When a video goes viral on the web about an international issue, its important to analyze exactly what is being spread. The campaign to make Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord famous dominated news last week. The purpose of this campaign, kicked off in the form of a video is a way of agitating for the international community to do something about him. Watching the video, one gets the impression that he is the worst international villain since Osama Bin Laden. The ultimate goal of this campaign is to “raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice” While this may seem like the humanitarian thing to do, questions must be raised, even if they seem obvious.
Since when does the United States care about the plight of child soldiers in Africa? There are many Joseph Kony’s all over the continent, unfortunately. The child soldiers of places like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan don’t seem to evoke this same response from the American international activist base.
Social media can be used for mass manipulation. There is nothing inherently progressive about this medium. It is an advanced tool, and the political content doesn’t necessarily have to be from the bottom up. One has to be careful about this fast food approach to activism, as it is more complicated than just “Lets go get the bad guy” There are geopolitical goals underneath this latest push for humanitarian interventionism. The U.S. sent miltary advisers to Uganda back in October, and this campaign appears to be for the purpose of bolstering that effort. It looks like the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P) will be used in yet another international context.
This is not to say that the people who are concerned are wrong for showing empathy. However, this idea that the U.S. can “go save Africa” by removing one warlord is a bit of wishful thinking. It is beginning to come forward that those behind the video haven’t done quite as much as they are saying they have for Uganda. The criticism that has emerged has called into question varying motivations for intervention. Before we engage in international issues and are manipulated into advocating for yet another conflict, its time to stop and think what are the real reasons behind this push for action.
-Marc W. Polite