There are plenty of things wrong with the very naive Kony 2012 Campaign. It re-enforces all the stereotypes: rich, mostly white folks from western countries going off to help little black kids in Africa. The people who made the film might have perfectly honest intentions, but the way they did it shows their narrow understanding of the world, as well as their lack of understanding of their own role in the world and in conflicts such as these. It also portrays the US as some force of good yet, the US supports and has supported criminals who are just as bad, and American companies support militias in the Congo in order to extract a mineral called Colton, which is used in cellphones.
These militias run slave and sex camps (Congo is the worst place in the world for women) but has anyone made a video on that? If you ask the same guys who made the Kony video, they would not even believe for a second that the US supports these atrocities in Congo. The video briefly mentioned that the US only intervenes in countries where its national interests are at stake; well, Congo is one of these countries, and the US intervenes in Congo, mainly supporting some of the worst acts of criminality in the world. Afghanistan is another country – from the point of view of children’s rights and women’s rights – where the US supported the worst of warlords and Taliban factions, even though they raped young boys and made the country a living hell for women. Obviously, nobody talks about the US role over here, simple because it doesn’t fall in the framework of American benevolence. If you want to know more about how the US media reports different war crimes and genocides depending on the US political involvement in a given country, I urge you to read Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky, and the Politics of Genocide by Ed Herman.
Pakistan and Palestine are other two places where children suffer a lot. But as soon as you talk about helping children in these countries, people will start calling you a Taliban sympathizer or Hamas sympathizer. During the floods in Pakistan, many news stations in America were against giving aid to Pakistan because they said that their money would go to places where terrorist activities are high. Pakistan, because of its image, didn’t get enough media attention during the floods, even though the UN called the crisis over there as the worst in UN history. At the same time, the earthquake in Haiti got a lot of media attention (rightly so), but again, the way it was done re-enforced the cliché of rich [elite] who are trying to help helpless blacks in slums somewhere, while the reporting was totally divorced from any political analysis. More importantly, nobody mentioned the role that France, US and Canada have historically played in destroying Haiti.
Another objection of mine to the video and to the campaign is that it doesn’t emphasize on empowering the people in Uganda. This type of charity work re-enforces dependence and servitude. People have to be empowered so that they can stand on their own and not need anyone’s help in the basic things of life. The video and the campaign don’t have anything like that. But when you talk about empowering Third World countries, this is where things get complicated and you realize the role of colonialism and imperialism, and as soon as you do that, the image of a benevolent West just falls right to the floor. Slowly then you come to understand why some countries are poor and other are rich, and the interest the rich have to keep these countries poor.
Then the video celebrates how the US is sending its military in order to capture Joseph Kony. But this is just another illusion. The US has its military in Uganda, but that’s part of the wider American aim to establish itself in Africa and control the region – it has got nothing to do with helping people. Moreover, the US didn’t send its troops on the advice of the children who took part in the video. The whole idea that the campaign led to this American response is a mockery. And since the video doesn’t realize this, it just creates an illusion about how political activism works and how it’s received by governments.
Another thing which I disagreed with was how these people think that they have, all of a sudden, discovered something that nobody in the world knew about. Yes, people in the developed countries maybe didn’t know about Kony, but his victims know about him and so do the people of the region. More than anything else, it just shows the utter ignorance of the people in the developed world. The man in the video thinks that he is some kind of a prophet who discovered something that nobody else ever knew about. Only briefly does the video mention why people are ignorant of these things – this was at the end when they were mentioning consumerism and advertisement. However, it was very brief and wasn’t the main thrust of the video and I doubt if most people understood anything about that.
For anyone who is serious about human rights, Third World liberation and development, this video and campaign is a total joke and nobody would waste their time on it. But at the same time, it show how much work remains to be done in order to educate people on what the reality of the world is and how things are supposed to be done.
The video in question can be seen at: http://vimeo.com/37119711
Read more from Jahanzeb at http://jahanzebjz.tumblr.com/ where he shares his thoughts on current events and world affairs.
Also check out the magazine Collateral Damage: http://collateraldamagemagazine.com/