Archive | October, 2012

Kony 2012 Funded by Anti-gay Organisations

15 Oct

Through research of the Invisible Children’s tax forms it has come to light that the group received funding from anti-gay organizations as well as having financial ties to evangelicals. The Daily Mail reported that the National Christian Foundation gave Invisible Children ‘$350,000 in 2007 and $414,000 in 2008 to the group’, as well as funding anti-gay rights groups and opponents to equal marriage rights. The mission of the National Christian Foundation is ‘enable followers of Christ to give wisely to advance His Kingdom’ (Huffington Post, 2012). According to (2012) ‘Invisible Children had appeared on the radar screen of some of the world’s largest Christian fundamentalist grant-making organizations’. In 2006 Invisible Children’s first yearly report gave “special thanks” to the Caster family Foundation and in 2007 they directly thank Terry and Barbara Caster (Jezebel, 2012). The Caster Family ‘one of the biggest financial backers of California’s anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8’ (Jezebel, 2012), donating $162,500 (Huffington Post, 2012). The National Christian Foundation also interestingly funds ‘Ed Silvoso’s Harvest Evangelism — all extremely active antigay fundamentalist organizations. Some of these groups have ties to Uganda, too, like Ed Silvoso, who works with Julius Oyet, the Ugandan author who claims that “even animals are wiser than homosexuals” and has been working to promote the Anti Homosexuality bill (also called the “kill the gays bill”) in his country’ (Jezebel, 2012).


Daily Mail. 2012, Kony 2012 filmmakers under fire for funding from anti-gay Christians,, 15/10/2012.

Huffington Post. 2012, Kony 2012 Funding: Invisible Children Accepted Money From Anti-Gay Christian Groups,, 15/10/2012.

Jezebel. 2012, Kony 2012 and Invisible Children are Funded by Antigay Creationist Groups,, 15/10/2012.


The Power of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter

9 Oct

Mjos (2012: 12) highlights the ability that global social media possesses to create active users and to increase viewer participation. Although these sites of social media are often corporate or contested spaces, people are offered the ability to interact and provide input in the  process (Mjos, 2012: 12). The globalisation of media has been connected to how communications and technology infrastructure has enabled and increased the amount of opportunities for international communication and the distribution of this media (Katz, 2005). Brah (2002: 33) reiterates this point by stressing the role of the global market place and how this has accelerated change in economic, political, cultural, and social spheres. Mjos (2012: 28) highlights that many of these social media outlets, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, have become sites of everyday life for users across the globe. The American on-line environment is the largest internationally, with the most time being spent on Facebook (Mjos, 2012: 25). These sites are important in the creation of a online community, where information is shared internationally with no barriers and connections and relationships can be made with people on the other side of the  globe (Mjos, 2012).

Established in 2004 by Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole and Jason Russell, the Invisible Children organisation had already produced 11 videos, all about Ugandan militarisation, which they used to establish a base of college age followers through social mediums such as, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (Goodman and Preston, 2012). The larger Stop Kony campaign’s aim was to make Joseph Kony ‘famous’ and a household name (Goodman and Preston, 2012).The video went viral almost immediately, and after one week it had 73 million views on YouTube (Cavanagh, 2012). Currently the video has over 93 million views on YouTube and over 100 million in Vimeo.

Hunter Walk, Director of product management for YouTube spoke about the globalised nature of the meduim:

“YouTube has truly become a global living room. Today the YouTube community is more than 850 million monthly visitors. It’ll be a billion-person community quite soon. This has resulted in more than 72 hours of video per minute uploaded, and four billion hours of video watched per month. What’s really amazing is that growth hasn’t slowed down – there’s an incredible appetite for video” (quoted in Har-Even, 2012).

In a world that is ‘radically connected and increasingly divided’, a cosmopolitan viewpoint upholds the idea that people can still acknowledge local commitments and take into account larger arenas of concern (Hull, Stronaiuolo and Sahni, 2010: 331). As Hansen (2010: 1) states, individuals can “respond creatively to shifts in patterns of human interaction generated by migration, rapid economic and political change, and new communication technologies”. Increasingly social media are sites of cosmopolitan practice where ideas about cultural citizenship, communication and identity formation are contested through the representations of the self and the other (Hull et al., 2010: 331). Hull et al. (2010: 332)highlight the ability that social networking sites pocess to get users to imagine themselves in their local context in relation to others in the world, thus developing an awareness of positionality.  “Those who write about cosmopolitanism often use metaphors of welcome and connectedness: an open door, a gateway or port of entry, an inviting host, a dialogue, a conversation” (Hull et al, 2010: 333). As such,  compassionate connections between members of the global community can be formed and global ethnics are created to overcome differnces in atempt to forge a global community (Hull et al, 2010: 333). The Kony video utilizes this skill when at the beginning of the video the directors son is shown playing and ‘enjoying freedom’, in stark contrast to the type of life children are experiencing in Uganda. Thus, it could be said that the video ’emotionally manipulates’ its viewers.

Messages tagged #StopKony2012 and #MakeKonyFamous were worldwide trending topics:

Oprah Winfrey @Oprah

Thanks tweeps for sending me info about ending #LRAviolence . I am aware. Have supported with $’s and voice and will not stop.#KONY2012
6 Mar 12

How many times do you need to see children slaughtered to believe it’s real? #STOPKONY

Ryan Seacrest @RyanSeacrest

Was going to sleep last night and saw ur tweets about #StopKony…watched in bed, was blown away. If u haven’t seen yet
7 Mar 12

Justin Bieber @Justin Bieber

it is time to make him known. I’m calling on ALL MY FANS, FRIENDS and FAMILY to come together and #STOPKONY –

Kim Kardashian @KimKardashian

#Kony2012 Wow just watched! What a powerful video! Stop Kony!!! RT @KendallJenner: please WATCH THIS…
7 Mar 12


Brah, A. 2002 Global mobilities, local predicaments : globalization and the critical imagination, Feminist Review, 70: 30-45.

Cavanagh, C, J. 2012 Kony 2012 and the political economy of conflict representation, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, unpublished.

Goodman, D., Preston, J. 09/03/2012 How the Joseph Kony video went viral,, 08/10/2012.

Hull, G., Stronaiuolo, A., Sahni, U. 2010: Cultural citizenship and cosmopolitan practice: Global youth communicate online?, English Education, 42(4), 331–367.

Hansen, D. T. 2010 Cosmopolitanism and education: A view from the ground, Teachers College Record, 112 (1): 1-30.

Har-Even, B. 2012 Director of product management YouTube: “YouTube has become a global living room”,, 08/10/2012

Katz, C. 2005 Partners in crime? Neoliberalism and the production of new political subjectivities, Antipode, 37, 623-631.

Mjos, O J. 2012 Music, Social Media, and Global Mobility: MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Britain, Routledge.

The MTV Generation and Social Activism

8 Oct

“To succeed, a social change campaign needs to have three attributes: content people want to watch, a community to support and amplify the video, and a call-to-action so that those who were moved by the content can help create change. If any one of these components is missing it’s an opportunity to improve. The social media aspects of the site play a big role in not just the community (sharing video) but also the content. What people sometimes forget is that YouTube isn’t just a one:many broadcast tool, it’s a conversation. When Invisible Children uploaded Kony 2012 it eventually reached 92 million+ views but just as amazing was that more than 40,000 videos were later uploaded about Kony – some in support of the campaign, others criticising. YouTube is a place where you get to hear multiple points of view and decide what you believe matters” – Hunter Walk (quoted in Har-Even, 2012).

With the evolving nature of technology, social activism is no longer part of an underground rebellious culture, it is now mainstream and highly globalised through social mediums such as Facebook. However, social activist actions on Facebook are indicative of the new MTV generation. Kron and Goodman (2012) refer to this at armchair activism, or slacktivism, where the younger generation simply like or share the Kony video and they are part of the movement. Cronin-Furman and Taub further this notion in their article Solving War Crimes with Wristbands: The Arrogance of ‘Kony 2012’. ‘Invisible Children has turned the myopic world-view of the adolescent — “if I don’t know about it, then it doesn’t exist, but if I care about it, then it is the most important thing in the world” — into a foreign policy prescription’ (Cronin-Furman and Taub, 2012). Cavanagh (2012: 2) states that part of the success of the video was due to the fact that it was accessible, no longer were the issues only for the realm of professionals or experts, the narrative could understood by children. The video chooses a narrative in which youth can strongly relate to, utilizing existing knowledge on the Civil Rights Movement (Cavanagh, 2012: 2). Thus, when viewers click the ‘Share’ button and donate money ($30 for the Kony pack on the Invisible Children website) they are now co-producers of the campaign and not passive consumers of complex material generated by academics (Cavanagh, 2012: 2).

Samantha Power (2002), in her book A Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide highlights the failures by America and the West to intervene and prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. According to Power this is because leaders in America hold the belief that the public would not support their decision to get involved.  In theory, awareness campaigns such as ‘Kony 2012’, should remedy this situation as it raises public knowledge. However, as Cronin-Furman and Taub (2012) highlight, these schemes can often backfire. Groups, such as the LRA, can be spurred on further to commit crime in order to cement their place or use scare-tactics towards the opposition. The example of the LRA, 2008 “Christmas Massacre” proves this point. In response to the attack by the Ugandan and Congolese government forces, which was supported by the U.S, the LRA killed 400 people and mutilated more on Christmas day (BBC News, 2008). Cronin-Furman and Taub (2012) further elaborate their point stating that the ‘Kony 2012’ campaign has reduced a  highly complex situation into a simple issue which can be solved by buying wristbands and tshirts. The questions must be asked of ‘how do we go from raising awareness about LRA violence to actually stopping it? What’s the mechanism of transforming YouTube page views into a mediated political settlement?’ (Cronin-Furman and Taub, 2012).

“We know what to do. Here it is, ready? In order for Kony to be arrested this year, the Ugandan military has to find him. In order to find him, they need the technology and training to track him in the vast jungle. That’s where the American advisors come in. But in order for the American advisors to be there, the American government has to deploy them. They’ve done that, but if the government doesn’t believe the people care about Kony, the mission will be cancelled. In order for the people to care, they have to know. And they will only know if Kony’s name is everywhere” (Kony 2012, YouTube).

One of the major criticisms of ‘Kony 2012’ is the neo-colonial nature of the campaign (Flock, 2012). According to Blattman (2009) the video not only hints at the idea of the ‘White mans burden’, it shapes ‘Kony 2012’. The savior attitude throughout the campaign has been persistent, with Americans led to believe they can make up for past mistakes (see The MTV Generation and Social Activism). Glenna Gordon insists that Invisible Children are actively creating an myth for Americans to buy into, just like a marketing campaign for a product (Flock, 2012). However, it is important to note that Invisible Children is a business and a film company, not an aid provider or a charitable organization and many Africans at the grassroots levels feel that the campaign has dis-empowered their voices (Blattman, 2009). This is due to the fact that during the video no Africans or Ugandans offer policy suggestions, and it is inadvertently implied that the local government has made no progress in combating Joseph Kony or the LRA (Cronin-Furman and Taub). Furthermore, with the reductionist nature of the film people in conflict are put into two broad categories, first, mass-murderers like Jospeh Kony, and second, helpless victims who are passive and need saving (Cronin-Furman and Taub).


BBC News, 2008 Christmas massacres ‘killed 400’,, 09/10/2012

Blattman, C. 2009 Visible Children,, 08/10/2012.

Cavanagh, C, J. 2012 Kony 2012 and the political economy of conflict representation, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, unpublished.

Cronin-Furman, K., Taub, A. 2012 Solving war crimes with wristbands: The arrogance of ‘Kony 2012’,, 08/10/2012.

Flock, E. 2012 Invisible Children founders posing with guns: an interview with the photographer,, 08/10/2012.

Har-Even, B. 2012 Director of product management YouTube: “YouTube has become a global living room”,, 08/10/2012

Kron, J., Goodman, D. 2012 Online, a Distant Conflict Soars to Topic No. 1,, 08/10/2012.

Power, S. 2002 A Problem from hell: America in the age of genocide, Basic Books: New York.

US Forces Join in Kony Hunt

3 Oct

At the end of 2011, President Obama deployed 100 special operations troops into the Central African Republic to aid in the hunt for Joseph Kony. Kony at the time was thought to be somewhere in the dense Obo jungle with the 300 remaining meber of the LRA. The american soldiers were split up into units of 15 to 30 and are playing an advisory role in the hunt for Kony (Fox News, 2012). However, the U.S military has had a long involvement in the region,  the video below highlights the links between military presence and the recent oil discoveries in the East African region. I highly recommend watching this whole clip to get a greater context of US involvement in Africa.

Summary of the video:
“As the scramble for Ugandan oil heats up, a documentary about Joseph Kony’s 20 year campaign of terror has become an online cause celebre and is once again energizing the public for military campaigns abroad. But what is the public not being told about the background of US involvement in the region, and what will come of the public’s growing support for military intervention?”

The video below criticises Africom’s role in Africa as a ploy to gain control over oil, secure its position relative to China and to fight  the ‘war on terrorism’. I also highly recommend watching this whole clip to gain a greater understanding of the history of US insecurity.

This intervention could be seen to be part of the wider trend, as Besteman and Gusterson(2010) describe it, of American ‘insecurity’. “Peddled by international financial institutions and American foreign policy, and powered by financial deregulation and the rise of new forms of communications technology, neoliberal reforms on a global scale have wreaked havoc in the lives of poor and middle-class citizens across the globe, even while producing a small international class of cosmopolitan jet-setting elites (Besteman and Gusterson, 2010: 14). As such, the fear of the ‘other’, and the heightened fear of foreigners, especially after the 9/11 attacks, have led to the US adopting a fortress mentality (Besteman and Gusterson, 2010: 16) where the ultimate fear is a terrorist attack with nuclear weapons (Besteman and Gusterson, 2010: 17).


Besteman, C., Gusterson, H. 2010 The insecure American: How we got here and what we should do about it, University of California Press, USA.

Fox News, 2012 US special forces help in the hunt for warlord Kony,, 08/10/2012.


KONY 2012 Overview

2 Oct

On the 5th of March, 2012, Invisible Children, an American NGO, released the Kony 2012 video. The short film was about Joseph Kony, a Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander, and the war crimes that his organisation committed since the 1980s in Uganda and surrounding countries (Cavanagh, 2012). The UN has found that within the last three years Kony and the LRA have kidnapped over 600 children and forced young girls to enter into becoming sex slaves and boys to take “magic potions” which would increase their strength and make them easier to trace if they ever escaped(Smith, 2012). In a report presented to the UN it claimed youth were being used as child soldiers, spies for the LRA and human shields (Smith, 2012). For over three decades Kony and the LRA has operated in Uganda committing these crimes, kidnapping thousands of children and terrorising local villages (Smith, 2012). This crime stems from the long standing divide between North and South Uganda. After the northern-dominated government was overthrown by the South in 1986, out of revenge, the Ugandan army massacred and killed populations in the North. these killings led to the rise of several rebel groups, the LRA was one of these (African Studies Association, 2012). Kony viewed himself as a messenger of God and a liberator of the Acholi people (an ethnic group of Northern Africa), however, Kony increasingly turned against the Acholi people and commenced campaigns focused on ‘cleansing’ the Acholi populations (African Studies Association, 2012). ‘The conflict in northern Uganda escalated,resulting in large scale killings and mutilations. By the end of 2005, more than 1.8 million people were displaced and moved into camps. To fill its ranks, the LRA abducted as many as 60,000 civilians, often children, to serve as porters, soldiers, or sexual and domestic servants’ (African Studies Association, 2012). However, it is important to note that the LRA were not the only group committing violent acts in the North: ‘ The Ugandan army has recruited children, committed torture and killings against civilians, and destroyed civilian targets. The government of Uganda also established a prolonged encampment policy, in effect moving much of the northern population into squalid camps that failed to provide adequate protection, food and sanitation services’ (African Studies Association, 2012). Below is an image of the Kony film-makers and leading members of Invisible Children posing with Ugandan Army members, which supports the claim the the Kony campaign advocates for military intervention.

Joseph Kony, in 2005, was the first person to be charged  for crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Since that date he has fled Uganda and has been operating in the surrounding countries of DR Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan (African Studies Association, 2012). Currently he is still wanted by the ICC and forces from the UN, US and AFRICOM have been deployed to find him (African Studies Association, 2012).


African Studies Association, 2012 React and respond: The phenomenon of Kony 2012,, 07/10/2012.

Cavanagh, C, J. 2012 Kony 2012 and the political economy of conflict representation, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, unpublished.

Goodman, J, D., Preston, J. 2012 How the Kony video went viral,, 06/10/2012.

Har-Even, B. 2012 Director of product management YouTube: “YouTube has become a global living room”,, 08/10/2012

Smith, D. 2012 Joseph Kony kidnapped 591 children in the past three years, UN report reveals,, 07/10/2012.