The Underlying Message of Kony 2012: Hate Goldstein, Love Big Brother!

Big Brother’s “Thirty Minutes of Hate”

Just as Israel is killing children in Gaza and Americans are killing children in Afghanistan, millions of decent and unsuspecting people fell prey to an imperial propaganda campaign: Kony 2012. The latest feel-good political stunt that claims to be standing up for human rights.

That Invisible Children, the makers of the film, has never made “Stop Bush/Obama/Blair/Cameron/Olmert/Netanyahu” a campaign ought to tell you something. This faux-social activist PR stunt—like the “Save Darfur” campaign—is a distraction.

As I previously wrote, there is just something odd about a relatively obscure group that happens to have millions of dollars to spend on making a film that is so horribly one-sided, gets so much wrong, and which happens to compliment U.S. power in the region. The film ignores the social factors behind the Lord’s Resistance Army and their leader, Joseph Kony. It ignores the much more murderous figure of Uganda’s dictator, Yoweri Museveni. Yet it calls on arming this dictator. There is nothing in the documentary to suggest the LRA are another example of the Acholi people resisting the oppressive regime.

The mantra is a classic one: Be outraged at the proverbial Emmanuel Goldstein from George Orwell’s classic 1984:

Winston’s thoughts move on to a daily ritual, which was conducted in each office, the “two minute Hate.” During this process, the telescreens broadcast pictures of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Number One “Enemy of the People” according to the Party. […] During the “Hate” people watched the speeches of Goldstein and reacted in violent anger. Winston himself often started out by dissembling his emotions, but the effect of the collective frenzy was such that after about thirty seconds, he found himself actually feeling the power of Hate.

This is the basic function of Kony 2012. Hate Goldstein. Love Big Brother.

And with the groups own financial record under scrutiny we should also be suspicious of this being a scam. Pick an easy boogeyman without being a threat to power and ask for donations in order to “Stop [insert proverbial Goldstein].”

It’s not to suggest there is no truth to the claims made against Goldstein/Kony. He is a murderous, kidnapping thug. But he is not the boogeyman, or as one popular flyer puts it: “the worst.” There are considerable reasons to be suspicious of the campaign. Anyone serious about standing up for human rights would not support a bigger human rights abuser (i.e. Museveni) to use military force to “stop” or “bring to justice” a smaller abuser. And especially considering the campaign originates in the U.S., it is hard to understand why a similar campaign is not directed towards the U.S. military—what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

The most important questions we should be asking Invisible Children are: Why Kony? Why now? Why not Museveni, or Kagame? When more than one million Iraqis were killed in an illegal U.S. war of aggression, where were you?

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