Kony: Some Thoughts from a Local Expert (and General Crankiness from Us)

Categories: Whatever

kony-2012.jpg
Kony on the mind.
If you're a sentient creature, chances are you've seen, or heard tell of, Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign, and chances are you have an opinion about it. There's also a good chance that, regardless of which camp you're in, you're an insufferable, sanctimonious dillweed. (Sorry; we've just had more than our allotted share of Kony punditry for the week and are a little irritated.)

For those of you who have mercifully escaped Invisible Children's tentacles, they're a not-for-profit group who produced a 30-minute video viewed by 38 million people and counting about a horrible Central African militia leader named Joseph Kony, who for years has terrorized the region. His thugs kidnap kids, turn them into soldiers and sex slaves, and generally butcher everyone else they encounter. But, to our knowledge, their crimes against humanity have stopped short of producing a video so utterly douche-drenched as that of the Invisible Children one narrated by, and dominated by, IC's Jason Russell.

For one thing, Russell seems to spend as much time displaying his flaxen-haired progeny, Gavin, as he does Kony, to the point where we're now confused as to which one is the brutal Ugandan warlord, and which is the one who likes jumping on the trampoline. In the same way Kony uses defenseless children to perpetrate unspeakable atrocities, Russell uses Gavin to show just how awesome Russell is. At one point, Russell plunks the little moppet down for an interview; "So, Gav" (yeah, of course he would call him "Gav"), Russell begins, "What do I do for a job?" To which Gavin replies, "You stop the bad guys from being mean."

We're not exactly sure how Gavin arrived at this conclusion, and we question the veracity of his fact-finding, but Russell does nothing to correct the lad, so it appears that at least Russell thinks the answer is sound.

As vomitous as we found that naked display of self-aggrandizement, it's actually not the point in the film where Russell reaches the apex of Mount Douchemanjaro. No, that otherworldly feat comes when he's speaking to a class of what looks like college kids. Russell says they might ask themselves "Who are you to stop a war?" When Russell provides the punch line, "I'm here to say, 'Who are you not to?'" we've never before wanted to punch someone in the mouth so badly. (Kate Cronin-Furman and Amanda Taub probably summed it up best in their piece for The Atlantic: "Invisible Children has turned the myopic worldview of the adolescent -- 'if I didn't know about it, then it doesn't exist, but if I care about, then it is the most important thing in the world' -- into a foreign policy prescription.")

Now, we say all that to say this: We actually have no problem with the film's intent -- spreading awareness about a serious issue can't be a bad thing. We just wish Errol Morris, or simply someone who isn't a narcissistic wanker, had made it. And that's why it's important to be reminded that this film is, overall, a good thing, by people who know more about this situation than us. (Yes, even though we watched all 30 minutes, we still don't quite feel like we're experts. Weird.)

So that's why we enjoyed our talk with South Texas College of Law Professor Dru Stevenson, who, through his church, got involved in humanitarian efforts in Africa some years back. (Stevenson is involved with so many nonprofits that he once got an e-mail from someone purporting to be Kony, saying he and his troops were hiding out and in need of food. Stevenson didn't reply, which is a shame, because we'd love to have Kony's e-mail, if only so we could flood his inbox with Viagra offers and pleas from that one Nigerian prince.)

Stevenson has a problem with critics who say Invisible Children spends too much on travel and video as opposed to direct aid, as well as those who say that IC is late to the game because Kony has been out of Uganda for years, and he's not as powerful as he once was.

"There's really a need to get this on the radar of the American public during an election year," Stevenson says. He points out that there are already plenty of charities that provide direct relief to Africans in need -- and Invisible Children is helping on a different front. "A whole generation of young people...all of a sudden are aware that there's one of the worst brutes in history -- you know, a Hitler-type figure -- is still on the loose in central Africa," he says. "....The problem hasn't gone away."

"Another...cheap shot that people have been making is that Kony and his group are not in Uganda right now," Stevenson says. "....But they've basically been making their way through south Sudan, the Central African Republic and the DRC, marauding as they go. So...two or three years ago, there were reports that all of a sudden in the Central African Republic, people were finding villages where everyone in the village [had] their hands amputated, and they knew, 'Uh-oh, Joseph Kony is in the area.'" (Others had their tongues cut out, Stevenson adds.)

"When policy-makers in an election year realize that voters care about this, there's definitely things they can do. They can authorize rewards and bounties...send in special forces units, like we did to get bin Laden, and so on, to do this. If we can get bin Laden, we can get Joseph Kony. And Joseph Kony is hurting a lot more people right now than bin Laden was when we got him."

See, these are the kinds of things Hair Balls needs to keep in mind when we think about Jason Russell's film, with his noxious narration and exploitation of his offspring. For all its faults, at least the world is now aware of a horrible monster. And it's also aware of Joseph Kony.


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14 comments
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CV73
CV73

watch a documentary called "The Redemption Of General Butt Naked". This is not some new shit happing over there. The U.S. will never do anything about any of this because they are not an OPEC country. - Signed Somalia.

Blairault
Blairault

I don't think anybody is trying to make this issue important because it is new. I think particularly because we have no resource interest there, it's important for is to encourage are leaders to not lessen their resolve to be supportive of progressive measures.

Blair Ault
Blair Ault

This opinion piece should have been titled "some general crankiness from us". This really seems like two different issues, or rather, mostly cranky drum-beating but then realizing that you actually probably shouldn't get in the way of the effectiveness of the message after you to talk to someone who knows more...? Then you do it anyway to prove you really didn't learn anything after you did talk to the expert. (?)

It may be true that the video is flooded with pathos and that it can be hard for the politically cynical to put aside their disillusionment for one more cause. I would urge you, however, to recognize that within yourself and just let it be. There is no harm in caring about this cause. There is no harm in wanting to do something about it. Perhaps if some success is seen abroad, the same people who participated might have more confidence to do something about any of the other issues that "Hair Balls" speaks out about. I certainly want to see more people at city council meetings and more social consciousness here at home, and maybe it starts with allowing people some success with it abroad. It doesn't matter if you are turned off by the tactics of Invisible Children; try not to confuse the issue with the messengers, and at least don't be one more who stands in the way of some success.

H_e_x
H_e_x

That message being "give us your money and maybe some of it will go to the kids."

Blairault
Blairault

While that is an option, the main message is "care and tell others". If you choose to care by giving money, that's fine. I care by researching and trying to share awareness.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Oof, don't even get me started on the Susan G Komen organization. Now there's a scam if I ever saw one, and ornery bastards to boot.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Awareness =/= action. If it did, pink ribbons would have the magical power to cure cancer.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Doesn't justify wasting so much money. That kind of flagrant waste does harm because it gives people the impression that good work is being done, when in reality very little is being done. All it does is give people an opportunity to pat themselves on the back for raising awareness, instead of giving to an organization that does good work.

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