March 13, 2012
March 13, 2012
“Click this Button or African children will die”: How the “Kony 2012” video drafted a Facebook army to support the militarization of Africa
In 1877 the British Empire was at the height of its glory, the Spanish Empire would soon collapse, and a young Oxford student named Cecil Rhodes was gripped by a sudden religious vision. Rhodes scrawled out a manifesto. In it, he called for an “Anglo-American Empire” that would begin in the heart of Africa and spread out to conquer the known world.
“Africa is still lying ready for us,” he wrote. “It is our duty to take it. It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes-that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race; more of the best, the most human, most honorable race the world possesses.”
Rhodes went on to found the DeBeers diamond cartel and devote his company’s vast wealth to the colonial project in Africa. He couldn’t have known that, just over a century later, a new invention called the Internet would be tweaking his message, smoothing out his more inflammatory language, and sending his ideas around the globe through YouTube and Facebook. Nor would he ever had imagined that the first black president of the United States would be the one to carry his vision to its ultimate conclusion, under the guise of “humanitarian intervention.”
Fast-forward to March of 2012, when the non-profit “TRI” launched an online video called “Kony 2012.” Filled with lightning cuts, footage of battle-scarred African children, and tearful appeals to emotion, the movie rallies its viewers around a single goal: stopping the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony. With the help of the U.S. military, of course. And Oprah Winfrey.
At first glance, that’s not such a bad idea. After all, the Lord’s Resistance Army has kidnapped perhaps thousands of Ugandan children and forced them into their militia in their bid to topple the Ugandan government. The fact that the movie ignores, however, is that Uganda’s government, and its U.S.-backed leader, Yoweri Museveni, doesn’t appear to have a much better record when it comes to human rights.
After all, Museveni was recruiting child soldiers to serve in the Ugandan military before the LRA unleashed its guerrilla war against the government. His success is probably what inspired Koney to take up the same tactics. So why does “Kony 2012” try to pin the blame squarely on the LRA for a war in neither side seems to be a friend of the Ugandan people?