Kony 2012: It’s Baaaack!

Amanda and I will be participating in the Congo in Harlem panel “Kony 2012: Lessons for the Congo” this Friday. Come check it out if you’re in New York.

Meanwhile, the new Kony 2012 video, “Move,” dropped yesterday, and it’s… well, not really even interesting enough for me to finish this sentence. See for yourself:

There’s a neat screenshot of Amanda and my first Atlantic piece at 15:23, but otherwise it’s mostly just crying. (See Katie J.M. Baker’s Jezebel post for the full run-down, plus coverage of Jason Russell’s Oprah interview.)

At minute 28:53, they finally get down to business and announce a march – or an invasion, it’s hard to tell – on the White House next month. Apparently, I’m not the only one who had difficulty establishing what, exactly, the plan is. The Guardian reported it as follows:


11:18am update: I’m still not clear on what the new campaign is, but apparently it involves a Global Dance Night. For reals.

(H/T: @AfricasaCountry for the screenshot)

Kate Cronin-Furman


  1. From what I gather: there will probably be a dance party (every IC event has one) but the core of the event is a lobbying initiative, urging for US support in both better training for regional armies, funding for helicopters to better follow LRA, and funding for infrastructure development across LRA-affected areas.

    • Ah, thank you. And what’s the bit with the maps covered in numbers about?

      • I gotcha on that one: As the voiceover states, those are the number of people needed from each location to attend the event. I imagine it’s less about specific numbers and more about challenging members of each of those locations.

        • Sure, but…why? This struck me as quite unusual for this organization; regardless of my qualms about the advocacy style and the policy asks, I’ve always been impressed with the strength and clarity of IC’s messaging. Not this time, though.

          • (For some reason I never got an e-mail that you replied. Bah humbug.)

            My guess is that it gives a sense of urgency to those countries, as well. A call out, in a way, saying “We need YOU, person in Chile”

            PS – Read a great write-up on the panel. Wish I could’ve been there. Seemed like a really good discussion.

          • I also didn’t see this until now, but here’s my understanding: there will be a lobby day similar to previous events in DC for the advocacy-minded Americans, and the next day will be a big rally/global-show-of-support for ending the LRA. That’s why there’s also ways on the sight to reach out to heads of state of Uganda, DRC, CAR, South Sudan, Sudan. They want both a US-lobbying approach as well as international support for the movement. That’s my take anyways, not 100% sure (I agree that messaging was a little less clear with this part).

  2. It looks like the main purpose of the video is to make IC critics feel responsible for what happened to Jason Russels. I am appalled, again.

  3. The article you guys wrote for the Atlantic is still pretty much one of the only commentaries with any sense or truth whatsoever (excellent piece of writing!) – yet, the responses to it by a lot of people were nonsensical (angry, defensive, etc). People believe in this nonsense all the way – why?? It’s hard to stomach this whole charade a second time around – why on earth does he garner so much attention? How can so many people be so embarrassingly ignorant?

    I am happy to note that it didn’t take off in the UK (and for any naysayers – yes, there are many many human right’s campaigns all the time here – the difference is they make sense and actually matter to the people they are campaigning for). Is it just Americans who are so gullible? One wonders.

    • One also wonders why so many academics are so quick to hate on anything Invisible Children. It’s almost as if they are waiting for something to be outraged about. That wouldn’t be so surprising if those same critics willfully ignore all the locally inspires, locally run, and locally sustained programs that IC has throughout Uganda, the Congo, and, to a lesser degree, CAR.

      It is simultaneously baffling and disheartening to see such intelligent people write off/ignore such amazing programs because they don’t agree with pop-esque style of IC’s media.

      • @John, I agree with you completely, but you won’t find any joy suggesting those things here. I haven’t found this to be a place for reasoned discussion – it strikes me more as an opportunity to stand out by adopting a contrarian attitude and then (ironically) indulging in self-promotion, the very thing KONY 2012 gets a kicking for.

        Unfortunately, suggestions that one has to be “gullible” and “embarrassingly ignorant” to “believe in this nonsense” is reasonably typical here.

      • I have no axe to grind here — not an academic or a student or affiliated with any NGO, just a random bystander who tries to pay attention to stuff — there’s nothing baffling about Amanda and Kate’s (and many others) critique of IC.

        1. The videos are unethical, as they violate basic guidelines for documenting human rights abuses.

        2. The videos are relentlessly self-promotional of the organization and in particular the individuals in those organizations. This also violates widely accepted best practices, which are not some sort of precious affectation, but have become accepted because when you act like the Great White Savior Hero of Awesomeness, it pisses off the people who you are trying to help.

        3. The specific policy goals of IC aren’t made clear in the video, but from collateral info seem to be generally concentrated on lobbying for increased U.S. military assistance and intervention. And hey, guns, bullets and soldiers are just _always_ the best way to solve extremely complicated regional conflicts, right?

        4. The emphasis on Kony and his atrocities minimizes a variety of other regional bad actors, who would likely be the direct beneficiaries of the interventions described in #3.

        As for the “pop-esque style” of the video, yeah, folks have snarked on it a bit (my favorite comment at the panel discussion was Kate’s, “my first impression of the video was — wow, how did he get such great lighting at his wife’s C-section”). But in the writings I’ve seen, and at the panel discussion on Friday many of the critics have complimented the technical merits of the video. A running theme through the critiques is that talents have been misused and misspent, rather than directed critical of the “pop-esque style”.

        • Food for thought in response to your points:

          1) My comment was focused on IC’s programs, not its media, so we will leave that discussion for another day. My point was that many people love to wait for a new video to critique, but somehow never mention IC’s programs in Congo, CAR, and Uganda.

          2) Again, we are talking about the programs, not the media. People, like Teju Cole, who claim that IC suffers from a “White Savior Complex” have clearly not take the time to research IC’s programs. All of IC’s programs are a response to local conversations in response to real needs expressed by locals. These programs are locally inspired, locally run, and are Ugandan helping Ugandans (or Congolese helping Congolese etc.)

          Respectfully, to say that IC has such a savior complex means that you have taken the time to watch their videos, but never the time to read up on their programs. Here’s a convenient link which I got from searching “Invisible Children Programs” on Google: http://invisiblechildren.com/program/

          3) Who is the one simplifying things now? IC’s calls for action have always been multi-faceted and military action is PART of the solution. Equally important are giving ways for the LRA to peacefully defect via defection fliers and “come home” messaging (re:programs). We also can’t forget that during the Juba Peace Talks, the LRA used the ceasefire to continue abducting and looting to bolster their strength. That is a documented fact.

          I am generally curious to know, though: How do you propose to stop the LRA?

          4) I’ll cut straight to the bone here: What do you think would happen to the IC’s programs in Uganda if they criticized Museveni the way (and Allimadi on the panel) you and many other says they should. I have a good guess: IC would be expelled from the country. Not an uncommon practice in many countries. At this point, I hope you have read through IC’s programs because you know that IC getting expelled from the country would mean thousands of Ugandan students losing the scholarships they had earned.

          To say that IC should criticize Museveni more is short-sighted in itself. Let some organization that does not have program in Uganda do that.

          Lastly, snark is all well and good, but it makes it hard to find understanding and a middle ground when one side relentlessly mocks the other. And if we aren’t trying to find some sort of middle ground, why are we even discussing this? Something to keep in mind.

          • John, the guidelines and ethical standards that have been cited in response to IC’s media were developed by organizations that promote and deliver solutions to problems every bit as heartbreaking as the ones we’re discussing. IC’s in-country programs are simply beside the point — there are no exceptions for particularly worthy programs or deserving causes. I have not read, and I did not hear on Friday, anything that addresses the ethical issues other than by suggesting that these particular ends justify the prohibited means.

          • In response to your below post, Salguod:

            I see that you are going to ignore my points and focus solely on IC’s media. I’ll assume that means my points stand.

            And let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? What everyone is referencing is IC’s over-used footage of Jacob crying. Not excusing how the footage was obtained over 8 years ago, I believe it does change things when Jacob, now an adult, consents to use of the footage.

            The point of my original post here was don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Most intelligent people who criticize IC for their media seem to assume, or not care, about IC’s programs. They choose to selectively focus on what they see as the negative and ignore the positive. What I am trying to do by writing here is to challenge those who read this not to do just that.

            IC’s critics are just as guilty of oversimplification as IC is. Except that the critics are oversimplifying IC.

  4. Thank you for this piece, I will share it with my students! (as I did with your Atlantic piece this past summer). Honestly, I was shocked by the simplicity of Russel’s campaign and even MORE shocked that he is releasing a new film that so focuses on him instead of Kony. What a complete ego-maniac!

  5. You are all missing the point. Their advocacy is bad and their programs are bad. I was living in northern Uganda when IC showed up and they tried to “help” without any understanding of what that may mean in a post-colonial highly dependent semi-authoritarian state. They have learned, but not enough. They are on the path, but they are not there yet. So instead of investing all this time in IC I prefer to invest it in Oxfam, MFS, IRC and other orgs who truly get it, have gotten it for a long time and are committed to doing something about it, ethically and programmatically. I also invest in hearing what the leaders of the regional governments themselves have to say, which often isn’t what we want to hear. But fact is that it’s their countries and they have to take primary responsibility. I like that more people have heard of Kony. When I got there in 2004 no one knew the name. But if you are fighting an enemy it’s not enough to know his name. You need details. And this campaign is in that respect seriously lacking.

    • What about their programs are bad? Having traveled to the region and seen some of their programs, they are sustainable and focus on giving agency to the Acholi people.

      I no longer work in Uganda, so maybe things have changed, but I was impressed by what I saw.

  6. So if Kony is planning to march on the white house why not arrest him once he gets there?

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