Comment | Why #StopKony2012 is malicious, vile and repulsive

Bringing war criminals to justice is a commendable thing, which is why it is such a shame that the Stop Kony 2012 campaign is so malicious, vile and repulsive, says David Leon.

New in Ceasefire, Politics - Posted on Thursday, March 8, 2012 14:28 - 72 Comments



Invisible Children filmmakers pose with officers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army on the Congo-Sudan border during failed peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan Government, April 2008. Photo by Glenna Gordon.

First of all, it is important to establish that “Kony 2012” is worth lambasting, for we often fall prey to an extraordinary naïveté when expressing our moral outrage. When some brain-addled right-wing reprobate spouts some tired variation on “Britain for the British”, writing a detailed article labelling them malicious, vile and repulsive – and thus spreading their message for free – is playing straight into their hands. However, the idea that central African warlord Joseph Kony is a brutal monster is sufficiently obvious that I have no qualms in just letting you know about Kony 2012, in the unlikely event that you have somehow managed to avoid it so far.

That being said, the “Kony 2012” awareness campaign and viral video released by advocacy group “Invisible Children Inc.” is malicious, vile and repulsive.

The purpose behind the video and campaign is to raise public awareness and lobby for the United States government not to withdraw the 100 military advisors it assigned to the Ugandan military in October, in order to eliminate Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

On the one hand, the effectiveness of the approach taken by the campaign and its parent organization has been criticised in technocratic elite publications Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. They argue, amongst other things, that the scale of the problem posed by the LRA has been exaggerated: it is not, as the video implies, an 30,000-strong army of Ugandan child-soldiers, but a group of only a couple hundred at most (the 30,000 figure referring to all the children abducted over the past quarter of a century) which has been in decline for years. It has not even operated in Uganda since 2006 – Kony is currently believed to be in the Central African Republic. Furthermore, there has been no sign whatsoever of the US government planning to withdraw these military advisors, rendering the stated purpose of the campaign rather dubious. Indeed, U.S. Africa Command has been providing the Ugandan army with assistance for years before Obama’s deployment of October. Furthermore, in their struggle with the LRA, the Ugandan military, and the paramilitary organization the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, have perpetrated numerous and severe atrocities – yet Kony 2012 and “Invisible Children Inc.” unreservedly support both.

Most importantly, there appears to be little to no grassroots support for the interventionist agenda of Invisible Children. North Ugandan religious leaders are openly opposed to U.S. military engagement – Archbishop John Baptist Odama, chairman of the Episcopal Conference at Gulu put it thus: “Our stand as Acholi religious leaders is that we do not want the aspect of pursuing Kony with military means, [which] will just make the conflict and suffering spill over to other places.”

But all of this is, so to speak, besides the point. What’s wrong with Kony 2012 isn’t merely that Invisible Children Inc.’s approach is likely counterproductive to their stated aims. Rather, the whole project functions as a monumental, and suffocating, smokescreen to the real issues at hand. In their lust to portray this Star Wars villain as the face for all the world’s ills, they have fooled millions into looking at the wrong problem. It’s as if a campaign against Nazi war crimes exclusively targeted the (admittedly atrocious) war criminal Ernst Kaltenbrunner, without making a single mention of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, or the racist, warmongering Nazi ideology. It’s a sin of omission so colossal it beggars belief.

In the whole half hour of the video, the name of Yoweri Museveni does not even crop up once. Museveni has been President of Uganda for the past 26 years, and it is against his rule that the LRA rebellion started. He is a corrupt autocrat, ineffective in providing basic social and economic services, with a history of well-documented human rights violations – not least of which was his role as a major instigator of the Second Congo War with his invasion and occupation of the DRC, a conflict which resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people, making it the bloodiest conflict worldwide since World War II. Although the conflict officially ended in 2003, it was estimated that in the following year, there were 1000 deaths every single day from disease and malnutrition in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a result of the destruction caused by the war– these are the real invisible deaths, not the spectacular kidnappings of a crazed jungle warlord. In fact, as award-winning Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama points out, during Joseph Kony’s kidnappings (1999-2004), hordes of children thronged the streets of Gulu. They are now older, but still there – Gulu has Uganda’s highest rate of child prostitution, and one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.

Jacob (Kony 2012’s token victim) and other North Ugandans like him have not had to deal with Kony’s depredations since 2006 – if we want to help them (and we insist on pointing our fingers at one person’s face), we have to start with Museveni, and the poverty, disease, and poor governance in Northern Uganda.

What’s more, Kony 2012 makes much of Kony’s status as one of the most wanted figures targeted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, it somehow neglects to mention the fact that the United States has not ratified its statute, and has no intention of doing so – with good reason, as this move could potentially see the highest echelons of administration indicted for war crimes. But should we perhaps spend all that time and effort lobbying for the US to ratify the statute of the ICC? No; let’s mobilize millions of people to eliminate a single has-been warlord.

But the real heart of the issue goes well beyond the details of Museveni-this and ICC-that. Kony 2012 is a movement which has reached the attention and captured the imaginations of an entire generation. And once it has it, what does it do? Does it call for a radical shift of wealth and power away from privileged countries like the US and UK, and towards impoverished countries such as Uganda? Does it address, just for one second, the question of why a crazy Christian theocrat warlord like Kony happened to find fertile ground in Central Africa rather than, say, Kansas? The central aim of “Kony 2012” is to make Joseph Kony as famous as George Clooney. But why is it not to make Kony-victim Jacob as wealthy as George Clooney, or at least as wealthy as the yuppy college kid Sharing the video on Facebook? Hundreds of thousands just like him are kept from the most basic means of subsistence in Northern Uganda, but the campaign asks us to headhunt one man, not help them.

And it manages to perpetuate this vision through a thoroughly sickening, reverse personality cult. Invisible Children Inc.’s expenditure was $9 million dollars last year, nearly all of it spent with the sole purpose of killing one man – all the money flowing in from the $30 “action packs” means that it will surely be even more this year. Just as in the case of Osama Bin Laden, one man is fetishized and made the consummate scapegoat, the perfect anti-Christ – the redemptive act of killing him will symbolically end all our woes, and President Obama will have the head of another international super-villain mounted above his fireplace. Unlike the Occupy movements – which make no easy promises, but emphasize the need for continued struggle – Kony 2012, like Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign, highlights one person as the focus of a generation; once he is elected and Kony disposed of, the mission will have been accomplished, and the generation will roll over and go back to sleep.

Now, one might say, “Look, it would be great if we could tackle the big problems of socioeconomic governance and global structural imbalances of wealth and power, but one video won’t change that. What it can do is perhaps fix one small problem (Kony) and then go on from there.”

But the problem is precisely that there can be no going on from there, because the picture of evil it portrays is fundamentally reactionary and counter-productive. It depicts us, the English-speaking West, as bystanders, rather than perpetrators. It merely reinforces a picture of evil as attributable to a couple of individuals somewhere else, which we will go and fix. It is the ultimate comic book approach to evil: find a colourful villain and beat him up rather than tackle the structural causes of crime – and while they’re at it, they make a pretty penny from wristband and T-shirt sales at the expense of the victims of these crimes.

The “White Man’s Burden” overtones are so blatant they hardly bear mentioning: three college kids discover a conflict, then convince the US government to send some elite soldier-types to go and kick some ass. Crucially, in the vision of the White Man’s Burden, the White Man is the solution, the saviour – never the problem. In the world of Kony 2012, our only crime is inaction in the face of the private idiosyncrasies of one deranged individual – we are not complicit, through our colonial past and neo-colonial present, in causing the circumstances in which it is possible for a Joseph Kony to happen. In this way, it is the ultimate smoke-screen, the most convenient self-delusion, the insidious abdication of whatever real responsibility we might have.

For the author’s response to many of the comments below, please see this post.

Also in Ceasefire: Africa, Racism and the West

David Leon

David Leon is studying International Relations at the University of Oxford.



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happy smiles
Mar 8, 2012 17:13

Nice piece.
Though I am left wondering what you may make of the ICC’s position in pursuing Kony?

Jeremy Stopes
Mar 8, 2012 18:14

hear hear

Mar 8, 2012 18:58

It is easier to criticize than to offer an alternative.

Mar 8, 2012 19:50

It is easier to criticize the criticism, than offer an alternative.

Mar 8, 2012 20:00

Ok Mr. White Man’s Burden – if you’re so good at pointing out the unbelievable poor nature of this group and its cause, are you equally as good at finding groups that ARE doing well? Have you spent 8 years working to develop something, or do you sip latte’s and read things so you can use your hard-earned (off the backs of millions of those who came before you) degree to criticize things that don’t live up to your esteemed view of the world? Perhaps this project reeks of an over-focused attack, but is it really honest to say that these three idealistic college kids are “malicious, insidious, vile, and repulsive”? Or is it more apt to say that they’re “ignorant.”

Just because someone hasn’t thought your thoughts into the deep cavernous bowels of international finance and the overwhelming structures and systems in place to keep the have’s having and the have not’s not having (across the world) doesn’t that person is evil and vindictive – it makes them ignorant and idealistic. Your absurdly hostlie criticism makes you look quite vindictive however.

And the problem really, is this: Our post-post-modern world of socia media where EVERYONE is a fucking philosopher undermines thoughtful progress in an interesting way: the moment something gains momentum, a horde of finger-waggers pulls out their books and degrees and points to all the places the leaders of these movement are totally screwing up. But wait a second, if YOU knew what was happening all along, where was that action before? Why does it only come out now, to criticize a group that might actually make a difference? The difference might be small, it might be symbolic. But there are millions out there who now know more than they did before.

Is that a bad thing?

Why don’t you use your gol’darn white man burden yourself and figure out solutions instead pointing out problems…

Mar 8, 2012 20:16

Even if it was a good thing they’re adocating, (and it’s not) as a charity they should be focussed on trying to help people, not on trying to push their own agenda, and certainly not on creating propaganda for that purpose.

Mar 8, 2012 20:16

Even if it’s not the most effective way to make a change, they seem to still be trying to make a positive contribution towards the world. What’s the point complaining about it? What will that ever achieve?

Mark Raven
Mar 8, 2012 20:17

Good article. I think that the role of grassroots, community led reconciliation and repatriation campaigns are completely overlooked by this ridiculously simplified campaign. I would also add that this seems like a having moved on from Bashir in Sudan, this is just a western ploy to justify the existence and intervention of the ICC.

I support most of what you are saying though. Having studied this region of the world, from a humanitarian perspective during academic research for many years. Also having met and discussed the regional situation with many Ugandans on different sides. It makes my heart leap, and feel physically sick, to see such a clumsy populist foray into an area that experts of all nations have been delicately trying to resolve for years WITH the locally affected populations. The majority of postions are not represented by this campaign.

I am all for campaign advocacy. I am by trade a campaigner. But this campaign is doing many people a massive disservice.

Mark Raven
Mar 8, 2012 20:19

ps. I thought I should quickly add, for those on the Kony2012 bandwagon (probably the same people that think Bob Geldof can stop famine in the Horn of Africa) that I 100% abhor the crimes commited by Kony. But I feel that the Ugandan people should have far more say about the way in which the wider situation is handled. Not US campaigners.

Mark Raven
Mar 8, 2012 20:24

pps. and for all the morons who say ‘why complain?’ … it is hugely important to critically assess campaigns that lay a foundation for interventionist foreign policy. We are talking about setting a public mandate for military assassination in another sovereignty. Without consulting the broad spectrum of local actors. It is always good to complain, if it is researched, and well founded. The irony is….just saying ‘why complain?’ is in itself pointless.

Mar 8, 2012 20:34

Sam, you’re awesome.

Whenever someone tries to do something good, someone else ALWAYS find something wrong with it. So what if capturing this man does nothing to save the world’s problems as a whole but we must start somewhere! And how amazing it is to see kids work to achieve something meaningful instead of just watching the next episode “Jersey shore”.

How many adults say that they used to be “idealists” in their youth but gave up because they realized they can’t change the world? If these kids learn now that they can, in fact, make a difference, then Everything is possible.

Mar 8, 2012 20:58

I agree with Sam and Yana

Mar 8, 2012 21:03

And what is David Leon doing to save the world exactly? Mr. White Man studying at Oxoford. What are YOU doing besides complaining?

Mar 8, 2012 21:09

Their focus is on having this man arrested and held accountable for his actions. They never alluded that it would end all problems or mentioned that he should be killed. Its funny how a person’s preconceived beliefs or skepticism come out as accusations or discredit someones solid efforts to focus on one problem at a time and make them out to be a sensationalist. The IC will be the first to admit that this is not an end all effort. However they believe it to be a big step in the right direction. It is not the culmination of their 9 year efforts. And since when does humanitarianism = the “white Man’s Burden”?

River Aloia
Mar 8, 2012 21:46

This is the biggest load of pessimistic crap I have ever read. That said, The “Lord’s Army” is horrible, war is horrible and if we ever want to do something about it WE as INDIVIDUALS need to stand TOGETHER against it. The use of child soldiers is an atrocity, the use of religion to further your political agendas is just as bad. When you combine them you get groups like the “Lord’s Army”. When you turn your back on the children being forced into child slavery and support ambivalence, irregard for the lives of others and a general lack of sympathy for the suffering of others, we become the monsters that we so vehemently want to overcome. Mohandas Ghandi said; “Be the change that you want to see!” What are you doing?

Mar 8, 2012 22:26

Ok let me quote from the mouth of a Ugandan for you the River

“First of all as a person from Northern Uganda, I would like to thank you, the Martin County Children for your effort to assist the children of Northern Uganda.
How ever i am also sad to say that Organisation like ‘Invisible children’ have turned from caring organisations to Fraudulent and scam. The directors of Invisible children forgot what they stated back in 2005 and have now turned to greed. Only less than 25% of money they have been raising in the name of the children of Northern Uganda gets there to the children.
The directors of Invisible children have turned this money to become their very personal money. The directors now drive expensive cars and refer to themselves as Movie directors. They have been shunned by all international Northern Uganda associations in Canda, UK, Sweden and even in Sandiego USA.
Associations such as “acholi in diaspora”(canada) Acholi association(UK) Freinds for Peace in africa(USA). Peace in Northern Uganda group(Sweden). “Campaign to end genocide in Northern Uganada)(USA) and many more.
“invisible children’ functions are boycotted by many ugandans who are aware that they recieved bribes from General Salim Saleh to focus the suffering of the Northern Uganda Children to the Rebels…rather than tell the whole truth that both the rebels and Uganda government ave comitted atrocities and Genocide againts the acholi people of Northern Uganda..
Northern Uganda members of parliament have added ‘invisible children’ to their list Of NGO’s under investigation for fraud.
They have been requested to publicly declare their accounts since 2005 however untill today that has not been done.
Your contributions are better off being sent directly to the children in Northern Uganda rather than to enrich the directors of ‘invisible children’
However we leave it to God to be the judge. Thank you and God bless all of you”

Ugandan MPs have added the NGO to a list of companies under investigation for fraud. That’s real.

Mar 8, 2012 22:36

That Ugandan comment was posted in 2007.

Mar 8, 2012 22:41

Where did these utterly moronic comments come from? Have people even read this article before commenting? Get off Ceasefire and go read the Daily Mail if you can’t stand the heat.

Mar 8, 2012 22:42

Mr Leon, truly excellent work here

Mar 8, 2012 23:08

The two most fundamental aspects of the conflict are:
1) Who funds Kony? 2) Who arms Kony?

The answer to both of these questions, overwhelmingly is the US.

Even without approaching the problematic post-colonial, white supremacist and nauseating Hollywood approach, the StopKony campaign is empirically flawed in their point of departure.

We do not need to do SOMETHING, we need to stop interfering in other countries, by facilitating conflicts such as the one in central Africa.

Mar 8, 2012 23:17

Maybe you should start another grassroots movement against Museven. Seems like you are pretty passionate about the issue.

I personally feel, that anytime someone (especially a college student) expresses empathy like this it is a good thing. It is the people that walk by and don’t look, thinking “Not my World Not my Problem” that bother me. We need more people whom want to help others.

Mar 8, 2012 23:30

To all the people questioning David Leon on what he is doing to help African children by writing this post…

What are you doing?

Did you re-post the video on your facebook wall? Are you going to buy a bracelet [proceeds that will not be spent on helping restore Ugandian lives, but instead buying weapons to murder one man, or funding more propaganda films], and tell all your friends how involved you are? Are you going to go stick a poster up on your mom’s garage door on April 20th and change your facebook profile to “Political Activist”?

Please, do tell.

Mar 8, 2012 23:48

Can we not, just for a minute, offer praise to the younger generation? Is this not a positive thing, that our so-called ‘feckless youth’ are not as self centred as we portray them and do actually care about issues in the world, however misguided you judge them to be?

Good on them for starting and spreading this. If it makes a difference to one child then I’m all for it.

Mar 8, 2012 23:54

Valid points, but unconstructive. In addition to the fact that some of the funds are also used to develop educational systems, set up radio communications which has overlapping benefits, offer rehabilitation support, train and develop services, this is a largely cynical article. Rather than balancing arguments by acknowledging a vivid opportunity to develop this campaign, discuss the ways in which we can use the people base who are connected and related through a sense of compassion – undoubtedly a powerful tool – it simply slates and ridicules.

The campaign is not advocating a solution to solving all of the complexities and hardships in Africa through Kony, that would be tantamount to sensationalism, and being utterly unrealistic. I believe that to many it is or can be much more than finding Kony, it presents as a symbol of hope and empowers people to feel they can make a difference in their masses, utilising social networking, questioning and pressurising their governments, educating themselves – we fail when we simply assume everyone will forget and roll over once Kony is found – there is opportunity to develop the charity into a comprehensive, engaging, informative campaign for the same masses. By the end of the article there is only a sense of hopelessness, which is insulting in the way it insinuates we feel we are on the high horse as Africa’s ‘saviour’ and are upholding our delusion in never having wronged them.

(On a funny note – US Foreign Policy slating on grounds of exadurration and info manipulation? Haha! They are the epitome of disaster on that front)

Mar 9, 2012 0:33

I have been aware of the Kony issue for sometime, my housemate specialises in Africa Politics so I have been well informed. I can only praise David Leon’s work, every idea/theory/cause must be challenged and David has dared to challenge the Kony movement to much success. He has show its many fundamental flaws whilst maintaining that the public response it has lead to is something we should all be proud of.

But I would like to challenge even this, has the public response been a positive one. One the face of it yes. But when we dig slightly deeper I become less sure. Sharing a video you have just been “inspired” by on Facebook or Twitter is easy, it will also make you (and I’m sorry to think like this) appear to be a good person. How many of these people who share or like the video will actually make a donation. Very few I am sorry to say. I have seen this time and time again with many different causes people are happy to share a link or like a post but they’ll never actually make a donation or heaven forbid actually get out there and do some active work.

Always you cynic.

Mar 9, 2012 0:45

well said sam

Mar 9, 2012 1:33

You are an inspiration, Sam!

Indeed, stop the movement. We all need to go back to doing nothing and ignoring the problem. We need more people like you to stifle movements, such as this, that at the very least extinguish basic human suffering. You are a revolutionary Sam.

You are “The Critic” of which Teddy Roosevelt spoke of.

Mar 9, 2012 1:40

Mar 9, 2012 1:43


Mar 9, 2012 2:06

Same old stale criticisms….”Dont support Kony 2012 because me and my Oxford degree think there are other problems in the world that deserve more attention”. Still yet to find a remotely convincing argument that the negatives of Kony 2012 outweigh the positives. You seem incapable of grasping the concept that Joseph Kony needs to be brought to justice for his crimes against humanity (whether these crimes be old or new, in Uganda or outside Uganda are mere details) and that the basic premise of Kony 2012 appears to be able to help achieve this goal. Simplistic? yes. Flawed? certainly. Malicious, vile and repulsive? spare me.

Mar 9, 2012 2:22

@Sam – I totally agree. Working in the health service, it’s often those “you can’t save them all” attitudes that bring the rest of us down and stunt our good work. I applaud your response to this article.

Mar 9, 2012 2:45

Kenny, don’t make me laugh, Just because someone is doing things for a ‘humanitarian cause’ , you can’t just ignore the fact that there is seriously something wrong with IC and their intended outcome. You are probably just jealous of his degree in oxford, Mr Leon studied in the relevant stuff to talk about this so unless you have a similar degree or even equivalent qualification to match, just shush.
Read the links, read all the info about IC. See things from both side of the coin and not see things from one side. Where is your bloody ability to reason?

Mar 9, 2012 3:05

Thoroughly enjoyable article. A lot of valid points. Reading the critical replies made me smirk. This is his opinion – whether you like or dislike the article is irrelevant – you still read it!

I’m a charity fundraiser for Oxfam 365 (oxfams emergengy responce team) and I learned in training that the republic of congo is the third richest nation in the world in terms of natural resources. Funny thing is I joked to the training leader ‘so why hasn’t america invaded’. Considering Uganda and the Congos hostile past it seems to me this is yet another campaign in the search of OIL. Funny how yet again the west is on a crusade to fix a humanitarian problem (they in part have caused) coincidently in a country they can make a profit in. What happened to the archaic notion of everyone is equal?


Mar 9, 2012 3:37

Mr. Leon definitely has some good points, though his language was a bit strong for my liking. The regardless of the motivations of the people who produced “Invisible Children”, the energy generated by the campaign amazes me. And there is a reason why the response is so strong. It is because of the scapegoating that Mr. Leon spoke of. Scapegoating gives a clear target and goal, and having a clear endpoint can motivate action. The first problem with all of the monumental global issues like climate change, global poverty and more relevantly, corruption in Uganda is the question “Where can we possibly start?” “How can I make a difference?” “How can I tell I am making a difference?” “What is the point?” “The problem is too big for me to solve…”

For all its flaws, and potential for abuse, and even if the effect on fixing the greater problems in Uganda are small, Kony 2012 is a start. If movements like this continue to pop up and spread awareness about the RIGHT issues, they are powerful tools to mobilize the social networking into a force of action. ‘RIGHT’ meaning the next logical step of solving the larger problem, breaking up the depressingly massive global problem into smaller issues that have a better chance of attracting global attention. Therein lies another set of problems, because of the overlapping nature of all the issues that are contributing to the sorry state of affairs in Uganda and on the African continent. There will be considerable disagreement on which issues should be tackled first, as well as deciding what the best solution will be.

Great. Now I’m depressed again. :/

Mar 9, 2012 6:28

people all around the world from all walks of life who 2 weeks ago knew nothing and cared nothing about a problem in uganda, now have entered into a conversation. a conversation which will provide a spotlight to drive positive change. if it saves one life its a conversation worth starting. malicious, vile, repulsive. thats a stretch.

Prayash Giria
Mar 9, 2012 6:46

‘Why this Article (and David Leon) is Obnoxiously Cynical’

Oxford and International Relations is all very nice, but don’t use it as an excuse to overanalyze a video. The college students felt moved by a story and decided to turn it into a media-savvy campaign. They are not malevolent tycoons looking to cover up a sinister trail of rich white men plunging the third world into darkness. They’re making people sit up and take notice that something is wrong with Africa, even if it starts with Kony. Yes, the movement has a lot of holes, but I’d rather support it than read into your tales of perpetrators. And just for the record, you’d never have written this if it weren’t for that video. Give Invisible Children that credit.

Mar 9, 2012 8:07

Would rather over analyse the video then not analyse it at all. Even the way they represent their costs shows what they’re all about

“They are pros at visual propaganda. Their Fundraising ($286,678) pie – extends farther down to trick the brain into thinking they spend a lot on it. Then right next to it, the Media & Film creation piece is barely legible and is made smaller, even though they spent far more money on it ($699,617). They employed the same tactic with Management & General ($1,444,567) by making it look smaller. These people are real pros at shaping the truth to their benefit.”

What sort of charity does that? Really? Why do they spend more pushing propaganda for their own agenda than actually helping people?

And if people from Uganda are making comments 5 years ago telling me not to support this “fraudulent organization”. I will listen to them – not take up the holier than thou mantle and buy guns for Ugandan soldiers whilst patting myself on the back. You criticise him for being a white Oxfordian, but as an African, I feel Africa does not need another “holy war”.

Luke Place
Mar 9, 2012 9:37

Assuming Dave’s post above isn’t simply a joke, I’d say it’s one of the funniest genuine opinions I’ve ever seen. Requesting perspective and rationality whilst suggesting that people shouldn’t be allowed to engage in debate unless they have “equivalent qualifications” to the original poster is absurd. It’s a legitimate point to make that “malicious, vile and repulsive” are slightly excessive descriptions to use. That said, it frustrates me to see apparently intelligent people criticise such a well written article with few criticisms beyond “the author went to an elitist university”. These comments could have made a far greater effort to actually engage in the discussion topics signposted within the article.

Mar 9, 2012 10:55

though what you say are valid arguments, perhaps readers should also take into consideration this response by the organisation themselves towards criticism like this.

Mar 9, 2012 12:08

Why are you criticizing Invisible children for not trying to combat every single problem in Africa? They are starting with Joseph Kony. They are not doing a bad thing. You have to start somewhere. Get off your high horse.

Mar 9, 2012 13:09

to be fair, the SPLA aren’t saints either.

its slick journalism.

it does have an ‘aid over investment’ overtone.

It is NOT vile or repulsive, or malicious. get over yourself

Mar 9, 2012 15:02

the world needs a White Villian, that is why people like you, and other liberals won’t accept Joseph Kony as a villian…. its always america’s fault or the west fault… never the african warlords fault….

the world will only accept a “White Villian”…

Mar 9, 2012 15:24

ye!! But do you have a video?!?

Mar 9, 2012 16:22

One thing I have to say about this campaign, be its purpose the most productive or worthy cause, is that it shows the power of a generation to get behind a cause. Being a member of the “me” generation, I can tell you the campaign immediately caught my attention and the attention of my peers. I firmly believe raising awareness about one cause will make it easier to bring the same causes you mention to this generation’s attention. I can commend Invisible Children for successfully educating its audience about the nature of this conflict. Yes, it does entail more than simply stopping Joseph Kony, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. If you can draw people in, you can also change the focus to include a more expansive description of the conflict. If nothing else, the campaign led me to read pieces such as this with a more detailed report of the conflict in Africa.

Mar 9, 2012 16:34

“it is not, as the video implies, an 30,000-strong army of Ugandan child-soldiers, but a group of a couple hundred at most ( the 30,000 figure referring to all of the children abducted over the past quarter of a century)”. Do the 30,000 children abducted in the past not deserve some form of justice?

Mar 9, 2012 16:39

KONY 2012 – la campagna virale di invisible children | passione non profit
Mar 9, 2012 17:22

[…] Ovviamente il video e la campagna virale associata hanno suscitato consensi e critiche. Queste ultime in parte relative ai dati finanziari di Invisible Children (Atlatic Wire), in parte relative al fatto che il video racconta solo una parte della storia e che focalizza su una singola persona un problema decisamente più complesso (Ceasefire). […]

Mar 9, 2012 18:37

this is UTTER bullshit. go read the invisible blog. it explains it all there. 15.01 mins in they say how he has moved out of uganda or did everyone miss that bit? its about catching him not Invisible marketing themselves. they aren’t on the posters. let me remind you the purpose was to bring attention to a cause. there was uproar after Rwanda that the UN never stepped in. so when someone does try they are damned for it?

Mar 9, 2012 19:09

thank you so much for this. You couldn’t have stated it all better. I hope this spreads around just as rapidly as the Kony video.

Mar 9, 2012 20:18

Utter Rubbish (the article)

You speak about campaigning initiatives and a movements for change as a limited resource that must be wisely spent in places that meet your ‘all knowing requirements’ for how reform movements must be conducted.

Would it surprise you to know that there are actually quite a lot of people outside the Oxford University IR seminar room, that have never before heard of Kony or the LRA? I for one find it pretty ‘vile and malicious’ to object to a movement that opens peoples eyes to an atrocity that provides a platform to learn more and in the future do more.

Or perhaps you feel that campaigning for change should be restricted to those in the Ivory Tower with you who have completed the required reading list?

Mar 9, 2012 20:53

Dear all,

It’s been an interesting couple of days. David has responded to these comments in a short blog post:

Do have a look if you raised any questions about his article.


Students see different side of #StopKony2012 movement | csufhappenings
Mar 9, 2012 21:05

[…] Inga put up posters and an article outside of the Humanities building Thursday to inform passersby of what is “really going on.” Students who knew, or had heard whispers, about the #StopKony2012 movement stopped to read the article titled Why #StopKony2012 is malicious, vile and repulsive. […]

Mar 9, 2012 23:25

Very good article

Mar 9, 2012 23:38

Very well argued, Mr Leon. “Malicious, vile and repulsive” is probably a tad excessive for a campaign that essentially appeals to the compassionate side of them good-for-nothing apathetic young folk nowadays. And I believe some credit is due to the campaigners purely from a knowledge management perspective – unless someone can suggest some examples, I believe that this is a new approach to awareness raising on relatively obscure (to the common Joe) issues with clearly impressive results. The furore that this video has created is a testament to the successes that can be achieved if social media and marketing are used in an intelligent way.

However. Big, huge “however”.

David, you make completely valid and very interesting points about the less palatable aspects of this campaign. Indeed, perhaps the very reason for its current success is the fact that it is grotesquely oversimplified, with one clearly defined target for popular dissent.

My issues with this campaign boil down to two main factors. The first is economic. It seems to me a COLOSSAL waste of resources (and, indeed, entrepreneurial, marketing and organisational ability). In terms of making life better for Ugandan people and their children, killing one warlord is pretty low on the priorities list, below trifles such as treatment for preventable diseases, food security, access to clean water sources, access to education, infrastructure, social security, stable employment, etc, etc. Why not direct all that effort, enthusiasm, time, money and ability towards a project that will bring more direct benefit? I will not waste your time and mine on going into such things as the sustainability of an impact. Kill Kony? Bring a criminal to justice? Marvellous. Then what? How do you stop the next one?

And to those who proclaim that “it’s better to do something than to do nothing at all” – it will shock you to realise that there are a few more options open to compassionate humanity than “find and kill Kony” and “do nothing at all”.

The second of my issues is purely aesthetic. I think this is best summarised by the parody tagline for the recently released film on the civil rights movement in America, “The Help” – “White people solve racism. You’re welcome, black people”. I dread to think of the self-congratulatory euphoria that will flood the internet if he is caught – job’s a good ‘un, everyone can go home now. And I do wish his annoying blond child could bloody well sod off somewhere.

Lastly, I am frankly amazed by those of you who spat such venom at Mr Leon and his Oxford degree. Let me tell you a bit about how the international development/humanitarian aid job market works. I hate to break this to you but you do not get hired for your fervent beliefs and being sorry for African kids. You get hired for being competent, capable of incisive analysis and having some impressive names on your CV. This is how you get into jobs that allow you to get closer and closer to the people you are trying to help and that give you more and more scope to do so. This is how you get into the professional field where you can make a difference over the entire course of your career.

Judging by the disgust that you have registered at this approach to international cooperation, I can only assume you have chosen the alternative path. In which case I do wonder how on earth you managed to get internet connection in a remote African village where you have been living on a local wage with limited access to basic goods while actively hunting down rape-happy warlords and telling them off for bad behaviour while simultaneously organising the transfer of huge suitcases of donor cash for the economic benefit of the region.

And that’s my two cents.

Mar 9, 2012 23:41

Well said, David – this is among the most sensible pieces that I’ve read to date. As an oxonian it’s very sad to see Manu people’s ire and criticism centring more around your university than cogent discussion of the article. People keep saying that doing something, ‘one thing at a time’ is good, but seem to ignore the facts that a)this is not the most effective way to bring about the ultimate aim, I.e. Improve Ugandan’s quality of life, and b) may actually be counterproductive regarding peace in the region by unnecessarily stirring further conflict.

Additionally, it may be ‘nice’ that we feckless youth are ‘taking up a cause’, but this is just righteous self-indulgence – this is supposed to be about alleviating poverty and suffering, not congratulating ourselves on our misplaced activism. People’s myopia worries and perturbs me.

Mar 10, 2012 22:11

Extension on the ICC – the US also has over 100 agreements with states in a non-cooperation pact with the ICC, roughly 30 of them African. The abolition of US government aid was threatened to any state which did not comply, and thus the 26 states (if my memory serves) who did not comply subsequently lost US aid.

KONY 2012 – la campagna virale di invisible children | passione non profit
Mar 11, 2012 18:38

[…] Ovviamente il video e la campagna virale associata hanno suscitato consensi e critiche. Queste ultime in parte relative ai dati finanziari di Invisible Children (Atlatic Wire), in parte relative al fatto che il video racconta solo una parte della storia e che focalizza su una singola persona un problema decisamente più complesso (Ceasefire). […]

Mar 11, 2012 18:55

I do a lot of work with the homeless population in my community. My experience is that we do not even know how to help our own people. The government assistance programs are so flawed, impersonal and unregulated. We pay taxes to support hopeless addicts who feel that there is no way out right here in “the land of opportunity “. My point is people would way rather open their wallets for some movement half a world away than walk out their door and spend an hour with someone that is struggling right in their own community. I believe that social media is amazing in that it limits the regulation of the truth of what is really going on in the world however true change can only happen with the strength of the community involved. We cannot fix anyone’s problems if we can’t address. Our own. I say keep spreading hope around the world that all evilness will be exposed but if you really want to help someone stop turning your nose up and reach out to someone in your own community. Love is contaigous and the ripple efect of one act of kindness will be more effective than one hundred hits on youtube.

Now Joseph Kony has killed Simba! « rudy2shoes
Mar 11, 2012 21:34

[…] if anything, on what should be done about the case at hand.  Likewise, David Leon’s excellent piece is somewhat overcooked and therefore feeds into the dichotomy of ‘help us get Kony or fuck […]

Mar 12, 2012 2:45

The problem of poverty and sex slavery and war crimes will never go away. But if we know that this man is hurting thousands of children, it is disgusting that people call Invisible Children malicious for helping stop that.

Jason Robinson
Mar 12, 2012 10:59

Great article, David. Keep up the good work.

Comrade Ogilvy
Mar 12, 2012 23:29

Some of these comments are completely off-mark. First, great article. Second, to those questioning what this article accomplishes…it’s simple…it brings more awareness to what the real problems are. It identifies key players that otherwise have been completely omitted from the narrative.

Now, some of you fanatical #Kony2012 Fans are going to knock down any criticism to their cause. You will even do it blindly. But that’s stupid…and ignorant. You’re all too quick to toss the baby out with the bath water.

Mar 14, 2012 5:32

Goodbye My Kony Island Baby: March 13, 2012, WideShut Webcast - WideShut: Alternative News
Mar 14, 2012 21:43

[…] – Why #StopKony2012 is malicious, vile and repulsive […]

Mar 15, 2012 17:19

Great article. But possibly giving more thought to the matter than it even deserves.

To the detractors, first off, “yeah, well if you’re so clever why don’t you start an international charity” is not an argument.

And to those more reasoned commenters who think ‘vile, malicious repulsive’ is too strong, it is an understatement.

I suggest starting with this clip, which I think gives the matter all the coverage it deserves and with an appropriate tone:

If you can’t see the clip, all the guy really does is visit the Invisible Children Vimeo page and do some cursory internet research on Jason Russel, which any of us could have done, but didn’t. He makes some broad silly jokes, but for the most part lets Invisible Childrens own content speak for itself and reveal them very quickly for what they are: an aspiring new scientology-style racket in cynical pursuit of the socially conscious and their money.

Mar 16, 2012 12:23

Seriously? While I agree with most all of your points, you are suggesting just a different kind of ‘white man’s burden’ that we transfer wealth from wealthy nations to poor nations. Seriously? Get a grip. And even if I were a fan of that, who would it be done, certainly not through the horrible President you suggest he is (I’m not arguing that point!). So my gov’t should take my money and then distribute my wealth to each individual Ugandan. Right?!?! have you ever given an African a lump sum of cash? It destroys their lives. Seriously. Try it. I’ve witnessed it multiple times.

Mar 16, 2012 16:28

I do believe a man like Kony should be in jail, however putting him in jail or murdering him wont help to ease the suffering of the people in Africa. How many of you felt “Safer” once Osama or Sadam were killed? I truly believe targeting someone to be killed cannot be considered a “Humanitarian” effort. It seems to me, that this effort is like a more popular FBI’s most wanted list. Sure all of the people on the list deserve to be in jail, but don’t fool yourself in thinking that you are improving a whole nations quality of life by eliminating one person. For those who argue it’s a small step, I ask a small step to WHAT? To helping improve Africa’s infrastructure? To eliminating poverty? To help prevent HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, or the sinister Nodding disease? No, while it is refreshing to see a wave of benevolence sweep through everyone, it is alarming the causes people are willing to back after 30 minutes of sensationalism and a small child talking to “Daddy”. It’s like you trying to help someone on fire, by killing the person who set them a lite, they still burn in the end…

Mar 29, 2012 1:12

I agree with Sam. But these three college kids including Kony 2012 Director Jason Russell are not ignorant i think. In fact they are using their skills in film making and experience oversees to create a very dramatic and visually stimulating video that will raise awareness by provoking peoples emotions. It is the human nature to act based on our emotions and my initial reaction was to forward the video to all my facebook freinds. Just because the video “sold” very well doen’t make it what the writer of this article (David Leon) sais it is. Also it is fair to say that most of Leon’s arguments are not supported by any proof. Like the Invisible Childrens $9mil-nowhere a proven breakdown of how it was spent but one claim that it was used simply for ”headhunting one man”-hello? they also built radio alert towers in villages to warn against a raid?? and they used that money to build a school? Isnt educationg people the best way to improve their condition?? Has the writer of this article done anything to improve the life of the victims before this video came out?

And then he crudely accuses the viewers of being the “perpetrators”-or the cause that gave birth to those like Kony. That statement is false and ignorant. It is not us-the ordinary Western hard working people who just want to make a living- that cause this global imbalance of wealth. Its evil large corporations and govenments that do business with them that really fuck the world and give rise to rebel groups.
However what is unique is that Joseph Kony’s motive is religious. So that makes little sense as to how we are the problem. He doesnt seem to be fighting to improve the poverty and crime in his home country. Although bringing him to justice will not end the situation it will help. And all the other solutions are being implemented gradually.

The bottom line is that Kony 2012 was meant be a massive response for a small cause. And the cause is a good one. And I think that we all should know in detail in what way these 100 millitary advisors help exactly.

Apr 3, 2012 15:23

I don’t think you can deem the whole campaign as vile and insane…it ain’t all bad. But I think they should have directed most of the attention to doing something about the children and the poverty and hardships they are encountering, rather than bringing down one man. My greatest criticism is their request that the US send soldiers/advisors to helf Uganda capture the Kony…..if you do ur history, thats how major invations (in quest for resources) always start. You begin by hiping up something or someone that needs to be stopped, then u send a sample army to see how best to sort the situation, then a bigger battallion is sent in…then before you know it, a whole independent nation has been occupied. But to send the battalion, you need your people to fully believe and support importance of your invasion mission. You need to get full support of your taxpayer. You must unequivocally convince them of the absolute necessity of the OCCUPATION.

Now you may ask, what is so special about a foreign (western/north american) nation occupying Uganda. Uganda has the biggest oil reserves on land…not even nigeria got anything on them. Projections by Tullan and Total oil companies hint that the oil reserves in Uganda can probably rival those in Saudi Arabia. I am not starting a conspiracy theory, but I sure won’t be surprised if more troops land in Uganda looking for this KONY fella. Personally I think KONY shud burn in hell, but that video might end up doing more damage than good. Wud be really sad if Uganda ended up like vietnam or afganistan or Iraq….where you go after one man then take over the entire country and suck it dry….

…I am not against tha campaign, I believe a few people can make the world change, but you betta know where the badwagon is going b4 you jump into tha damn train…


Apr 11, 2012 12:47

I and my families are none parties and militaries. We are not to seek suport or win mass group of peoples rub with organizeis. We are indepant learn, work to live. If dectatorian ilegal need to influence us…


Apr 11, 2012 12:50

\*I and my families are none parties and militaries. We are not to seek suport or win mass group of peoples rub with organizeis. We are indepant learn, work to live. If dectatorian ilegal need to influence us…*/


Clicktivism - Social Likes Don't Count | blur Group Blog
Sep 26, 2014 11:52

[…] the young Americans behind the video who were murky about their finances and disturbingly were photographed brandishing guns in the very territory that the warlord apparently […]

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