Kony 2012:Social Media’s low point? – Manish Parashar

Joseph Kony's LRA has been inactive in Uganda for the past 6-7 years now, having fled to the neighboring countries with an ever-decreasing rank strength

Sometime back a gory image of roasted bodies lying strewn across a field went viral across Face book and other social networking sites. The caption described it as the handiwork of Muslim fundamentalists in Nigeria who had planted land mines in that place. Expectedly, a flurry of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ was set forth by concerned netizens without giving any second thoughts about genuineness of the same. It all needed just a few clicks on Google to falsify all that had been depicted. The picture no doubt ghastly, was of a gas tanker explosion and not carried out by some Jihadist organization. Why did I mention this in this article? Well, go and watch Kony 2012 on YouTube or below on this page, and you might get the hint.

[vsw id=”Y4MnpzG5Sqc” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

Documented by a lesser known NGO by the name of Invisible Children this 30-minute clip aims to make Kony famous (infamous (?)) by highlighting his atrocities. What’s more, going beyond its humanitarian activities it calls upon the US to actively engage in on-field endeavors to nab Kony. Like the former incident this too has spread like a virus throughout the web with 32 million+ views in just a matter of a few days. I had already been spread by numerous Face book ‘shares’ of similar nature to have enough doubts in promptly believing it at the face value. Some further reading and I was convinced that I wasn’t wrong: Kony 2012 is another viral ‘cause’ in the Internet having little truths and many un-truths.

The whole story is about Joseph Kony, an ex-clergy boy turned rebel and his inhuman and grotesque tortures on the natives. His Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been fighting a futile guerilla war with the Ugandan government since decades. But that’s where the truths of the clip end and the fantasies begin. Since it was documented in 2012, it should at least have taken note of the present ground realities. That I presume is its biggest flaw; for the LRA has been inactive in Uganda for the past 6-7 years now, having fled to the neighboring countries with an ever-decreasing rank strength. This very fact makes the affair of making the clip futile. No doubt Joseph Kony is a madman who needs to be captured and prosecuted for his crimes against humanity. That apart, by focusing upon the once-affected areas it is actually making lives harder for those who had been affected.

Kony 2012
Joseph Kony's LRA has been inactive in Uganda for the past 6-7 years now, having fled to the neighboring countries with an ever-decreasing rank strength

The people of those places had finally begun to resume a semblance of a normal life by tilling the fields and continuing with their past businesses. The LRA and its atrocities were a thing of the past for them. All of a sudden, a viral video is making fresh all the scars that they had so painstakingly healed. I request all the viewers of that clip to find out about its reactions in Uganda. You might be surprised to find how much this ‘informative’ video is being resented in the country where it is supposed to make an impact.

Another disturbing message from the video is ‘to extensively lobby’ for the deployment US special forces to arrest Kony with the aid of the Ugandan army. The incredulity of this message hinges on two factors. Firstly, we have all seen how US intervention has wreaked havoc on two Middle Eastern countries with the ‘War on Terror’ nowhere nearing its end. The whole idea of another military exercise is being vehemently opposed by all in Uganda. Negotiation by peaceful means is the only way forward, they feel, for the LRA came into existence based on some specific demands and violence isn’t the solution for them.

Secondly, the NGO calls for aiding the Ugandan military against which numerous human rights violation cases have been reported.  Many of us completely tend to ignore the fact that LRA itself was born as a result of the excesses of the Ugandan army which used to receive direct support from the former Libyan leader Gaddafi and so against such a backdrop, will it be really wise in helping a tainted army?

The nature and activity of the NGO also leaves many unanswered questions. Charity Navigator rates Invisible Children at 2/4 for failing to make public its expenses. Invisible Children has also been accused of dedicating too little of its funds on real humanitarian work and too much of it on promotional campaigns and advertising. Indeed, many people have complained that it exhorts them to buy promotional clothes and other stuffs resembling more like a corporate brand than an aid organization. An NGO will obviously need funds from people but there is a difference between voluntary aid and corporate salesmanship. And most importantly, it is fighting for a cause that has been dormant for the past several years. Ugandans have arguably a lot of other pressing problems like malaria, malnourishment, nodding disease, etc. at hand that needs far greater attention than the hunt for Kony.

Invisible Children should instead have highlighted the recovery made by the people after decades of devastating civil war. One tends to feel that maybe this video is a last-minute bid to sensationalize an issue for which the NGO was created and the same that has been dead for a long time now.

Putting aside all these discrepancies, even if we believe that Invisible Children really did have a noble intention behind making that documentary it is nevertheless guilty of spreading half-truths and concocted ground realities. It is also equally guilty of advocating the use of military to propose the end to what really is a conflict of principles, never realizing at the same time that this will spell even more humanitarian woes for impoverished Uganda. It should have kept in mind that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” especially in the Internet age where there exists a whole batch of people waiting to ‘like’ and ‘share’ anything ‘noble’ without delving a bit into its authenticity.

This is a Guest Post by Manish Parashar. He is a B.E. Mechanical Engineering student at the Manipal Institute of Technolgy, Manipal.



  1. This speaks a lot about so-called NGOs which operate in the garb of service.We too have them in our nation,the recent example being Kudankulam issue.

  2. U have done your homework but u clearly missed the entire point. The point of this video was not a geography lesson, the point was to raise awareness regarding the issue which it clearly succeeded in doing.How many people do you think even heard of Kony before this went viral?
    Secondly, IC is not an organization which promised to do a lot of ground work. If u even tried to probe further, they clearly said that only 1/3 of the raised funds was to be used to improve the situation at the ground, the rest are used in raising awareness,making the video,tshirts etc etc. Either way, no one is forcing anyone to donate.They have clearly put up on their website explaining how they use the finances and its very transparent. Please go through it.
    Thirdly, its true that the LRA is no longer active in Uganda, but even then there have been reports of over 1000 abductions and dozens of deaths in the last one year.  Please visit this website which will tell of the atrocities of the LRA as they are occurring in real time.
    Its easy to criticize everything. Atleast it should be constructive. Armchair critiques like yourself are glaring examples of what is wrong with our generation in this country.

    • Agreed, it has succeeded in its mission of making people aware. But is it not equally responsible for spreading half-truths? Many among us will merely believe in the whole clip w/o delving in to the actual causes of the conflict.
      Don’t you think as an NGO it should devote more of its resources in aid work rather than commercial activities? Btw, I have gone through the website all right.
      The LRA is no longer active, but still these problems are persisting. Doesn’t it indicate a possible handiwork of the Ugandan army, which IC is supporting?
      Many people in the Ugandan govt. as well as local aid workers have strongly criticized IC for this video coz as I have mentioned, Ugandans surely have a lot of pressing issues at hand than to worry about a diminishing LRA.
      As for the personal comment, it is partly correct. In a week where we have 8-5pm classes daily, it’s hard to make time for any social work. But I’m associated with a couple of Nature NGO’s (Aaranyak) back in my place. I’m doing an internship/eco study this summer and I do care a lot about the street dogs in my own small way… 

      • Hope the 2 videos i pots above give you some answers.

        IC is NOT a charity organization, so i don’t agree with you when you say that they have to spend more money on charity.Maintaining the websites, all the awareness programs in the U.S, the buses,etc all cost a lot of money. And more importantly, they have clearly explained what their agenda is! As i said you can look at all the financials online and they are thoroughly transparent.They are actually giving away products for free now.

        And again you are wrong when you say the LRA is no longer active. Please go to this website. http://www.lracrisistracker.co… How can you call it inactive when a lot of people are getting abducted, murdered and raped even to this day? 

        To conclude, look, agreed that it has its flaws..nothing’s perfect but at least they are doing something.Their efforts should be lauded. Do u seriously think they did ALL this to earn money? They made sure a nasty criminal like Kony is getting the attention he deserves and maybe one day he’ll be captured. You may have different views but u should attest appreciate when something of this scale is brought about by some ordinary filmmakers.

        • 6 months after oil is found in Uganda a video goes viral in less then 24
          hours calling for a ‘soft invasion’ of the country by US forces? in
          order to find and capture / kill one of many warlords in that part of
          the world, however the fact that said warlord has NOT been active since
          2006 (some reports say 2008), and that he is likely no longer in Uganda,
          is of course never mentioned, nor is the fact that only around 32% of
          donations go to the Ugandan government and that the rest is pocketed by

          If the goal is to simply bring awareness to politicians by letting
          them know the people of the world are aware, they could have attached a
          petition to the video, thereby applying the necessary pressure to keep
          this going past KONY 2012.

          Further, they could have done an “on the ground” campaign for
          infrastructure, roads, schools, etc. My husband added that the Invisible
          Children went beyond a generic petition — doing what most politicians
          do in a campaign — raising the question, “Why don’t we get just as ‘up
          in arms’ with the money spent on marketing during an election year, when
          those funds could go back into our own school or health system?”

          • I have read a lot of posts online similar to yours. Believe me, i am no fan of the U.S government and never did i think that their previous ‘conquests’ (i like to call them that) in the middle east were anything but acts of selfish need for power at the expense of many lives.
            But again, is there any proof to suggest that this whole thing is a grandly staged spectacle? No. So until something of that sort comes to light its nothing but a conspiracy theory.

        • True, the organization has good intentions (with bringing awareness of child soldiers and the conflict in Uganda). But I feel like the film is more about the filmmakers rather then the subject. Killing off a leader of a highly popular resistant movement doesn’t always make things better. Even though I have been resistant to say it, there is a hint of “white man’s burden” occurring in the film, the idea that because Americans are “more superior,” we have to save these poor dying children. Keep in mind this conflict has lasted for over 20 years and engages various states and actors and the film has brought it down to a good guy and bad guy story. Even if IC succeeds in its short-term goal of killing Kony or increased awareness, it won’t eliminate Northern Uganda’s problems in sustainable development. 

          Read through this:

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