Kony 2012: Western Hypocrisy Exposed

The internet exploded last week as American based charity Invisible Children launched its Kony 2012 campaign video, garnering over 70 million views on YouTube as the emotive video went viral globally in a matter of days.

The video has inspired many, mainly young people in the West to seek the arrest of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an armed group that has caused terror through rape, child abduction and murder to communities in several central African countries; most notably to Uganda in the past, and the Democratic Republic of Congo at present.

Kony 2012 has also received criticism for its rather simplified approach to explaining the complexities of conflict in the central African region, as well as the apparent championing of military intervention in order to apprehend Joseph Kony.

Kony 2012 has however, amidst the idealism, cynicism and controversy, brought a rather noticeable Western hypocrisy to light, that has, as of yet, been rather overlooked.

In the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America, the West has been quick to vilify Islam because of the actions of a tiny minority of Islamic militants in organisations like al-Qaeda and more recently al-Shabaab. There is of course no doubt that these terror organisations should be vilified and condemned for carrying out atrocious attacks for reasons that no logical mind could accept.

However as a collective, Muslims have become subjected to an Islamophobic attitude in the West because of these terrorist attacks. This can only be seen as a collective punishment against the followers of a religion due to a handful of religious extremists.

This has not just been accepted overwhelmingly in the Unites States but also within Europe, where this wave of Islamophobia has resulted in the banning of minarets in countries such as Switzerland, and the rise of extreme-right individuals like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, famous for his anti-Islam rhetoric (the conspiracy theory of ‘Eurabia’ springs to mind).

Because of Invisible Children’s remarkably successful campaign thus far, Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army is now infamous around the world. Indeed many of those individuals who had no knowledge of the LRA a week ago now have ‘Stop Kony’ posters and ‘action packs’ making their way from Invisible Children’s HQ to their own homes.

But what is crucial is whether those who so overwhelmingly support this campaign can see the basic hypocrisy in the West that the KONY 2012 campaign has exposed.

The LRA are an extremist group, their ideology is based on the creation of a theocracy which would be founded on the Ten Commandments. There seems to be little to no acknowledgement that the crimes that Joseph Kony and the LRA commit are argued, by the perpetrators, as in the name of Christianity; just as the crimes of Al-Qaeda are argued in the same way as in the name of Islam.

Yet there are no calls for Christian leaders to condemn and speak out against the horrific acts committed by Kony and the LRA; and so there shouldn’t be, these crimes are not the responsibility of the Christian population of the world, they are the responsibility of a handful of extremists.

No Christian will sympathise with Joseph Kony, and so why would we ask the Christian community for an apology, or explanation. Yet the opposite is true when applied to Muslims and Islam; we demand apologies and explanation from faith leaders, and we demonise the religion as being backward, uncivilized, and inherently extremist.

The hypocrisy is blatant.

In my opinion, despite the propagandist feel of the KONY 2012 campaign there have been at least two positives: the first is a renewal of interest in global politics and of far-away conflict, even if it is at a rather simplistic level, and has connotations of the ‘white man’s burden’. The second however is rather revealing. Kony 2012 has unmasked Western hypocrisy in regards to our treatment of Muslims and the Islamic faith.

Unfortunately I hold little conviction that the 60 million viewers of the Kony 2012 video will be as vocal about this hypocrisy as they have been about Joseph Kony himself.

Matthew Vickery is a freelance writer who has also worked previously for the Palestine News Network in the West Bank. He is currently studying an MRes Middle East Studies at Exeter University and is a commissioning editor for e-International Relations and media liaison for RSG. He can be reached at: m.vickery.07@aberdeen.ac.uk. Read other articles by Matthew.