At the very least, any attempts to capture Kony would put child solders at risk—which is just one reason why some Ugandans support amnesty for LRA fighters. It’s also widely understood that the LRA’s power has diminished greatly in recent years and that Kony hasn’t been in Uganda since at least 2006. U.S. military intervention would also indirectly lead to support of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni—a man who’s been in power for 26 years, has been condemned by the International Criminal Court, and whose wife has been pushing a bill to punish homosexuality with the death penalty.
“Simplification can end up in some very dangerous water,” says Ethan Zuckerman, a researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. “I understand the need to simplify so that people can make sense of what’s going on…but I think this is one of those cases where what seems like simplification to get this information to spread may actually have some really tough political implications.”
Critics claim that the film’s portrayal isn’t just inaccurate, but it also plays on entrenched racial stereotypes.
“When you don’t know anything about a situation, it’s easy to project a familiar scenario. People talk about the ‘white savior complex’ and it sounds like that’s a metaphor, but in fact there’s been a lot of literal right wing Christian evangelism in the region,” says Nyong’o “There’s this idea of rescuing the helpless African which goes back to 19th century missionary complex.”
Nyong’o says that it’s fine to be motivated by one’s religious beliefs, but that problems arise when those beliefs are manipulated to a point of obscuring the complexity of a problem. Indeed, the region’s anti-gay zealotry has been funded by influential U.S.-based right wing churches.
The white savior complex isn’t just a familiar narrative—it’s a lucrative one.
Since at least 2006, Invisible Children has received donations from a host of Christian evangelical groups with strong anti-gay platforms in both the United States and Uganda. B.E. Wilson at Alternet took a look at the group’s tax information and found that the National Christian Foundation donated $100,000 to Invisible Children in 2008—the same year that it gave similar amounts to rabidly anti-gay and anti-choice groups including Focus on the Family, the Discovery Institute and the Family Research Institute, which was labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The National Christian Foundation says on its website that its primary goal is to “enable followers of Christ to give wisely to His Kingdom.”
In 2006, Invisible Children received a $30,000 cash donation from the Christian Community Foundation, Inc., a group who shares many of the same board members as the National Christian Foundation.
Invisible Children’s last financial statement shows that it received $10.3 million in donations during the 2010-2011 fiscal year. While the group says on its website that 100 percent of contributions go directly to advocacy, financial statements show that 32 percent of Invisible Children’s expenses go to salaries, travel expenses and film production.
It’s unclear how much money Invisible Children has raised so far through its Kony 2012 campaign, but the campaign’s notoriety brings up relevant questions for organizers working for social justice in the U.S.
“I think there are some big questions that a lot of people are still struggling with about what is the connection between making an idea go viral, and actually leveraging it for change,” says Reinsborough of Smartmeme.
So how can people in the U.S. get involved in meaningful ways? One place to start, says Nyong’o at NYU, is to learn more about the conflict from a variety of African voices who have been working in the region. He also warns that making Joseph Kony a celebrity isn’t a quick fix.
But then again, it’s not like the police have the best relationship with the Aboriginal people. Earlier this month saw the death of Terrance Daniel Briscoe, a 28-year-old Aboriginal man, within police custody in an Alice Springs gaol. The official reason given by the police, that Briscoe had sustained a head injury prior to being locked up, amounts to little more than gross negligence on the part of the police. Sadly, Briscoe is just one of almost 300 Aboriginal persons who have died in custody since the deaths-in-custody Royal Commission in 1991. As Igna Ting has reportedin Crikey, deaths in custody have risen by 50% since 1991 despite some $400 million dollars being allocated to implementing (some) recommendations of the Royal Commission. Between 2000 and 2009, Indigenous incarceration rates increased by 50%, whilst non-Indigenous rates increased by 5%. The proportion of Indigenous people in prison system has nearly doubled since 1991, going from 14% to 26%, whilst remaining just 3% of the population. Indeed, based on the raw statistics, Australia imprisons Aboriginal men at five times the rate Apartheid South Africa gaoled black men.
But what exactly is Beyoncé’s “usual colour”? She is a fair-skinned black woman. And, like most other people on earth, her skin tone changes with the seasons. For example, I – a dark-skinned black woman – am a lot darker in summer. At the risk of sounding condescending, black people tan too. Personally, I tan quickly and deeply. And in the winter, I get as “pale” as my dark-brown skin gets; enough to see the green veins at my wrists. And then let’s add in the other pertinent factors: makeup, studio lighting, airbrushing. I’m fairly certain everybody in the business with any kind of promotional budget gets sculpted, “smoothed out” and tightened in post-production.
Yes, there’s no denying that shadism or colourism still exists. Is there a noticeable bias towards a certain aesthetic – fair skin, light-coloured hair, skinny, but with a (proportionally) large bottom? Definitely. And is there a correspondingly high number of fair-skinned black women in the public eye? Again, yes. Is Beyoncé looking lighter than “normal”? Perhaps. But she was hardly of an Alek Wek complexion beforehand. People will have to troll harder on this one.
Royal or Republic?
I think the whole reason why Australia hasn’t become a republic yet is because there is no real ‘alternative’ to a constitional monarchy. I think there is a lot of good things that the monarchy can do, and a lot of bad things. And yet, a lot of people are sitting down saying “oh well, we’ll just have to wait for someone to think up a model”. Because we all have to think about this model.
That said, we need to acknowledge that the English Royals, especially since Princess Diana, are tremondous public servants. Yes there is that notion that the monarchy is there to rule over the people, but in fact they serve their country. They can ultimately make a difference. But we need to seperate the show-business monarchy to the politcal monarchy. I think we need to look at Sweden monarchy’s. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia are the head of Sweden, however politically they have no power. It’s all show-business. And yet, they are extremely popular.
Currently we are a democracy and democracy is about the sharing of ideas, making sure that every voice gets heard. And that includes the indigenous voices. I think that before we even think about becoming a republic, or staying as a constitutional monarchy, we need to sort our own issues. We need to remove racism from our constitution. We need to include the wonderful history and culture that indigenous Australia has. We need to make sure that they are included, us Australians don’t believe in a fair go for nothing. That issue needs to be sorted out before we even start on planning on becoming a republic or not.
So all in all, there are different ways in resolving this issue.