Activists act, but anyone can spout their outrage from the comfort of their home.

  39. Pingback: Reactions to Kony 2012 and Invisible Children: What Next « Wanderings

  40. Pingback: Kony 2012 video charity Invisible Children hits back at criticism over Joseph Kony campaign | News | National Post

  41. Pingback: storytelling is great, but real impact is better. | Musing On The World

  42. Matt Harris says:

    When I first saw the Kony 2012 video I was touched but also recognized the huge problems with this whole concept. However, I found your article to mention some useless points that only take away from your argument. One being when you say that, “millions of youtube viewers worldwide wake up to the fact that they are directly responsible for the decision to go after a man, that gets him killed.” Are you serious? How much remorse did you encounter after the announcement of the death of Bin Laden? Those celebrating all over the country did not seem to be mourning in the least. No one that I know felt the slightest bit of sorrow or remorse. Now I know that the people were not “directly responsible” in the case of Bin Laden, but they would not be in the case of Kony either. The public wanted Bin Laden’s head on the stick in the same way that they want Kony’s. If Washington acts on public opinion than good for them, but we have also wanted an end of the wars in the middle east for years. We don’t always get what we want. I think your greatest argument in the argument of where will it all end? First they go after Kony, who will be the next tyrant/terrorist they will “make famous.” After weighing the pros and the cons of the Kony 2012 “campaign” my opinion is that the pros outweigh the cons, and if it ends up serving justice to Kony, than there cause was a complete success.

  43. John says:

    Jack, good analysis. This is simply a variation on the politicians fallacy:

    We MUST do something

    This is something.

    Therefore we MUST do this…

  44. Pingback: “Can I Tell You The Bad Guy’s Name?”: A Virtual Read-In and Comment On #Kony2012 and Badvocacy « The Disorder Of Things

  45. Pingback: Invisible Children’s Military Disconnect | Kings of War

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  47. Joshua says:

    Reasons your post is near-sighted…
    #1. We do not always have to live in a trustee type democracy. Politicians routinely make decisions outside of thinking about their consitituency. Sometimes it’s based upon fact and reserach that the public wouldn’t consider, and sometimes it’s solely based on political posturing or lobbying…we can’t always know which is which…but shouldn’t sometimes they make decisions based on the wants of their constituency directly rather than exclusively by a re-election agenda?

    #2. What you consider the “Golden-Globe” masses is not all of us. I, for one, pay a great deal of attention to ongoing international issues and follow politics closely all the time. Sure, there will be plenty in this movement that this is a fad for, but are they also not part of the constituency? Their vote and political opinions weigh one for one with everyone else’s. I don’t somehow feel slighted because their voice is heard next to mine or for differing reasons. All I care about is that their voice is heard.

    #3. This movement is about people becoming aware of issues that are important through each other, rather than what the media networks/politicians/billionares decide should be important for us. This is a stand to show that the aformentioned should be scared…because we now have an outlet (social media)to threaten the control they have been so comfortably holding…feeding us their selective priorities to the point to where we start believe they are our own. We can now begin to challenge this system.

    The politicians for too long have appeased the masses around election time and then forget about their electorate. This is not only a means for people to become informed, but to pass judgment on those they have elected based on the merit of their action rather than the smoke of their campaign promises. For the above stated reasons, I vehemently support the Stop Kony movement, even if I believe there are bigger fish to fry.

  48. Bill says:

    What everyone watching 30 minutes of video should ask: how much of it was actual a factual briefing about the situation in those states in Africa; and how much of it was an emotional plea. How much do you really know about the history of Uganda after watching the video? If you had to write a 10 page paper on the human rights abuses in Uganda, what could you say besides Kony’s name. You were given a problem as explained to a four-year-old — Kony = bad guy. Letting emotional viral videos dictate military action is a HUGELY bad policy.

    And in most situations, letting the mass of individuals dictate foreign military intervention is a bad idea. Until you have access to full briefings by the State Department and CIA, on the full ramifications of military operations, you shouldn’t be pushing to go to war.

    Our system works when the president has to come to us to explain why war is right. Not when the elected officials are pressured by us to go.

    • random pandora says:

      You’re wrong, that’s exactly how its supposed to work, we are not pawns of our government, idle children waiting for explainations from papa president. We decide what the government does in our interest, tell them, (or pick someone who already believes that) then they go do it with the pilfered taxes. (or at least thats how its supposed to work) Not how you say that we just sit back and wait for them to give us their reason for killing…? no no no thats why we have been in these oil wars for 20 odd years now as it is

    • José says:

      random pandora,

      So you want the population to decide what’s going on in your country? I agree with that. The problem is Uganda’s population aren’t beeing asked if they want your army, guns and technology in their country. Why should papa USA tell them what to do? Do you really think you know better?

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  50. Joshua says:

    You mean full briefings like when we were told Bin Laden would strike within the US? Or the blacked out sections surrounding 9/11 pertaining to Saudi Arabia that your “wise” elected officials decided were in the best interests of its constituency to black out? Why do you somehow think that trustee democracy is always the best? The people have to have a voice…people that are hesitant to acknowledge that may as well call themselves English loyalists if they live in America…Don’t stior the pot…leave it to the wigs, etc.

  51. Pingback: Kony 2012 Invisible Children charity hits back at critics over ‘immoral’ viral …

  52. Joshua says:

    By the way, your ‘wait and see and weigh the full intel situation’…we employed that type of governance in situations with those guys on the poster behind Kony…with Hitler and Osama…’wait and see’ when you’re dealing with bureacracy and political motivations from hesitant politicians…simply led to countless atrocities. Then, in situations like Iraq….the people waited for the ‘full intel’ and were lied to when it was presented If they had simply stated a different cause for the removal of Saddam, alike to the appeal of these Kony supporters, the effort may have been reacted to a bit differently. Why is our faith in ethical treatment of humans not of the same weight as a few agencies very often flawed logical assessments of what’s best?

  53. Joshua says:

    By the way, your ‘wait and see and weigh the full intel situation’…we employed that type of governance in situations with those guys on the poster behind Kony…with Hitler and Osama…’wait and see’ when you’re dealing with bureacracy and political motivations from hesitant politicians…simply led to countless atrocities. Then, in situations like Iraq….the people waited for the ‘full intel’ and were lied to when it was presented If they had simply stated a different cause for the removal of Saddam, alike to the human rights appeal of these Kony supporters, the effort may have been reacted to a bit differently. Why is our faith in ethical treatment of humans not of the same weight as a few agencies very often flawed logical assessments of what’s best?

  54. Pingback: Why I’m not supporting the Kony 2012 campaign « Hot Foreign Affairs

  55. Pingback: Awareness, Advocacy + Action | Yoga Freedom 2012

  56. Pingback: Kony 2012: A Clarification of our Critical Analysis | Luna Magazine

  57. Pingback: Kony 2012 video: Joseph Kony's capture won't include casualities, Invisible Children filmmaker says | News | National Post

  58. Pingback: Visible Children – KONY 2012 Criticism | WorldWright's …

  59. Pingback: Responding to KONY 2012 | duganama

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  62. Steve says:

    I nearly fell out of my chair laughing in reference to South Park’s Underpants Gnomes.

    That said, it is an excellent observation of their lack of geo-political insight with regards to the logistics of what they are proposing.

  63. Pingback: Who is Joseph Kony?

  64. Pingback: Under The Yardarm » Blog Archive » The bandwagon, it’s a merry-go-round.

  65. Pingback: KONY2012, Invisible Children, and the Government of Uganda «

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  73. No-one would argue against Invisible Children’s desire for a world free of the LRA, but their prescription for foreign military intervention is not only dangerous but denies a voice for the hundreds of local peacebuilding organisations in Uganda – and beyond – tackling the LRA. On Insight on Conflict we have a post by one such Ugandan peacebuilder reflecting on the campaign.

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  75. Jennifer says:

    Four African nations have agreed to form a joint military force (the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda will form a brigade to pursue the militants.)
    The LRA, which originated in Uganda 20 years ago, has recently mounted deadly attacks in all four countries. It now targets towns some 1,000km (600 miles) away from Uganda. In October 2010 – The latest LRA attack was in the Central African Republic’s northern town of Birao. So your first problem is without merit – Most of these African Nations (Uganda, DRC & Sudan) are among the most corrupt in the world. That does not negate the fact that children/mothers/fathers/people etc are suffering at the hands of a madman –

    Personally if I could have my way, I would use some of the money raised by Invisible Children to hire a mercenary do hunt and find Kony and place a carefully executed bullet between his eye. I would not lose any sleep over it and if I was of means, I would not think twice about hiring the mercenaries myself. Didn’t we do something similar in the Iran/Contra affair? It is a a pretty good idea and it would absolutely avoid having to arm any of those crazier than a crackhouse rat bastards.

    As for your fear of “Crowdsourcing intervention” and where it stops – let’s hope it does not. It is about time people became aware and concerned about global issues that do not directly influence their own daily lives – I willing to concede that it may even be hubris to believe that the whole world can make a difference – Rather than allowing situations such as this to be someone else’s problem – Instead of continuing to debate the strengths and weakness of the Kony 2012 video let’s figure out how to turn this momentum into a constructive opportunity that can result in smart policies that will have a positive, real-time impact in the affected areas of central Africa.

  76. Pingback: Deconstructing KONY 2012: Moving from caricature to context | Pinpoint Politics

  77. Pingback: Kony 2012 and Escalation »

  78. One of the worst video of 2012 …….. I m not with u …….. becoz the reason is that all the above comments are mentioned clearly that America want to take control of OIL and OTHER NATURAL RESOURCES etc ……… that is the bad thing …….. America destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan, destabilizing Pakistan with the help of India and put sanctions of Iran ……. who is the real criminal – yes of course “USA” ……….

  79. Pingback: For Future Reference Re: Kony… « Ghost City

  80. Pingback: Who Is Joseph Kony? The Power & Pitfalls of Social Media Activism « Media Studies Is For Girls

  81. scott says:

    Perhaps the greatest atrocity is teaching these children that they spread this carnage by the power of the Holy Spirit to purify the “unrepentant,” twisting Christianity into a religion of horror to their victims. It is spiritual warfare at its very worst, and it could not be more satanic. . .

    Under threat of death, LRA child soldiers attack villages, shooting and cutting off people’s lips, ears, hands, feet, or breasts, at times force-feeding the severed body parts to victims’ families. Some cut open the bellies of pregnant women and tear their babies out. Men and women are gang-raped. As a warning to those who might report them to Ugandan authorities, they bore holes in the lips of victims and padlock them shut. Victims are burned alive or beaten to death with machetes and clubs. The murderous task is considered properly executed only when the victim is mutilated beyond recognition and his or her blood spatters the killer’s clothing.

    In 2008, Michael Gerson shared this horror story in The Washington Post:

    A friend, the head of a major aid organization, tells how his workers in eastern Congo a few years ago chanced upon a group of shell-shocked women and children in the bush. A militia had kidnapped a number of families and forced the women to kill their husbands with machetes, under the threat that their sons and daughters would be murdered if they refused. Afterward the women were raped by more than 100 soldiers; the children were spectators at their own private genocide.

    This is ultimately the work and trademark of a single man: Joseph Kony, the most carnivorous killer since Idi Amin.

  82. Would like to add in the interest of fairness, it should be said that the twelfth political names behind this movement are disturbing, not for the fact of the movement be illegitimate or anything, but because these people are experts in creating subterfuge in order to justify military action and international interference. Also the documentary statement that “there are no financial interest in Uganda” is simply a naked lie as the actual site of the U.S. Department of State confirms “Oil experts estimate Uganda’s Albertine Basin has about 2.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil, positioning Uganda to become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s top oil producers and potentially doubling current government revenues within 10 years.” Source: state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2963.htm

  83. Pingback: Invisible Children Responds To The Kony 2012 Viral Video Controversy « BasicCondition

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  89. Pingback: Joseph Kony & Jason Russell: Jungle Warlord & Media Warlord | NewsRescue!

  90. Pingback: Kony 2012: The Worst Case Scenario

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