Those few of you who have been dwelling under a rock for the past week may not be familiar with the name Joseph Kony. Thanks to a viral video by a group called Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, crazed Ugandan killer, is a super-de-dooper hot topic, especially amongst high school and middle school children.
The only problem, as astute critics immediately pointed out, is that the video is yesterday’s news. Kony is an incredibly evil figure, but he’s not an ascendant, or even ascending figure:
It would be great to get rid of Kony. He and his forces have left a path of abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years. But let’s get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.
First, the facts. Following a successful campaign by the Ugandan military and failed peace talks in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic — where Kony himself is believed to be now. The Ugandan military has been pursuing the LRA since then but had little success (andseveral big screw-ups). In October last year, President Obama authorized the deployment of 100 U.S. Army advisors to help the Ugandan military track down Kony, with no results disclosed to date.
Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film (and by others) refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years. Eerily, it is also the same number estimated for the total killed in the more than 20 years of conflict in Northern Uganda.
As I wrote for FP in 2010, the small remaining LRA forces are still wreaking havoc and very hard to catch, but Northern Uganda has had tremendous recovery in the 6 years of peace since the LRA left.
What appears to have happened is that a very well done video has triggered mass slacktivism. What?! You haven’t heard that term? Here’s a handy-dandy definition:
Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism or slackervism) is a term formed out of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist. The underlying assumption being promoted by the term is that these low cost efforts substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplementing them, although this assumption has not been borne out by research.
Here in Marin, kids are going to put posters showing Kony’s face all over the school. That’ll larn that evil Kony fella. This is like Yosemite Sam taking shots at Bugs Bunny. It’s farce.
Of course, in Marin, it’s not farce at all. We sophisticated, enlightened Marinites understand that putting up posters increases awareness. This is an important “consciousness raising” exercise. The kids now have raised consciousnesses. They will be better people for the experience.
I am being sarcastic, of course. Although Marin always manages to reduce common sense to its most illogical extreme, the fact is that one cannot deal with a problem unless one is aware of a problem. And kids who are completely blinkered, with no awareness whatsoever of the world around them grow up to be useless, ineffectual adults who cannot even recognize that there are problems that need to be solved.
Nevertheless, the lesson for the kids here, given Kony’s fundamental irrelevance, is that posters are good enough. My suggestion would be that, in addition to watching videos and putting up posters, the kids visit One Last Word, where blogger Dan Hamilton contrasts the huge outpouring of passive (but expensive) support for a video about a minor, albeit incredibly evil, villain with the routine hostility and disdain visited upon our Marines, the men and women who actually do something to take out the bad guys:
I want to assure you of something: while your focus may be momentarily on Joseph Kony, the Marine Corp’s focus is continuously on locating, closing width, and destroying the enemy regardless of social popularity.
If you want us to take down Joseph Kony, call your State Representative and tell him or her that the reason you pay taxes is to feed, clothe, and equip Marines, so they can go stomping through the jungles of Uganda in order to capture and kill war criminals that have enslaved and brutalized hundreds of thousands of children.
Another question, however, persists: where were all the “Social Media Activists” when Marines were getting shot at, and their Humvees were getting turned inside out by IED’s while trying to stop atrocities in the Middle East? Atrocities that are very akin to what is happening in Uganda.
In our darkest hour, we needed you to approve and support our mission, not just the individual solider or Marine. The Marine Corps may be our medium, but the American people are our reason. If you shunned Iraq because the cause was not just only to turn around and pursue another mass murderer, it leaves us wondering why you picked your cause over our cause while we’re the ones dying.
I wish good luck to our kids. They’re going to need it, since it’s mentally and emotionally disabling to grow up in a culture that marginalizes the people who actually do, in favor of celebrating (and funding) those who do no more than feel.