Joseph Kony & Jason Russell: Jungle Warlord & Media Warlord

March 8th, 2012

NewsRescue- A new dimension in media usage and media war is being witnessed as activist, filmmaker, Jason Russell of ‘Invisible Children,’ embarks on an aggressive, viral media campaign with all media tools, to bring down a dangerous African warlord, Joseph Kony, who is known as the leader of the ‘Lords Resistance Army’, responsible for thousands of children abductions and as many deaths in several of Central Africa’s Nations, including South Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic and the Democratic republic of Congo.

Related: NewsRescue- The Real Crises in Uganda and Central Africa: Worse than the Holocaust- No, Not Koin 2012

But as his campaign gains traction across media news websites and fora- so far in the space of three days, his viral video on Youtube attracting over  ten million views- questions are asked about the danger of such methods of media engagement, and what precedent this type ‘crowdsourcing intervention’ will set.

Who will be the next victim of a media mob action and lynching of this nature? Who is the judge and jury of media wars and who controls and mutes unreasonable media warlords?

Assuming in rare instance, Joseph Kony is actually innocent, this being the standard of US justice system, where you are innocent until proven guilty. Is there any way that media attacks and interventions of this kind can be amended, when the warlords of the media have acted as judge and jury and castigated ‘names’ and identities of real people in the court of public opinion? Now it must be noted that by all means Joseph Kony deserves what comes to him, as his atrocities are well documented, but the capacity to pass judgement and prosecute is what is in question here. At what stage do we know who is actually behind them and why such judgements are really passed in the media court of justice?

1 Billion barrels of oil found in Uganda

Could the discovery of oil in Uganda, estimated to bring in an income of 2 Billion dollars per annum, captioned by Forbes thus: ‘‘The ‘Resource Curse:’ Uganda’s Upcoming Oil Wealth...’ be behind the Obama interest in the Ugandan LRA -in October last year, he sent 100 US troops to battle the army- and the Jason Russell campaign? {See: AlternetHas Obama Just Kicked Off Another Oil War — This Time in Africa?}

Jason Russell’s aggressive media campaign is a powerful sensitizer of the future of the internet media. It is by no means the first, as similar but to much smaller extent media campaigns have been run by governments, individuals and media installations alike to bring down nation leaderships, divide nations or for other purposes.

The US campaign against Iran culminated in the ‘Green revolution’, also called, the ‘Gucci-bag revolution’ of Iran that resulted in much chaos and bloodshed. This campaign was largely media crowdsourced and conducted. {See: How Rice and USA in 2006 invested in potentially bringing about the current election chaos in Iran} Recently, Gaddafi’s careless statements, of little real consequence were republished to create a sense of hate and enable the overthrow of his anti-western government.

In Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, of recent there have been numerous media publications with mischievous content, aimed at promoting North hate, with ultimate aim at disintegrating the Nation. {See: Article linking IBB to Boko pulled after NewsRescue expose! Bible4Africa implicated!}

Campaign questioned

[ABC] But as the Invisible Children video goes viral, with promises to plaster posters in cities around the world on April 20, questions are being asked about the motives of those behind the campaign.

An American photographer who took a photo of Invisible Children’s founders posing with guns alongside Sudan People’s Liberation Army (above) has recounted how she felt “uncomfortable” with the situation and “worked with a colleague to try and publish a story about what we saw as their questionable practices”.

Invisible Children posing with Sudan PLA {Img: Glenna Gordon}

AFRICOM premise

According to Invisible Children’s own LRA Crisis Tracker, not a single case of LRA activity has been reported in Uganda since 2006. The website records ninety eight deaths in the past year, with the vast majority taking place in the northeastern Bangadi region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a tri-border expanse sharing territory with the Central African republic and South Sudan. Since December 2009, the eastern Djemah region of CAR has seen occasional LRA activity; the western Tambura region of South Sudan has experienced even less. The LRA has been in operation for over two decades, and presently remains at an extremely weakened state, with approximately 400 soldiers.

Through AFRICOM, the United States is seeking a foothold in the incredibly resource rich central African block in a further maneuver to aggregate regional hegemony over China. DRC is one of the world’s largest regions without an effectively functioning government. It contains vast deposits of diamonds, cobalt, copper, uranium, magnesium, and tin while producing over $1 billion in gold each year. It is entirely feasible that the US can considerably increase its presence in DRC under the pretext of capturing Joseph Kony.-read more on this

Below is another detailed and extensive reaction written by King’s College London’s Jack McDonald:

Joseph Kony and Crowdsourced Intervention

by Jack McDonald on 7 March 2012

Jason Russell has an idea, and that idea is to arrest Joseph Kony. Jason has made a movie to explain how he is putting his idea in motion: crowdsourcing military intervention. Well, he doesn’t quite phrase it in that way, but that is what it amounts to. Armed with #KONY2012 hashtags, posters, bracelets and viral movie clips, Russell aims to make Joseph Kony public enemy number one (on a global level). As the name of a warlord from the middle of the African continent is now the top-trending topic on Twitter, I’d say he’s off to a pretty good start.

Let’s make no bones about this, Russell is pretty much on the money about the nature of Kony. If such things still existed, he’d be a prime example of hostis humani generis. But if this works, then the world gets a little bit more dangerous.

Russell’s film is hopeful (it even has the Obama ‘Hope’ guy in a fraction of the film). It presents a pretty simple and powerful idea: we identify a prime candidate for global public enemy number one, we get his name to the entire world with viral marketing and then leverage that to get policymakers to go after him. We the people speak, they the administrators listen and Kony gets handcuffed and dragged before the International Criminal Court. Russell even goes into the nuts and bolts of it – America needs to give the Ugandans the equipment/advisors to track him down.

To re-visit the “Underpants Gnome” model of foreign policy:

1) Give Uganda things.

2) …

3) Get arrest.

While this is in no way a criticism of the choice of Kony, here’s my problems with the above setup:

As the film indicates, the Lord’s Resistance Army operates in a pretty big swathe of Central Africa. Kony is pretty decent at manouvering between borders. It has kept him alive for the past couple of decades, so on a planning position, let’s take it is a given that he will carry on doing this. The LRA is currently operating somewhere between the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Combined with Uganda, those four states have him penned in. The problem being, pressure in one will lead to him skipping across the border into another. Unless Kony 2012 want state militaries to start walking across borders after him, that’s four pretty weak state governments that need to be considered. How much will their armed forces cost to bring up to scratch? The alternative might be to arm one, and let them play Texas ranger across the borders of three other sovereign states. I’m not using sovereignty here as a barrier, but it’s something to consider. Helpfully, the video excludes the fact that Uganda helped invade the DRC in the 1990s, DRC politicians are currently under indictment for war crimes committed in the CAR and when Uganda went into South Sudan to chase Kony, their own troops were accused of killing and kidnapping South Sudanese civilians. I’m no Africa specialist, but that sounds like a disaster in the making if one of them is going to be given carte blanche to go after Kony, if such a thing is possible.

Second problem: let’s assume that somehow, a government, or collection of governments, is armed and trained, and sent off after Kony.  The immediate question is whether he is captured or killed. Might not be too tasteful if millions of youtube viewers worldwide wake up to the fact that they are directly responsible for the decision to go after a man, that gets him killed. I wouldn’t shed a tear over kony’s death, but it is worth considering. The second consideration is what happens afterwards. Will the armies involved give all those cool new toys that America has provided back? I think not. If America is induced to conduct a mass technology transfer, we wind up with 1-4 newly empowered state militaries. At least, technically state militaries. Lest we forget (or the helpful film casually ignores) the relationship between soldier and state isn’t the same in those four countries as westerners expect it to be. Have Kony 2012 put any thought into what the knock-on effects of the mass empowerment of these military forces might do? You only have to look at the role of the military in South Sudan’s internal conflicts to know that putting better guns and equipment in the state’s hand might have unforseen, lethal, consequences for the citizens that have to put up with the state long after Kony stops trending on twitter.

Third, and perhaps most important: Crowdsourcing intervention. Russell has picked an easy target: Joseph Kony. Why stop there? More to the point, if this works, will it ever stop? Will simplistic explanations of long-running wars, delivered in a Facebook-friendly manner become the future of foreign policy? If the opinion of Rihanna and George Clooney is going to dislodge ‘technocrats’ who do things like read the Military Balance, then what’s to stop intervention in Syria? Pretty much everyone with a passing interest in military affairs says “that is a very bad idea and lots of people will die” but I’m pretty sure that a bright person with access to youtube can come up with a better argument for a brighter world in which taking Assad down is an expression of democratic empowerment. The point about war and military affairs is that at some point, it requires restraint. That restraint is entirely arbitrary (and unfair) but it stops people getting killed. If Angelina Jolie in combination with Condoleeza Rice are to dictate American strategy, then restraints to force will disappear into a blur of “Let’s go get the bad guy” activism that is almost entirely ignorant of the second and third order effects of those decisions.

To finish: Joseph Kony deserves to be put in cuffs and dragged before the ICC. Raising the profile of the heinous nature of the guy’s crimes is awesome. The idea that popular opinion can be leveraged with viral marketing to induce foreign military intervention is really, really dangerous. It is immoral to try and sell a sanitised vision of foreign intervention that neglects the fact that people will die as a result. That goes for politicians as much as for Jason Russell.