Tag Archives: Kony

Letter From Planet Earth: Kony 2012

Dear Gzorgax,

Down here on Earth we’re tired of this damn Stop Kony 2012 thing. I don’t know if you have Internet fads like this on the planet Gliese 667 Cc, but people here are fed up with this flash-in-the-pan, emotionally manipulative, awareness campaign about Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. If there’s one thing we hate it’s lame-arse memes; and no meme is lamer than one about something as lame as children’s faces being mutilated and their parents being killed in front of their eyes. Lame.

Basically this activist dude called Jason Russell made a video about a deranged Ugandan warlord called Joseph Kony. The video has excellent production values and is both distributed via social media and about social media — the medium is the message, which is a popular 20th century cliche. Unfortunately the script of the film is riddled with cliches even more banal and the narrative of the film works mainly as an exposition of the self-indulgent director’s relationship with his cute, but precocious five year old son. Anyway, even you have Facebook now, so I’ll post the link on your wall.

The film’s message is so simple that even said precocious five year old with the annoying face can understand it. Still, you’re probably wondering precisely why people are so affronted by a successful effort to alert the Western population to the existence of a man who induces sexual slavery and possibly even cannibalism. Well, all I can say in this missive is that, luckily, the West has learnt from repeatedly being sucked-in by simplistic narratives from despots. After only a few hundred million resultant deaths in the last few millennia, we’ve now arrived at a stage where most of us are deeply sceptical about claims to truth. Ironically, this same incredulity means we are unlikely to let something like a humanitarian attempt to help Ugandans with their own problems with megalomaniacs go past without it being thoroughly critiqued by jaded commentators.

It doesn’t help Russell’s cause that he has a bit of the true-believer, glazed-eye look about him. But he is also a man who has successfully created a viral video, in an age when people do little else other than try to make viral videos. Most of these videos fall away and we are left with those that have been un-naturally selected by the webosphere for their excellent cats and superb auto-tune. To have cut through this morass and have people learn, however facilely, about a psychopath tyrant, is impressive — but annoying for fans of Shit People Say.

It’s worth noting, however, that Russell once said in an interview that: “If Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono had a baby, I would be that baby.” There are many horribly inhumane things that can be done to children and Joseph Kony has explored many of them. But even a man accused of such crimes as enslavement, pillaging, rape and inducing cannibalism has not yet been accused of the base act of inflicting both Bono and Oprah on the same child.

So you’ll see that the 27 minute Youtube video is lacking in that doesn’t account for Ugandans’ agency, the problems with the Ugandan military, or of the ethics of intervening in another culture’s problems. Which brings us to the overwhelming question, Gzorgax: would it have been better for Ugandans that this video hadn’t gone viral? You know the answer to that and you’re 22 light years away.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.