Kony, Phony, Baloney

I got that yesterday, via Facebook. I'd spent the day researching my mixtape, and had just been played by Steve Lamacq on 6Music, who followed Broke with Pulp's Do You Remember The First Time, one of the greatest records ever made. 6music news was full of what sounded like strange ritual - "sacrificed" British soliders in Afghanistan, a former child-soapstar's torso found in the Thames, Blur to close 2012 Olympics, Kaiser Chief to star in War Of The Worlds. Another day in New Jerusalem.

I was rearranging my studio in preparation for  video shoot that evening, so I put the video Connor had sent me on.

The films purported purpose was to raise awareness about a warlord, and a day of action relating to said warlord (to take place on Hitler's birthday, date watchers). It troubled me, deeply, and made me feel strage, and nauseous.

I replied thusly:

Thanks for sending that in, and for your concern, brother Connor. I need to investigate this particular bandwagon more before I board, as something feels a little off about the whole presentation... and there certainly wasn't sufficient evidence in the video alone that would make me agree with their international military intervention proposal. That's something that rarely goes well, certainly not for the people it purported to be for the benefit of anyway - see Libya, most recently...



The movie felt more than a little off to me, the more I thought about it. The overt slickness of the presentation. The tone, the hollywood movie score, the merchandise, the begging for money, the crude and blatant emotional manipulation, the use of a conversation with a child to frame the case in terms as simplistic and black and white as possible - "that man bad, those kids good, what do we do? Kill the bad man!" The presenter's framing of himself as a heroic figure, "daddy, when i grow up I wanna be just like you!" Something about the look in his eyes...

The film was made by, Invisible Children who've previously made 11 films on the same subject, most of which come with an accompanying bracelet - the latest is red, natch…

Visible Children writes:

"I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign... As a registered not-for-profit organisation, its finances are public. Last year, they spent $8,676,614, only 32% went to direct services. Most of the money went on staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee.

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.

As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention."

Here's the aforementioned picture of the filmmakers, taken at the Sudan-Congo border during the 2008 Juba Peace Talks by  Glenna Gordon.

"I felt a lot of discomfort,"Glenna told the Washington Post. "The photo plays into the myth that Invisible Children are very much actively trying to create. They even used the photo on their official response page. I don’t think they think there is a problem with the idea that they are colonial. This photo is the epitome of it, like, we are even going to hold your guns for you.

I can’t bring myself to watch the video. I found all of their previous efforts to be emotionally manipulative, and all the things I try as a journalist not to be. After the peace talks in 2008, they put out another video, and I saw the footage used in these videos blending archival footage with LRA and SPLA and videos of them goofing off. It was the most irresponsible act of image-making that I’d seen in a long time. They conflated the SPLA with the LRA. The SPLA is a government army, holding weapons given by the government, and yet they did not create any division between them and LRA. That’s terrible."

"If you asked Western media consumers to name a bloodthirsty guerrilla movement in Africa it is likely they would point to "warlord" Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)," wrote Keith Snow in 2008, "this thanks to the one-sided fictional media campaigns waged by National Public Radio, Time magazine, Washington Post, or by Christopher Hitchens-who calls them "a Christian Khmer Rouge". In the simplistic Western media narratives, the LRA is always described as a "fanatical Christian cult" that abducts children and forces them to commit atrocities. In the dichotomy of "good" versus "evil" the LRA is "wicked" and the forces they are fighting against, President Museveni and the UPDF, are benevolent... The LRA is a Ugandan guerrilla force backed by the government of Sudan (Khartoum) and its allies and clandestinely supported by unnamed factions in Congo, Europe and Washington.

While the LRA is also supported by Ugandan factions opposed to the Museveni dictatorship, it is widely believed the LRA is a tool of the Museveni government used to manipulate public opinion, create chaos across the region, gain international sympathy from foreign donors and thereby procure massive financial backing to facilitate some of the world's most lucrative and unappreciated AID-for-ARMS scandals. It is the perfect ruse to facilitate permanent foreign military intervention."

The who, the what, the when, the why.

London based Heritage Oil, whose shares rose 4% yesterday following their announcement of the first post-Gadaffi upstream oil deal in Libya, are chaired by one Tony Buckingham, a former “contractor”. Buckingham once set up a mercenary army comprising ex-South African army commandos called Executive Outcomes, a member of which is currently  being held at a maximum security jail in Zimbabwe facing charges of attempting to overthrow the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in oil rich Equatorial Guinea.

Heritage’s modus operandi, according to Buckingham himself, entails deploying “a first mover strategy of entering regions with vast hydrocarbon wealth where we have a strategic advantage”.

As wrote La'Kitgum for Str8talkchronice last October:

"Translation: wherever there’s foreign invasion, civil war, total breakdown of social order, there are big bucks to be made. Thus Heritage’s presence in Iraq, Libya and Uganda... what’s certain is that Heritage barged into Libya via a former SAS commando, John Holmes, founder of Erinys, one of the top mercenary outfits in Iraq apart from Xe Services, former Blackwater. Holmes cunningly shipped the right bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label to Benghazi for the right TNC crooks, seducing them with Heritage’s mercenary know-how of enforcing “oil field security”.

Obama’s Uganda surge is also a classic Pipelineistan gambit. The possibly “billions of barrels” of oil reserves discovered recently in sub-Saharan Africa are located in the sensitive cross-border of Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo... Heritage was the top oil company in Uganda up to 2009, drilling on Lake Albert – between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and playing one country against another. Then they sold their license to Tullow Oil, essentially a spin-off, also owned by Buckingham, bagging $1.5 billion in the process and crucially not paying 30% of profits to Washington’s bastard, the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Enter Libya’s state oil company, Tamoil, which was part of a joint venture with the Ugandans to build a crucial oil pipeline to Kenya; Uganda is landlocked, and badly needs the pipeline when oil exports start next year. The NATO war on Libya paralyzed the Pipelineistan gambit. Now everything is open for business again., with Obama’s special forces “advising” not only Uganda but also the neighbors, and linking up with Heritage – which is essentially a huge oil/mercenary outfit – it’s not hard to fathom where Uganda’s oil contracts will eventually land."

As the article sates, "murderous mystic crackpot Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is now a rag-tag bunch of no more than 400 warriors (they used to be over 2,000). They are on the run – and not even based in Uganda, but in South Sudan (now a Western protectorate), the Central African Republic and the long border with the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Invisible Children COULD continue to rally the online masses to their mighty cause of arming soldiers to merk a small child army and its batshit leader... but if they truly want make themselves useful to humanity, perhaps they might want to make a similarly emotionally charged and easily communicable to children flick about an organization that threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands. Say, Britain's very own Heritage Oil, or the US military.

TIL general Butt Naked exists, by the way.


Thanks to the warriors of the RI messageboard.