KONY 2012 (Subversive film, worth a look)

KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

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19 thoughts on “KONY 2012 (Subversive film, worth a look)

  1. Very powerful and moving. I have to admit I felt uncomfortable with the way Russell put his son in the film. He seemed awfully young to be answering those kinds of questions. I guess Russell knows his own son, but I’m not sure it was necessary to tell him “there’s a really bad man out there and nobody knows where he is.”

  2. I’m having some thoughts about this case:

    1) an ‘arrest’ of Kony, given that he’s been soldiering for 20 years, is good at hiding, and has eluded several internationally-backed attempts to capture him by elite squads, sounds like a synonym of ‘total military defeat of the LRA’. I suspect that a total military defeat of the LRA would involve no small amount of killing.

    2) The Wiki on the LRA contains the following line:

    “The LRA leadership has long stated that they would never surrender unless they were granted immunity from prosecution; so the ICC order to arrest them raised concerns that the insurgency would not have a negotiated end.”

    …which reinforces my belief that an ‘arrest’ of Kony actually means ‘military defeat of the LRA’.

    3) Kony has no qualms about coercively using child soldiers. I’d be interested in reading anthro studies on the rate of child-soldier usage when child-soldier-using groups are threatened militarily, if such studies exist. My current understanding is that child soldiers are used as ‘cheap’ frontline troops, because it is easy to recruit more of them by raiding unprotected villages. Given that, it seems like militarily pressuring the LRA would actually increase the absolute number of child soldiers (at the very least, in the short term).

    4) Is there another way forward? This is where some tricky ethics comes in. In general, I think there are two ethical narratives to look at – I’ll call them ‘Harm-minimisation Ethics’, and ‘Justice Ethics’. I think that these two ethical narratives are in conflict in the Kony case.

    Under Justice Ethics, the goal is to punish people who commit crimes. Kony is undoubtedly guilty of many horrible crimes, and clearly deserves every punishment that the ICC can throw at him.

    Under Harm-minimisation Ethics, the goal is to reduce the number of people killed, raped, abducted, etc. to the lowest possible number. This is a good goal for obvious reasons.

    Here is where I think Justice Ethics and Harm-minimisation Ethics conflict: ‘arresting’ Kony (Justice Ethics) probably means complete military defeat of the LRA – which the LRA will fight tooth and nail, killing people in the process. An alternative is to negotiate an end to the conflict using the threat of an insurmountable military force as negotiating power. With a sufficient military force, it may even be possible to negotiate the complete surrender and disarmament of the LRA, with few (or even no) further casualties. That would be a good outcome under Harm-minimisation Ethics.

    But in order to negotiate, the LRA will have to be offered an outcome that they will take *in preference to* fighting a large army. Kony doesn’t mind fighting. If he has good control over his troops (which he’s likely to have – he’s been leading them for 20 years), I doubt that his own arrest and trial by the ICC will be something that he’ll accept in negotiations. He’d probably prefer to fight than be locked up.

    As much as it pains me to say it, I cannot support Justice Ethics at the expense of Harm-minimisation Ethics. I cannot support extra people getting killed just so that someone can rot in jail for their crimes. I suspect that this is a large part of the reason that war-criminals almost never make it to trial: they either get killed while fighting to the death, or they still have enough negotiating power (via whatever forces they still have left) to negotiate their freedom as part of the peace deal.

  3. This has been a case study in why we need to teach ‘critical thinking’ much better in our education system. We need bullet point rules of thumb – at the moment people have the attitude ‘yer I have studied subject xyz, so Ive developed my critical thinking skills…’ when they clearly aint!

    Seeing even politics grads that I know become swept up in this was particularly disheartening.

    our education system desperately needs to teach people how to think well/smartly! as sam harris says, humanity has a bigger project…to become sane

    For those witnessing the viral inception of the ‘kony 2012’ cult and its immediate debunking on the interweb recently, I offer this (low-brow) gem:

    Joseph Kony vs Rick Santorum. One is a Christian fundamentalist aspiring to cripple his nation under a backwards theocracy centred around Ten Commandments law… the other is Joseph Kony! ‘dum’dum!

  4. kungfuhobbit, I’m not sure what your point is in regards to the short film or the Lords Resistance Army.

    At the moment I’m remaining agnoistic. I am, however, suspicious of outsiders doing documentaries. I am also suspicious of a critical thing on the internet showing up and suddenly there is a concerted effort that seems to be coming from multiple direcitons, but mainly sources you’ve never heard of before, saying it is wrong and should be discredited. And, I’m suspicious of almost everything I hear out of Uganda. Also, I’m suspicious of the quality of information I see out there about the LRA and about it’s political and sociohistorical context.

    The region I worked and lived in for several years overlaps culturally and politically and I’m reasonably familiar with the (earlier) history of the region. This does not inform me at all about the film, but it does inform me a bit about the bullshit level. All my bullshit meters are going off at the moment.

  5. ^my comments are regarding the credulous reaction of those swept up in Invisible Children’s kony 2012 ‘movement’

  6. Kungfuhobbit: Your first link is to a five year old post that is out of date. The LRA was indeed pushed into the Congo, and also CAR. and they moved back to Uganda, and they’ve been in the Sudan. The information in that post is out of date and inaccurate.

    The post at the second link rightly point out that this is hard. It wrongly implies that since this is hard we should ignore it. It also bring up this strange bugaboo that if we demonize a demon we might accidentally demonize a saint. I am not impressed.

    The third link is largely redundant with the second link.

    There are some important points in these critiques, but they hardly lead to the conclusion that this documentary is not making important points and they do not effectively argue that increasing pressure to do something about this many decades old problem is a bad thing.

  7. I dont know about inaccurate, but its criticisms are plural. (the poster notes it is outdated)

    I dont understand how you arrive at your analysis of the second link.

    I also didnt get this analogy please?:
    ‘if we demonize a demon we might accidentally demonize a saint’

    my core criticism with kony 2012 comes down to the issue of opportunity cost – that money, effort, awareness etc are being channelled into a complex issue with a low likelihood of satisfactory solubility – it’s a zero sum game and public altruism, pressure and resources could be better spent on other causes with greater merit

    why did you label the video subversive?

  8. I’m a long-time reader, and I’ve come to admire you a great deal. I’m eagerly awaiting your follow-up post in light of recent events and revelations.

    No one on FTB knows more about the Congo than you, but then you put up this viral video uncritically, despite the Jim Inhofe and other disreputable connections, and fellow FTBers like Crommunist Jason Thibault are apparently eating your lunch.

    I appreciate that you post things that presume intelligence and critical thinking on the part of your readers. But this story is rapidly spiraling out of control, and you have yet to post a followup, and your silence is starting to look like consent to a pretty ugly situation.

    The appropriately thoughtful and skeptical response would do a lot to enhance your credibility and reputation as the Web’s go-to metaskeptic.

    I certainly understand that Joseph Kony is a right son-of-a-bitch. But that doesn’t excuse or exonerate our own sons-of-bitches, to whom we have a greater responsibility, if on no other grounds than geographic proximity.

  9. Greg,

    The Kony 2012 campaign is a reactionary, evangelical Christian front, using willful deception and propaganda to serve purposes that have nothing to do with the depredations of Joseph Kony.

    True, false, or undetermined? What’s the evidence say?

    Is the enemy of my enemy my friend, or is the enemy of my enemy just another enemy?

    Sometimes there are no good guys. The evidence would seem to indicate that this is one of those times.

  10. HP, two things very quickly. One, please do not spend any more effort telling me how mad you are at me becuase you had it in your brain that I was supposed to be doing something that I didn’t happen to do. You have no idea how offensive that is. You should have seen the response I wrote last night to your comment, but deleted.

    Second, I know nothing whatsoever about this charity or this film maker. Nada.

    Third, much of the reaction I’ve seen as push back against KONY 2012 has been unattributed ignorant ranting, which does not leave me with much evidence or even a guess as to what that is all about.

    Fourth, re-read your last sentence. My own “SOB’s” are in central Africa, not here, not you, not this guy with his dick hanging out in San Diego; the LRA is very real but is only part of a long standing wide spread atrocity which is emergent from, in no small part, evangelical and pre-evangelical religious mucking around in the region from Central Sudan south to Lake Victoria, from western Kenya through the Great Lake region since about 1870, and there really are Children soldiers, and it is really true that no one in the US thinks or even knows about any of this. This is a case where awareness raising is useful.

    I have been swamped. I’ve been home for four out of the last 72 hours, and I’m on my way out again right now, wasting time explaining to you that while I love to hear suggestions as to what to write about, you do not have the right to yell at me about what I did not do that you imagined I should do.

    I’ll probably write about this issue long after the hype has died down. Honestly, the LRA and related bullshit has been cooking along for 160 years in one form or another (not always Christian) and is not affected by this conversation and will continue until we have an entirely new way of thinking about these things.

    And the last sentence of your comment represents one of the attitudes that has to go.

    … Running out of house now.

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