Racism, Invisible Children and the Kony2012 Viral

7 Mar

As Invisible Children’s Kony2012/stopKony campaign goes viral, Sisters of Resistance share links that criticize the paternalistic, racist, “white savior” nature of the “not for profit” organization (as well as a trailer for a documentary about US interference in Africa.)

In advocating further US military intervention in Uganda, with no reference to the political economic context, or underlying systemic causes of the conflict,  let alone the fact corporations prolong and profit from it, Kony2012 furthers a racist, imperialist Western agenda which cannot be understood without reference to Africom.

African people are presented as “invisible” and incapable, while the Hollywood narrative of the “white American good guy saving the world and getting the bad guy” is perpetuated at a time when US global dominance is crumbling. 

If the founders of Invisible Children were serious, they would take down the arms companies, corporations and governments that fund, profit from, cause and prolong the conflict (read more about cobalt, corporations and Central Africa here).

Supporting further militarization

We got trouble.

From http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/post/18890947431/we-got-trouble

Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee. But it goes way deeper than that.

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission.


Thoughts on Kony 2012 and White Saviours vs. Allies

by Alex Snider

From http://2zelda.blogspot.com/2012/03/kony-2012-reduces-story-of-northern.html

I watched the Kony 2012 video this morning and I have to say the White saviour, colonial overtones made me extremely uncomfortable. Not to mention the lack of any consultation or even reference to any of the Ugandan groups who have been actively fighting against Kony for years. Even the way Invisible Children denies granting the two (!) Ugandan politicians further identification in the video. What party are they from? What role in government do they play? Why was there no mention of the president? Or of any other adult Ugandans? Why weren’t Ugandans given the opportunity to speak for themselves? Why were they instead treated as props for the self-aggrandizing filmmaker and his friends? Merely showing images of nameless mutilated children, flashing them before the audience’s eyes reduces and erases the children’s humanity. This type of stomach-turning pity-porn is no way to bring attention to a cause. This is no way to treat those you wish to help. 

I could go on about the problems with the video: the lack of Ugandan culture; the weird inclusion of the narrator’s very young son and how the video placed him at the centre of the narrative as the ideal future; the fact that it took nearly 9 minutes for Joseph Kony and the LRA to even be mentioned; the pro-military stance; and the basis that no one else could possibly have heard or cared about the LRA before Invisible Children ever before. The video is the very definition of the White Man’s Burden.


Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions

From http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/03/07/stop-kony-yes-but-dont-stop-asking-questions/

Invisible Children has had some success already: late last year, President Barack Obama committed 100 US troops to provide “advice and assistance” to the Ugandan army in removing Joseph Kony from the battlefield.  The President’s move came in part due to the NGO’s tremendous advocacy efforts.  Everyone agrees that this a hugely important issue, but Invisible Children’s methods have come in for searing criticism; most scathingly, they have been attacked as “neo-liberal, do-good Whiteness”.  Elsewhere, Foreign Affairs has provided some important context on this matter, in relation to Uganda’s strategic importance to the USA.  I would also recommend the  Twitter feed of Laura Seay, who was moved to comment this morning that “[Solomme Lemma] is tweeting links to great community-based organizations working in Northern Uganda.  Give there if you really want to help. I understand the anger and resentment at Invisible Children’s approach, which with its paternalism has unpleasant echoes of colonialism.  I will admit to being perturbed by its apparent top-down prescriptiveness, when so much diligent work is already being done at Northern Uganda’s grassroots.


@DynamicAfrica, @InnovateAfrica and @TexasinAfrica have been tweeting criticism and analysis as well as promoting the important work already being done by grassroots Ugandan organisations. For further information on the context of US imperialism in Africa please see:

Apocalypse Africa: Made in America – Trailer

Sisters of Resistance will be adding to this list as more anti-imperialist analysis of Kony2012 becomes available.

8 Responses to “Racism, Invisible Children and the Kony2012 Viral”

  1. Sista Resista March 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Please also check out http://crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/why-the-us-is-chasing-kony-and-the-lra/

    “Why The US Is Chasing Kony And The LRA

    AFRICOM was created for two main reasons, oil and China. I have documented where US officials have stated this at numerous places in this blog. For a more detailed discussion see Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command Part I, Part II and Part III.


    Kony is a handy cover for the real reasons for US interest in the region, which are all about African resources.

    You can see links to more information and documentation in these posts:
    Uganda – Stepping On the Mission Creep Accelerator
    If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy
    or via this search: http://crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com/?s=lra

    Read the full article here! http://crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/why-the-us-is-chasing-kony-and-the-lra/

  2. Sista Resista March 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    From the Africom article linked to above:

    Why is the U.S. suddenly interested in “prioritizing” Africa? The answer is the same one that has motivated countless interventions into the continent in the past centuries — control of resources

    Read more: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/kidane071008.html

  3. lordvegan March 8, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    SOLID! i remember when i got involved w/the “global night commute” (circa 2006) related to “invisible children” how i felt that it was some typical white savior shit and even challenged a few of the organizers about the ad they used for the action. anyhow, thanks for posting this piece!

  4. Grebnekkah March 8, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    Great post, great blog, and thanks for linking to us!

  5. Mariel March 8, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    Thanks for the wonderful compilation. My own, slightly hopeful, thoughts are here: http://researchthatfanagency.tumblr.com/post/18932174795/my-thoughts-on-kony2012


  1. KONY 2012 versus Critical Whiteness | Ruhrbarone - March 8, 2012

    […] radikaler argumentieren die Sisters of Resistance: “Rassistische Viralaktion” nennen sie die Kampagne der Invisible Children, und sie […]

  2. Erinnert ihr euch noch? Damals. Dieses Kony2012. « Afrika Wissen Schaft - April 23, 2012

    […] Racism, Invisible Children and the Kony2012 Viral […]

  3. Les Anonymous piratent le site officiel du Premier ministre ougandais et publient un message pro-gay | Yagg - August 17, 2012

    […] LE PRÉCÉDENT KONY Kony 2012 est une campagne vidéo diffusée sur Internet en mars dernier, lancée par 3 Américains pour arrêter Joseph Kony, le chef de l'Armée de résistance du seigneur (LRA, un groupe rebelle ougandais), et le poursuivre devant la Cour Pénale Internationale (CPI) pour crimes de guerre. Cette campagne avait fait l'objet de nombreuses critiques, accusée de présenter des faits de manière «simpliste» et de passer sous silence «les initiatives locales» pour mettre fin aux conflits de la région. Tout en condamnant les atrocités commises par Joseph Kony, de nombreuses voix s'étaient élevées contre une démarche où «l'homme blanc hétérosexuel américain» prétend «sauver le monde». […]

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