‘Phony 2012’: A cynic’s view on the Joseph Kony hysteria

So unless you have been living on Mars for the past week (or have a life offline) you will have come across the ‘Kony 2012’ frenzy that has invaded the digital world.  If like me your reaction has been an almost jaw breaking yawn, casual shrug of the shoulders and whatever then you have found a friend.

Despite the outrage blanketing social media sites I am quiet sure Joseph Kony is not losing one minute’s sleep over the video or the public’s reaction to it.  For over twenty years Kony and his gang of LRA thugs have been wandering between Northern Uganda, DR Congo, Central African Republic and Sudan raping, pillaging and murdering at will – and ‘Kony 2012’ is not going to make a shit of difference to that and nor should it, as I will explain further down.

Kony and the LRA's patch in Central Africa

Kony and the LRA's patch in Central Africa

For the most part the Ugandan Army has been the strongest military opposition to the LRA, their last big operation, 2008’s Lightning Thunder was a disaster, riddled with poor planning, intelligence leaks and criticisms of being too Kony focused, however despite this and other criticisms of abuses of power they may be the best hope to defeat the LRA.  Part of the reason the LRA have lasted so long is because the area the operate in is far from capital cities and Kampala, Kinshasa, Khartoum and Bangui lack the political will and need to send troops there.  Secondly there is a lack of cooperation between the bordering nations – DR Congo are still pissed at Uganda for invading and stealing their natural resources in the late ‘90’s so will not let them in again and CAR have told them (Ugandan Army) to leave because they want the donor money that is channelled to the LRA’s opponents.  Finally, Omar Bashir, who like Kony is wanted by the ICC, has harboured the LRA at various stages and will not let the Ugandan Army into Sudan.

So, why will and why should the video do nothing to change the situation?  Firstly, it will not change the situation because of the modern day attention span.  I guarantee people will forget about this only a few weeks after Kony Day on April 20.  In the meantime there will be a mass of donations to Invisible Children (who will be the real winners), an almost physical embodiment of goodwill and like every other ‘fad cause’ ‘Kony 2012’ will fade out and by April 2013, hell probably October 2012, everyone will have forgotten who Joseph Kony is and they can go back to real issues like whoever Yumi Stynes / Kyle Sandilands / Simon Cowell has insulted or who said what on Masterchef.

Secondly this video should not change anything, apart from a few public minds.  Kony and the LRA have been operating for a long time and if it took a video like ‘Kony 2012’ to get national and international leaders, governments and organisations moving on the issue then what bloody use are they?  The reality is the LRA have been under attack for years, however for all the reasons (and more) mentioned above, they have survived.  So, while the video may be aiming to raise awareness, the reality is, the people who should be aware are aware and are actually involved in trying to get rid of Kony and the LRA.

If you were not aware of Kony and LRA before the video then take this as an opportunity to get aware and find out about other issues going in the world too – like Assad’s year long murder of civilians in Syria – where is the social media outrage against that, oh yeah, no one has made a snazzy video, so we don’t really know / care about that.

In saying all this I hope I am wrong.  I hope the video does make a difference at a higher level.  I hope it does play a part in ending the LRA.  I hope it does give people a kick up the arse and spur them to some sort of action.  I wish I could bottle all the goodwill created by ‘Kony 2012’, send it to Mephesto in South Park so he could make a five arsed rocket to take out Kony and his cronies, but I cannot.

The best that I can see coming out of ‘Kony 2012’ is that people actually get involved in learning more about the world and their own surrounds and will act without having to be prompted by a post on their Facebook wall.

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19 Comments on “‘Phony 2012’: A cynic’s view on the Joseph Kony hysteria”

  1. Jo
    March 9, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    i gotta say, i had a similar reaction to you so.. hey friend. haha 🙂
    but i agree. people who should know about this already know about this. saw many views on the issue saying that its another way for invisible children to gain more donations and that the actual amount that goes towards the cause is just around 30%. and honestly, if anybody wants to clear this mess up, awareness alone and a bunch of people who are no way involved in the military or strategic tactical planning – really not gonna work. awareness is all nice and dandy but sticking millions of posters (and wasting that resource too) around america is not gonna actually help take down kony.

  2. March 9, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    Great article, echoes how I feel – especially the cynical tone but hoping I’m wrong. Even used the ‘phony’ pun I just patted myself on the back for. Just a minor pedantic point, Omar Bashir isn’t really a figure in this issue anymore because of Sudan’s recent split from South Sudan. The LRA haven’t made it up that far in CAR to reach the Sudan border as it is now, as far as I know.

    Anyway, since this is definitely not the major obstacle to getting the LRA I apologise for the sidetrack and welcome more cynicism…

  3. Brinkley
    March 9, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    People forget things because they are not in the media. Our government shows us what they want to show us. the Kony2012 movement has not just started, it has been going on for quite some time now. One of the main reasons people think that this is phony is because people THINK it just started.. I saw another video of a journalist interviewing Kony, and I couldn’t imagine someone making false accusations about a man and knowing the consequences of his actions and still doing it. I believe if the government stops Kony in 2012 there will be no further discussion about it, but if they do not stop him a lot of people will be disappointed and try to do something about it.

  4. Anonymous
    March 9, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    learn to spell

  5. March 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Hi, I’m an italian art director. My job is to create adv.
    There are 3 things that I don’t like in this story.

    The first alarm bell is: Why Jason Russell needed to use his blond and cute child to move people?

    The second is: how many resources have been allocated to this project? And what business is behind it? It is true that they want to take this evil man, or they’ll hunt Mr. Kony through 2012, gleaning exorbitant sums?
    Then, in 2013, what they will do? They’ll invade Uganda searching for Kony and diamonds?

    Because in this case this isn’t the first example of a motion demanded from people and taken over by the government.

    It would be the first case in which a citizen, with social networks support, invent a manhunt that canalize american need to belong, following the example of what his government has done throughout the Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    And finally I want to raise a third and final question. This one is philosophical and spiritual: is it true that we do not choose where we born?
    I know this view is not easy to understand and it needs an incredible responsibility.

    So I say: please USA, stop trying to save others, is the carrot that they will continue to put
    in front of you, stopping your personal search for liberty and freedom.

    Follow the money: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2012/03/problem-stop-kony/49634/

  6. Saint Just
    March 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    I think it’s a case of you do it your way, I’ll do it mine. The worst the campaign can do is fail and congrats for trying because most of the rest of the world did nothing. Don’t trash a cause without outlining what you’re doing yourself personally instead, I think.

    • March 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

      Saint Just – the worst this campaign, in fact the worst any campaign can do, is more damage and by representing a complex issue in a simple way they run the risk of doing that. It is possible people will act on this because of the emotion they feel after watching the video, without really thinking deeply about Kony, the LRA or any other factors… they may also do some basic research, discover the complexities and say ‘oh, it’s all too hard,’ and go back to whatever they were doing. If IC want to make a video about Kony and the LRA then they should talk about all angles – god knows they could cut some of that kid out and not lose anything from the video.

      The rest of the world is doing something – Uganda have been fighting the LRA for years, the US has had their team their team there since late last year, the ICC are doing their part and other organisations are doing their thing too (eg. International Crisis Group).

      If you want to know what I am doing about it – well I keep myself educated on these issues, write about them, try to get people to see things from a different angle, talk about them so people become aware, etc, etc…

  7. Saint Just
    March 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Sometimes I think people are cynical about these causes more to make themselves seem special. Like there is some special, wondrous, little known truth that they hold and now is the time for western, middle class pseudo-intellectuals to finally proclaim it to the world. Kony is a murderous, evil arsehole and thug and the sooner he is shot through the face the better. No special information required. Nothing we’re all missing. He’s a failure of evolution and may natural selection one day rid us all of these parasites.

    • March 11, 2012 at 11:47 am #

      ‘…some special, wondrous, little known truth that they hold and now is the time for western, middle class pseudo-intellectuals to finally proclaim it to the world…’ sounds like the whole tone of the Kony 2012 video to me, in fact… so they (IC) raise awareness, is the issue now more important because we (in the west) are all aware – no.

      I agree Kony is ‘…murderous, evil arsehole and thug…’ however simply ridding the world of him is not enough, the whole of the LRA must be destroyed, the child soldiers reintegrated, the villages and towns rebuilt and security in the region improved – one of the main criticisms of the 2008 Operation Lightning Thunder was that it was too Kony focused (see International Crisis Groups reports) and again IC’s campaign is too Kony focused and over simplified.

  8. March 13, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    Have a look at this infographic from the Guardian


  9. Anon
    March 28, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    To be honest I really dont know. I mean surely it’s not a big joke right? Maybe it is. However we must wait because we don’t know for sure I’m just as confused as you are!

  10. Maria
    April 7, 2012 at 12:36 am #


    Kony made a mixtape

  11. April 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    What is that song by The Hives???



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