Somewhere in the scrub forests of East-Central Africa is a man so evil that he is the epitome of all that is wrong with the Universe, a man so utterly vile that tracking him down and bringing him to justice is a Holy Crusade, one that should involve children from around the world.
It’s a Children’s Crusade, too, because this monster is allegedly a uniquely savage predator of children, pulling them away from their families to conscript them into his savage personal army; thousands and thousands of them. This monster must be stopped.
And there is just one force which can stop him.
If you think this sounds like the plot of a hackneyed Hollywood action movie, you wouldn’t be wrong.
For anyone who hasn’t cottoned on yet, I’m talking of the Internet’s latest involuntary star, the Ugandan war criminal and militia leader Joseph Kony. He’s the star of an internet campaign by an “activist group” called Invisible Children, who have made a video which went viral on YouTube and gathered many million views. If it were a Hollywood film, it would be called a terrific hit.
In fact, in many ways, it was like a Hollywood film, carefully constructed to elicit an emotional response with a minimum of thought involved. In fact, the very slickness of the video, its obvious attempt to make the viewer think as the makers want them to think, immediately aroused resistance and suspicion. Making things even more Hollywoodish was the involvement of “activists” like Angelina Jolie, who claimed “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t hate Kony”.
Really, lady? You don’t know anyone who doesn’t hate Kony? Try any of the more than 99% of the planet’s population who have never heard of him.
Just who might Joseph Kony be, anyway?
Born in Northern Uganda, Joseph Kony was a onetime altar boy who later came to command a militia called the Lord’s Resistance Army. This militia itself grew out of something called the Holy Spirit Movement, a messianic Christian cult of the Acholi people, which tried to oppose the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museweni. Here is an excellent account of the LRA's origins.
Now, Mr Kony is not, actually, a nice person. Let’s be very clear about this; Mr Kony is a very nasty person, and his Lord’s Resistance Army is by all accounts an extremely nasty militia. Over the last three decades and a bit, it’s murdered many people, kidnapped many more (estimated at thirty thousand, if you believe the reports) to make some of them into child soldiers and sex slaves, and mutilated a not inconsiderable number. You’d say that his reputation as a villain has some justification, and the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museweni the Chosen One who’s supposed to defeat Kony and bring him to justice, is the right man for the job.
The problems with that are, actually, many.
In the first place, Kony isn’t the Ultimate Evil he’s painted to be. In fact, he’s not even a particularly repulsive warlord by Central African standards, and probably no worse than Museweni himself, whose own depredations were the reason the Acholi people rebelled in the first place. Museweni, a close ally of the Empire, is a man who’s up to his neck in war crimes himself, and is one of the worst culprits of the civil war in Congo – along with his erstwhile ally and protégé, the Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame.
While Kony’s LRA of course did use child soldiers, that’s an extremely common occurrence in sub-Saharan Africa, and quite logical when you think of it. Children, actually, make superb soldiers. They obey orders utterly without question, they have no intrinsic moral compass, and they lack a sense of self-preservation. They can be utterly and fearlessly brutal without even knowing the implications of what they’re doing. They are smaller than adult soldiers, require less food and facilities, and can be kept going with drugs like amphetamines as long as required. And in an overpopulated and impoverished part of the world, when they die, they can be replaced easily and cheaply. Armies all over sub-Saharan Africa have used child soldiers to fight their battles.
And if that sounds strange, it’s because when most people hear the word “army”, they think of a force with a centralised command structure with soldiers commanded by, and under the control of, a central authority. But most African militaries aren’t like that. They may wear uniforms and carry modern weapons, but in most respects they have more in common with their militia opponents than with an army in other parts of the world. Their generals act more in the way of warlords than officers of a military hierarchy. These generals fight wars for personal profit as much as for political or nationalistic reasons. Museweni is as guilty of fighting such wars as Kony, and is guilty of far more deaths.
And this is the Saviour the people behind Invisible Children want to aid to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Actually, there are far more things that are wrong with that idea. For one thing, Invisible Children claims that they are not “overlooking” the crimes of the Ugandan Army, and yet are passionately pushing for arming that same Ugandan Army. This strange dichotomy gets even worse when one realises that the Empire has sent a hundred Special Forces to “train” Museweni’s army and pursue Kony, wherever he may be, and that one of Invisible Children’s prime aims is to ensure that those Special Forces stay where they are.
This is strange on several levels. First of all, though the Lord’s Resistance Army originated in northern Uganda, it has not been there for years and as far as is known is now over a thousand kilometres away. This is something the people at Invisible Children themselves admit – but nobody who watches their Kony video will come away having learned that little fact. The northern Ugandans themselves are severely resentful of the video’s implication that they are still at the mercy of the LRA; they have long since moved on with their lives and they want to be left alone to move on with their lives.
I said that the LRA was nowhere near northern Uganda. It’s also no longer the force it once was; at the best estimates it only has a couple of hundred fighters left and is on its last legs as an organisation. It’s hardly the source of ultimate, child-eating evil that Invisible Children claims it to be.
And as for the monster Kony himself? There’s something very interesting about him, which I’ll discuss in a moment. For now, let’s say that there are probably more pressing problems in Africa, and the world at large, than bringing Joseph Kony to book.
So why, exactly, is Invisible Children suddenly jumping on this bandwagon at this present time?
In order to understand that, it’s necessary to discuss just who Invisible Children are. The group’s finances are rather murky, to say the least; it doesn’t even have a good transparency rating, and it apparently had a big infusion of cash from some unknown source at about the same time those hundred Special Forces turned up in Uganda to train its army to capture or kill Kony. It has been accused of various malfeasances, and its members have been photographed holding guns and posing with members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. In other words, the group which wants the world to unite against one militia has no problems with hobnobbing with members of another militia.
Now, it’s not unknown that the Empire is trying to expand into Africa in a big way; Africa is ripe for economic neo-colonialism, stuffed with unexploited resources including, in the case of Uganda, the magical word: oil. As those of us with some analytical ability know, denying the “other side” control over oil is as much a part of geopolitics these days as controlling it oneself is. It does seem somewhat strangely opportune, then, that Invisible Children should suddenly set up a video demanding that the Empire’s soldiers remain in place to ensure Kony should be brought to book – and that in a place where he is not, and has not been for many years.
It seems even more strangely opportune that nobody, outside presumably his own militia members, has actually seen Mr Kony for years, and there is a strong and persistent rumour that he died some five years ago. If he is actually dead, in fact, that would make him the perfect villain; he can never be found, never brought to book, but must always be flitting around in the shadows of our consciousness, like a real life Hannibal Lecter with an army to back him up. The facts don’t matter – it’s the perception which does.
And this, I believe, is the actual plan behind the much-derided Twitter and blogtivist campaign launched by Invisible Children and its celebrity backers like la Jolie. Not even the most deluded individual will believe that tweeting STOPKONY is going to bring the monster to book. Nor will keeping soldiers where the man manifestly isn’t, do anything to make him answer for his crimes. But the perception of the danger from Kony, and the necessity for protecting children – that is what it will take for people of the liberal persuasion to promote, quite unthinkingly, a military presence in a part of the world where there was no military presence at all.
Make no mistake – the target of the Kony video and Invisible Children is the so-called “liberal” section of the populace. These “liberals” are extremely dangerous people because they can be easily brainwashed into doing precisely the wrong things by some clever propaganda. They – far more than the conservatives – are the ones pressing for an invasion of Syria. They are the ones who cheered the aggression against Libya and now look the other way while brutal Al Qaeda-affiliated militias terrorise that nation. They are the ones who support “humanitarian war” and can’t understand the oxymoron in the term. It’s no surprise that the Kony video has the blessings of Hollywood celebrities like Jolie; with its faux reputation for liberalism, Hollywood would never have got the support of conservatives anyway.
Even the paternalism of the White Man’s Burden, implicit in the idea that the “enlightened West” in the form of the soldiers Angelina Jolie and her peers want to go and hunt down Kony, is perfectly in sync with this kind of unthinking “liberalism”. A conservative would have turned away in disgust and left the "savage" Africans to fight it out; it’s the “liberal” who will push for troops to be sent and save those poor benighted lesser breeds without the law from themselves.
This faux “liberalism”, too, is the reason why children are the focus of the video, though the LRA has been accused of lots of atrocities towards adults. It’s because people react on an emotional level to children. Very few are realistic enough to see through propaganda using children as the USP, and even if they do, even fewer are bold enough to stick their necks out to expose that propaganda and be called cynical monsters. (That’s why anti-Syria propaganda sites like Paola Pisi's Uruk Net keep repeating the claim that the Syrian government are “child-torturers”, or why anti-abortionists keep calling foetuses “unborn children”; it’s emotional blackmail.) The image of a doe-eyed, tearful kid affects most of us on a subconscious level, because protecting kids is something hardwired into the majority of us. We react viscerally to it; we have no choice. And the propagandists know that.
And Invisible Children’s plans are not just confined to Uganda, either. In 2009, Obama signed something called the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Passed, in true Obama fashion, without Congressional approval, it
allows the US to deploy military forces in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan (at the consent of those nations) in pursuit of LRA rebels. [Source]
Remember South Sudan? That newly free, impoverished nation with border problems with Sudan to the north, with its own rebels, and with all that lovely, lovely oil? How about Congo, which has been ripped by year after year of horrible civil war, but which has its own riches under the soil? Now, with a manhunt seeking an invisible, incredibly malicious figure who may not even exist any longer and so cannot possibly be brought to justice, any nation which refuses to throw its territory open to forces “pursuing” him risks being seen as allying itself with him, and therefore part of this new Axis of Utterly Depraved Child-Killing Evil. Even assuming Kony is alive, he, in fact, cannot be tracked down until and unless he outlives his utility and a new and even more menacing enemy can be substituted.
On another level, there are critics who claim that Invisible Children is a scam. Of course, it is a scam, with Kony T shirts being sold and schoolchildren being asked to make donations for the Cause. But that’s merely small potatoes compared to the actual profits to be made from facilitating the occupation; so why is it being done at all? Isn’t it counterproductive?
I believe it’s being done quite deliberately, to provide a smokescreen; in order that those who see through Invisible Children’s tissue of lies and fabrications will come up against the scam and be content in thinking it’s just a con game, and not delve any deeper. And while everyone’s attention is focussed on the spectre of Kony, the real agenda will play itself out on the ground. It is a scam, and on more than one level.
It’s up to us to spread the word, far and wide, and make sure it does not succeed.