Anybody remember Kony 2012? The YouTube video produced by an erstwhile obscure nonprofit called Invisible Children urging the youth of America to make African warlord Joseph Kony famous? The most viral video in history? And anybody remember what happened to Jason Russell, the head of Invisible Children, when adults started to analyze Kony 2012 and determined that it was a racist, colonialist, propaganda piece that exploited the political idealism of little kids to build support for a U.S. military invasion of Uganda, and when they started showing it in Uganda to people who were direct victims of said African warlord, and said victims got so offended that they threw rocks at the movie screen? Seriously, if Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, and George Orwell sat down and smoked a blunt together, they would probably come up with something like Kony 2012.
For those of you who don’t remember, Jason Russell was found by police in broad daylight on the streets of San Diego, buck naked, jumping on top of cars, picking fights with people on the street, and muttering something about iPods and the Devil. He looked like he was on drugs or something. And he had something in his hand–his dick. When the 5-0 arrived on the scene, they didn’t arrest him. They merely gave him a blanket and took him to the psych ward for treatment. Poor Jason was stressed out. The international scrutiny to which he and his nonprofit were subjected had so warped his fragile little mind that he had a meltdown. It happens to the best of us, doesn’t it?
Russell’s meltdown happened in mid-March, right around the time when the homicide of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida was just beginning to break as a national news story. Those of you who fail to understand what these two incidents have to do with each other are not part of the solution and are therefore part of the problem. If this applies to you, and you wish to become part of the solution, then keep reading. This blog posting is an experiment, but it will only work if you pay very close attention.
If you have been following the Trayvon Martin story, you are probably familiar with the argument that had George Zimmerman been black, he would be in jail right now. This insight is most likely true, but it is also banal, and as such, it is not very effective in helping white people understand the true extent of the privilege their skin color affords them in America. Instead of wondering what would have happened if Zimmerman were black, ask yourself what would have happened if Jason Russell were black and had the same mid-day suburban meltdown. What would have happened if it was Trayvon, or better yet, one of those Ugandan kids who had escaped from Kony, except a few years later after going through puberty, jumping on cars, picking fights with all the white folks in the neighborhood, and flicking his ding dong?
Kony 2012 provoked the righteous wrath of millions because it exploited the impressionable, formatively left-wing sensibilities of youth in the service of a reactionary, imperialist agenda. This agenda goes a long way in explaining why the only black people you see in Kony 2012 are the evil Kony himself and his helpless, infantile victims. When Russell shows his blond-haired, blue-eyed five year old son Gavin Danger (that’s his name, I shit you not) a picture of Kony and tells little Gavin that “this is the badguy,” anybody with the slightest decency and understanding of history cringes.
The 1%, on the other hand, rub their hands together in a sinister, Montgomery-Burns-like fashion and think “OMG, liberals and their kids are so fucking stupid . . . this psy-op may actually work!” The idea of a black Hitler, after all, is the El Dorado of U.S. imperialism. There’s one particular Kony 2012 poster that shows Hitler, Bin Laden, and Kony side by side as if to signal some racist teleology whereby evil incarnate grows progressively blacker as history marches on. If imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, then Joseph Kony is the highest stage of black-on-black crime, and the good white people of America therefore have a moral obligation to stop (and frisk) Kony.
Future historians might plausibly argue that the genuine grassroots movement to arrest George Zimmerman is blowback from the astroturfed psy-ops campaign to arrest Kony (and secure our oil in Uganda from the greedy clutches of the Chinese). In previous centuries, the scheme might have worked, but information moves too fast in the twenty-first century, and karma for the 1% is now, if not instant, at least heavily expedited. It may be as yet unknown whether George Zimmerman is a racist, but it is clear as a naked white boy jumping on cars, beating his meat, and violently assaulting multiple people in broad daylight without being charged with a crime that conservatives, free marketeers, and small government-types all over America are openly and nakedly projecting their most reactionary and, yes, racist desires and fantasies onto Zimmerman, all the while claiming racism doesn’t exist. The imperial wizard has no clothes.