This past weekend, Invisible Children launched its “Cover the Night” event in cities across the U.S. and the world. As you know, Invisible Children claims that this is an advocacy campaign which seeks to bring Joseph Kony and other leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army to justice.
There undoubtedly are few people who would argue that this is not a noble goal. However, there are underlying themes in the Kony 2012 movement which many people find troubling, as a few short minutes of research on the Internet can demonstrate.
It was only after our own research that we decided to start a new campaign, Citizens Against Social Media Propaganda (CASMP). Our goal is to call attention to what we feel is a growing threat: the use of online social media by institutions of power for the manufacturing of consent among the masses. In the case of Kony 2012, CASMP is of the opinion that, while the primary objective may actually be to bring Kony to justice, there does appear to be an ulterior motive of generating a groundswell of support for large scale U.S. military involvement in Africa.
Indeed, we feel that Invisible Children is merely a front for a larger cabal of corporate and religious institutions with a much broader agenda than simply catching one man. Following is a brief outline of why we have cause to believe this.
1. The speed with which the Kony 2012 video went “viral” would seem to indicate a large, well-funded, well- planned, behind-the-scenes PR push that is not immediately apparent to the casual observer. While we have no documented evidence for this, much circumstantial evidence exists. It is simply our feeling that nothing goes “viral” this fast unless it was meant to. The high production value of the video, the slick MTV like quality, the appeal to Hollywood entertainers, government officials, and other influential persons, are all hallmarks of well-crafted propaganda.
2. The Board of Directors for Invisible Children is constituted of millionaire entrepreneurs, contractors, and Evangelicals. While there is nothing wrong with this, it does serve to highlight possible further motives of said Directors. Major funding for Invisible Children, according to various news sources, comes from major Evangelical institutions such as The Christian Community Foundation and The National Christian Foundation. These groups also provide major funding for such entities as Focus On The Family, Harvest Evangelism, The Fellowship Foundation, Answers in Genesis, and the Family Research Council, among others. This is significant because the primary emotional lure utilized by the Kony 2012 film is the fact that Kony recruited and abducted children to serve on the LRA, or to torture and kill them.
While this is true, it is also true that the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, has been cited by Amnesty International as having forcibly removed hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, carrying out extrajudicial arrests and executions, and USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS. Museveni himself has maintained power in Uganda through elections rife with accusations of voter disenfranchisement, abuse, intimidation, and violence. CASMP feels that the Kony 2012 video presents an extremely simplistic view of the Ugandan troubles, and the role Invisible Children plays in Uganda. It should also be noted, that according to news sources and Ugandan citizens, Joseph Kony has not been active in the region since at least 2006.
3. Invisible Children utilizes their funding from Christian organizations to support and work with the Ugandan government. Indeed, as reported in the Washington Post and other news outlets, Invisible Children seems now to be in the business of helping Museveni round up his political opponents, as in the recent case of Patrick Komakech, arrested for treason on a tip from Invisible Children. It is our belief that a major ulterior motive of Invisible Children is to assist in the continued maintenance of theocratic rule in Uganda, and to be part of a worldwide effort to promote theocracy around the world. Their alliance through funding with groups promoting anti Creationism in schools, among other things, leaves no real doubt of this ulterior motive.
4. According to their website, Invisible Children was formed in 2004 as a non-profit organization. Further, the Kony 2012 film leads viewers to an assumption that they are in fact a charitable organization, and that the money they raise will be used to help Ugandans directly. However, according to their own Financials as posted on their website, only about 30 percent of their funding goes to Central Africa. The rest goes into marketing, products, travel, and compensation for employees and the Board of Directors. The latter are very well compensated indeed. In a widely available online video filmed at a Liberty University Convocation in 2011, Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children, states rather plainly that “Most people view us as a non-profit, as a charity.
We view ourselves as a business, as a company”. Again, the culture of misleading people seems pervasive at Invisible Children, all the way up to their co-founder.
5. Invisible Children appears to be calling for U.S. military intervention in Uganda, ostensibly to locate Kony. Their efforts resulted in the sending of advisors to Uganda in 2011. Upon reading their Open Letter to President Obama on Invisible Children’s website, they seem to urge further involvement. One of Invisible Children’s slogan is “Stop at Nothing”. We at CASMP are troubled by this slogan. For the U.S. to commit large-scale troop deployment in order to find Joseph Kony, the deployment would not only have to be in Uganda, but in the surrounding African nations as well. This would be an expensive and complicated endeavor.
All of this to find one man? Could there be another motive for U.S. military involvement in Africa? Uganda has largely untapped crude oil and natural gas resources. There can be no doubt that extremely powerful interests have their sights set on these and other resources. We do not mean to imply that that the U.S. government itself is behind the Kony 2012 phenomenon, but that perhaps it is military-industrial and corporate interests that are behind it. As we have seen in Iraq, large corporate interests and U.S. foreign policy too often go hand-in-hand. As we saw in Vietnam, a huge conflict can start with a simple, small deployment of military advisors.
The Invisible Children propaganda campaign can be viewed as a program of manufactured consent to stir a groundswell of demand among social media users for such military intervention. This propaganda campaign is targeting those who would normally protest such action – the young, socially active, and media-savvy.
Citizens Against Social Media Propaganda is very concerned about the Kony 2012 campaign, and about the actual motives of Invisible Children and those who fund it. Our view is that those motives are not limited to capturing Joseph Kony, but also include propping up theocracy in Uganda, working with other organizations to promote large-scale U.S. military intervention in Central Africa, targeting the young and impressionable with slick viral marketing to increase support of such action, and of course lining their pockets with profit in the process.
What concerns us even more, however, is that this could be the dawn of a new era of corporations, the government, or indeed any self-serving organizations to use social media subversively as an outlet to spread propaganda freely and openly. This would be an abuse of the intent behind the creation of such social media outlets and indeed the free and open Internet.
Radio and television broadcasters are required to obey federal “sponsorship identification rules.” The sponsorship identification rules (47 U.S.C 317, 508 and 47 C.F.R. 73.1212, 76.1615) require broadcasters and cable operators to “inform their audience at the time of airing: (1) that such matter is sponsored, paid for or furnished, either in whole or in part; and (2) by whom or on whose behalf such consideration was supplied” (FCC 2005, 3). Although these laws do not yet cover the Internet, to our knowledge, we at CASMP feel that Kony 2012 may fail to meet the requirement in clause (2), “on whose behalf such consideration was supplied”.
While CASMP does not advocate for limitations on the free and open Internet or for censorship, we do strongly urge that Congress consider enacting legislation to strengthen existing FCC anti-propaganda regulations so that corporations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies cannot use social media to engage in covert propaganda campaigns, and to re-enact the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting.
We also urge you, Mr. President, along with Congress and the UN, not to engage additional U.S. forces in Africa based solely on the so-called “grassroots public support” which Invisible Children is artificially creating. One of their stated goals is to supply a “mandate” for you to authorize military action in Africa. However, we feel this “mandate”, once people realize what is occurring, would be short-lived. Massive military involvement and expenditure in Africa would only serve to deter our country from solving the many problems we face here at home.
Invisible Children is planning to petition the UN to intervene on behalf of human rights in Africa. We at CASMP plan to petition the UN on the Kony 2012 matter as well.
From our perspective, this represents an important and much needed step of securing democracy throughout the free world, by no longer allowing covert propaganda campaigns to infiltrate social media. We hope we will have your support on this Mr. President.
By; James Cale Jones
Mr. Jones is President – Citizens Against Social Media Propaganda