March 15, 2012

Nicholas Kristof is not impressed by your “KONY 2012” criticisms

Invisible Children’s P.R. campaign for it’s intervention-mongering, propaganda-ridden “KONY 2012” video really has been amazing. In addition to the roughly 100 million views the video has garnered, the group was able to “goad” Nicholas Kristof into dedicating his New York Times column today to Joseph Kony.

"If I were a Congolese villager," Kristof writes, "I would welcome these uncertain efforts [about whether the I.C. campaign will make a difference] over the sneering scorn of do-nothing armchair cynics."

Kristof doesn’t specify whether he counts angered and offended Ugandans who threw rocks at the screen from their seats at a screening of the film in Lira among the “do-nothing armchair cynics.”

Some of Kristof’s other issues with the backlash to “KONY 2012”:

When a warlord continues to kill and torture across a swath of Congo and Central African Republic, that’s not a white man’s burden. It’s a human burden.

To me, it feels repugnant to suggest that compassion should stop at a national boundary or color line. A common humanity binds us all, whatever the color of our skin—or passport.

Are a bunch of Western twenty-somethings really caught up in the “KONY 2012” mania because of compassion they feel for the LRA’s victims? Or because they watched a soul-crushing emotional video with a heart-wrenching soundtrack and then went back to updating their Facebook statuses?


Yes, the video glosses over details, but it has left the American public more informed. Last year, Rush Limbaugh defended the Lord’s Resistance Army because it sounded godly.

More informed, yes. Better informed, hardly. David Rieff summed up potential dangers of oversimplification and misinformation re the LRA’s activities:

In a film that treated its audience as adults … Russell would have had to pause to ask himself hard questions, such as: What might be the risks to Uganda’s civilian population if the U.S. government were to give aid and more advanced military equipment to the Ugandan military to track Kony, thus strengthening a regime in Kampala whose hands are anything but clean—as anyone who was in eastern Congo during the Ugandan intervention there in the late-1990s can attest? And as they say in the military, in war, the enemy gets a vote. At present—though one would never know this from Russell’s film—Kony and the LRA are a largely spent force. But if a new campaign against them were launched, what would their response be; what crimes would they commit? Russell can talk all he likes about “arresting” Kony, but what Invisible Children is actually calling for is “war”—without acknowledging that in war there are invariably unintended consequences.

Perhaps the attention that “KONY 2012” has drawn from viewers and Kristof and policymakers will lead the capture or death of Kony, despite failed attempts over previous decades to root out him and his jungle insurgency, despite the years and resources it took to kill world-famous Osama bin Laden, and despite the fact that the LRA poses no credible threat to U.S. interests at home or abroad.

But to call the video’s critics “do-nothing armchair cyincs” is as oversimplified and naive as the film itself.

Posted on Mar. 15, 2012 at 10:58 am Link Share Comment
Tagged: #africa  #LRA  #politics  

Tate Watkins

Independent Correspondent

Tate Watkins is a freelance writer and coffee guy between Haiti and Nashville, TN.