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Joseph Kony and the Moral Ambiguity of the Modern World

The film everyone's talking about reminds us that hardly anything is black and white anymore.


One week ago, nonprofit group Invisible Children started a firestorm on the Internet with its Kony 2012 video. At first glance, the 30-minute film seemed innocuous, a passionate plea to get the world interested in the plight of Ugandans and other Africans forced to confront the murderous rebel leader Joseph Kony. But soon the backlash began. And then came the backlash against the backlash, which later led to backlash against the backlash against the backlash.

Essentially calling the film pointless, Foreign Policy wrote, "[I]t is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality." The Atlantic questioned Invisible Children's financial dealings. And still others saw the video as another toothless addition to the "guilty white liberal" genre. Writing for GOOD, Ugandan-American Patrick Kigongo wrote, "At best, Kony 2012 is a hyper-simplification of a complicated issue. It allows most of us to skip the frank, involved discussion in favor of just furthering a meme."

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Don't Reduce Uganda to a Meme

Shouldn’t I be happy the Kony 2012 campaign has finally drawn U.S. attention to a long-running conflict in my ancestral home? Actually, I'm angry.


I was surprised this week to see my Facebook wall and Twitter feed flooded with references to Joseph Kony. When I first went “home” to Uganda 20 years ago—my parents moved to the United States a couple of years before I was born—I was shocked and saddened to find there was still a war going on up north.

For those of you who are still unaware, Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group engaged in a bush war on the Uganda/South Sudanese border. The LRA is notorious for its recruitment of child soldiers, forced amputations, and routine rape of prisoners of war. My relatives explained to me that the civil war that ended in 1986 in most of the country had never really ended. Because of the conflict—and the fact that most of my family is from the south of Uganda—I’ve yet to visit cities like Gulu or Kitgum. While the war isn’t necessarily close to home for me, it was never something I was able to tune out.

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Intermission: Make Joseph Kony Famous

Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, is responsible for abducting thousands of children and forcing them to take up arms.

Invisible Children launched this campaign video on Monday in an effort to make Joseph Kony a household name. Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, is responsible for abducting thousands of children and forcing them to take up arms.

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