I get email: invisible children

I've been trying to unsubscribe from a lot of the mailing lists I've signed up for over the past several years, so that I don't have to delete eleven emails I'm not planning to read, three times a day. Apparently, during the KONY 2012 thing earlier this year, I signed up for the Invisible Children mailing list.  When I saw it, I almost deleted it.  Then I didn't, because I was curious what they're saying -- I haven't heard anything about Invisible Children since the founder ran naked through the street that one time.

Here's the first paragraph of their email:

Starting in September, Invisible Children Roadies are heading to New Hampshire as well as 49 other states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. They want to see New England in the fall, the world's largest doughnut, and everything in between. But mostly they want to meet you, your friends, and your friends' friends. New Hampshire dates run from September 25-October 8, but they're filling fast.

I love that they write "49 other states," not "the 49 other states."  Like there are some extra ones they're skipping.

They're taking a new film on tour, and they're asking their supporters to book screenings.  I guess the plan is to have their supporters gather up all their friends to get pumped up for the last five months of 2012, because the more middle-class American kids wishing the LRA will go away, the more likely it is to happen.

I guess if it all ends up working, it's not a bad thing.  And I am against a certain kind of hate that Invisible Children supporters get -- the organization is irresponsible, condescending and noneffective, but the people supporting it do want to help, and calling them assholes isn't going to point them in the direction of more productive activism.

That said, I'm still unsubscribing from the mailing list now.

Central Africa: 7th post

Previous post here The Second Sudanese Civil War

According to Wikipedia, the northern and southern parts of Sudan are pretty close to being different countries.  There are racial divides, religious divides, radical differences in geography, and when Great Britain was governing it, they were treated nearly as separate states.

But when organizing their independence from Egypt and Great Britain, the north was given preference.  Northern citizens began to dominate southern politics.

On top of that, the south is just better land.  They get more rain, and have more water, and most of Sudan's oil deposits are in the south.

In 1983, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was founded.  That is an almost direct transcription of the phrasing from the Wikipedia page. At the time, though, they were campaigning for a unified Sudan which respected all its peoples.  In 1985, there was a coup, and they suspended the existing (two-year old) constitution and declared an intent to become an Islamic state.

The military council that was formed after the coup turned over power to an elected official, the Umma Party candidate Sadiq al-Mahdi.  The Umma Party is an Islamic party, and according to Wikipedia, are centrist.  During this time, the SPLA were still fighting.  There was a negotiation in 1988, but the Prime Minister refused the peace plan that the SPLA and the DUP (the Democratic Unionist Party) had reached.

At this point, Sudan was officially operating under Sharia law.  In 1991, the government instituted a new penal code, the Criminal Act of 1991.  It included punishments including amputation and stoning, and though the southern states were officially exempt from them because they were based in Sharia, the act provided for application of Sharia in the south.  In 1993, the government replaced the southern non-Islamic judges with northern Islamic judges, and non-Muslims became subject to Sharia law.

And I realize that as a sheltered American this is depressingly weak-willed of me, but I can't go on reading about this right now.  I was never very good at history, and this is all just deeply depressing.  I'm going to pick back up on the Second Sudanese Civil War tomorrow, for now I'm going to switch over to a look at the current state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

...is currently still dealing with continued fighting in the eastern regions, associated with the Second Congo War, which officially ended in 2003.  This is, apparently, the location of the worst war since World War II, and I have literally never heard of it.

Prior to its current name, the country was most recently known as Zaire, which was a one-party state led by President Mobutu Sese Seko, who had the support of the United States, and was guilty of "severe human rights violations."  Among other things.

Damn it.

I think I'm going to need to look into some other way of organizing my learning about the history of Africa, because right now it's just shaping up to be a dense listing of paragraph summaries of horrible things.  I'll brainstorm that tomorrow, along with finishing up the summary of the Second Sudanese Civil War.

Central Africa: 6th post

previous post here South Sudan

(Primary source:  Wikipedia)

I learned a new word today!  Or, a new meaning of a word I knew before:  Condominium. In international law, a Condominium is an area governed jointly by two or more sovereign states.

I learned this because I discovered via Wikipedia that, after gaining sort-of-independence from Egypt in 1899, the territory that would become South Sudan was part of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, a condominium which the British Empire and Egypt formally governed.  (Britain was, at the time, 'advising' the Egyptian government, though they were occupying the country at the time.)

In 1954, the Egyptian government (which had recently switched from monarchical to democratic) forfeited its sovereignty over Sudan, forcing the British to do the same, as a political move to get the British out of Egypt.

After that, the First Sudanese Civil War started in 1955.  The following quote is directly from the Wikipedia post:

Until 1946, the British government, in collaboration with the Egyptian government (under a condominium governing arrangement) administered south Sudan and north Sudan as separate regions. At this time, the two areas were merged into a single administrative region as part of British strategy in the Middle East.

This act was taken without consultation with southerners, who feared being subsumed by the political power of the larger north. Southern Sudan is inhabited primarily by Christians and animists and considers itself culturally sub-Saharan, while most of the north is inhabited by Muslims who were culturally Arabic.

This is the first piece of information I've bumped into that addresses why Sudan and South Sudan wanted to be different countries.  I had no idea that there was a significant cultural divide explicitly between the two regions.  This is something I'm going to have to look into more in coming weeks.

Following the civil war, which ended in 1972, what would be South Sudan was known as the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region, and appears to have been technically part of Sudan but essentially self-governing.  That lasted for eleven years -- in 1983, when it was abolished, fighting picked back up immediately with the Second Sudanese Civil War.

That's a big, scary, unpleasant article in itself, involving arms dealers, terrorism, one of the highest civilian death tolls since World War II and child soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

That only ended in 2005, resulting in the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan that exists today.

An article I linked last week, from April of 2010, points out that the LRA used the unstable political situations of the countries in which it operates to hide from capture.  Knowing that, before six years ago, South Sudan had been in civil war for the entire length of the existence of the LRA sheds some more light on that.

Next week I'm going to try to look more into the Second Sudanese Civil War, and I'm also going to look into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Right now, this series is getting pretty cursory -- close to the only website I cited in this post was Wikipedia.  But I think I need a broader picture of Africa over the last few hundred years before I can start really getting a handle on any of the in-depth issues.  So, for now, I'm going to keep drifting around, trying to learn about the histories and governments of various countries, following the connections each week as they lead me across borders.

Uganda: 5th post

Previous post here I believe I am out of my depth.

I've been trying to get a more sophisticated understanding of President Museveni's administration, but as it turns out -- and I'm sure this will come as a surprise to everyone -- understanding the political situation of Uganda, a country which 5 weeks ago I had never read an entire article about, is difficult.

So, while I do feel that I am making meaningful progress in understanding more about Uganda, the LRA, and various perspectives on foreign aid, I don't have very much useful information to summarize this week.

***

I did find out that Museveni doesn't want the International Criminal Court to prosecute Kony, preferring to handle it in Uganda.  (Source)

I also found a pretty good article from 2010 that discusses why the LRA has been around so long, and why they're difficult to stop.  It wasn't the target of my information seeking this week, but it is certainly worth reading, for more full comprehension. (Source)

Here's some information on Kony's tactics:

Apart from friendships with shady dictators, the LRA has gotten pretty good at what it does -- massacring and hiding throughout the region. "They've developed skills that no military has on Earth," said Frank Nyakairu, who covered the LRA for 10 years for Uganda's Daily Monitor and now works for Reuters. LRA fighters are excellent at hiding in and moving quickly across rough terrain, often at night, and few conventional militaries can keep up. The LRA has also honed its ability to forage and loot the supplies it needs, including child soldiers. Few if any similar guerrilla or insurgent groups worldwide have been capturing, brainwashing, and training children for as long as the LRA, and its leaders have refined their brutal techniques to an art form.

And here's a bit about the corruption of the Ugandan military:

Meanwhile, the LRA's pursuers, corrupt and inept, have shot themselves in the foot innumerable times. An internal military investigation in 2003, for example, found that Ugandan commanders in their country's north were inflating their troop numbers and keeping for themselves the salaries and rations for soldiers who were dead, had deserted, or never existed in the first place. Of Uganda's 55,626 troops on paper, an estimated 20,000 did not exist. The soldiers who did exist were underequipped, underfed, and often unpaid, as the same commanders skimmed money from disbursements meant to buy food and supplies. Overall, high-ranking Ugandan military leaders profited immensely from the war -- and the LRA profited from facing a weakened military.

***

I've also found a few more articles this week that discuss the problems with Invisible Children's approach.

This excellent post from How-matters.org discusses the psychological motives within the Kony 2012 film: (source)

The Invisible Children founder’s real job in that moment was not to solve Jacob’s problem. Aid workers, do-gooders, that goes for us too. We have an immense responsibility to handle these situations with care because our presence as outsiders can and often does provide opportunities for people to tell their stories, often of suffering. It takes effort to cultivate and hone our ability to carry this burdensome, sacred role and work hard not to project or protect our feelings over another’s. But in my experience, simply “being there” can help people reconnect to their hope when it seems lost.

This one offers a bulleted list of issues we should consider when thinking about the Kony 2012 film: (source)

[...] please consider

  • The lack of context and nuance;
  • Invisible to whom?;
  • The disempowering and reductive narrative;
  • Revival of the white savior;
  • The privilege of giving; and
  • The lack of African leadership.

And this libertarian-slanted HuffPost World article features a paragraph in which the writer, James Marshall Crotty, attempts to say the words "Atrocity tourism" as many times as he can: (source)

Mr. Russell is not some rare and fragile bird who descended un-touched from some Pure Land of Bodhisattva Oneness, though that's the image he projects. Moreover, he's not free, merely by decree, of the Atrocity Tourist agenda. He did not arise out of whole cloth and magically decide to heroically "do something" (as Atrocity Tourists obnoxiously and obsessively intone) about Joseph Kony. He was already practicing Atrocity Tourism in Sudan back in 2004 when he came upon the Kony story, which provided a fresh angle to his preexisting Atrocity Tourist point of view. In other words, Russell was and is part and parcel of the Atrocity Tourist culture and mindset that permeates Southern California.

***

So, here's where I'm at right now:  I said in my 3rd Uganda post that I don't think I can help.  I'm going to go a step further and say that I don't think Invisible Children is particularly helpful, unless their awareness raising produces a noticeable increase of efforts like this one (and, it's worth noting, only if this effort ends up working.)

I do think that there is probably some sort of foreign aid that is helpful, but I don't think Joseph Kony and the LRA is the right kind of issue for that. Microfinance programs like Kiva seem to work, so that's going to be part of my focus for next week's installment.  I'm also going to stick with Uganda, and their relationship with South Sudan.  Since I don't know where to go with this research, I'm going to just use the loose ends from each post as a springboard into the next one.

Hopefully, through this process, I'll be able to develop a clearer sense of in what ways rich, privileged westerners can really help people in developing nations.  And maybe (fingers crossed) I'll be clear enough in my process that, by the end of it, I'll be able to write a short version of this exploration to help other people figure out how they can help, next time a video like Kony 2012 reminds a whole bunch of people to care.

Uganda: 4th post

Previous post here I'm glad I'm doing this, because this story is seriously resisting getting boring.  The co-founder of Invisible Children and the guy who made the KONY 2012 video, Jason Russell, has been arrested for public masturbation.  Source

I think this is funny, but it's also important to note that the behavior or mental health of the narrator of the KONY 2012 video does not necessarily affect the validity of their cause or claims.  There are a lot of problems with Invisible Children which I've addressed before, but I think it's important to criticize Invisible Children for Invisible Children's problems, not for Jason Russell's personal mental health issues.

***

I said last post that I was going to look into President Museveni, because some of the articles I read cited his corruption as a major issue in Uganda and a reason not to just hand the Ugandan government guns and money to track down Kony.

Regrettably, I didn't do that.  I've been fairly distracted this week and haven't gotten a lot of reading done about the issues in Uganda, so details about Museveni will have to wait until next week.  I apologize to anyone who's reading these posts as a source of useful information and context about the issue.

I did take the time just now to scan his Wikipedia page, though, where a few significant issues stand out.  He's fought against term limits during his administration, and I believe he's eliminated them at this point.  To me, that's a fairly damning concern.  He's also a fundamentalist Christian, and associated with "The Fellowship" or "The Family," a secretive fundamentalist Christian organization oriented towards political influence and breaking down church/state separation.

***

I was also linked (though I can't remember from where) to the Foundation for Sustainable Development's Uganda page, which has a broad overview of the various, significant issues Uganda faces.  I haven't yet done a lot of homework on the FSD's success as a charity, but the picture it paints of Uganda reminds me that the issues the country faces can't be solved by the capture of one man, and that the ability of Joseph Kony to terrorize Uganda and other African countries is a symptom of the broader societal issues which chronically prevent communities from dealing with threats as they arise.  It's as if Uganda's social immune system is compromised, and Joseph Kony and the LRA is an illness that a stronger body could kill, but thrives in weaker nations.

***

Which brings me, again, face-to-face with the question I've been struggling with since I watched the KONY 2012 video.  Of course, stopping Joseph Kony won't solve all of Africa's problems, and of course stopping Joseph Kony will stop at least some of the problems directly caused by Joseph Kony kidnapping children and raising them as soldiers.

I read another article, yesterday, called Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas, which explained that a research team claims to have discovered the percentage of people in a population who hold an opinion necessary to cause that opinion to become the consensus view within the population.

An important aspect of the finding is that the percent of committed opinion holders required to shift majority opinion does not change significantly regardless of the type of network in which the opinion holders are working. In other words, the percentage of committed opinion holders required to influence a society remains at approximately 10 percent, regardless of how or where that opinion starts and spreads in the society. [Emphasis mine]

The question, then, is this:  what is the best way to manage the fact that, suddenly, a huge number of people care very much about Africa, but don't necessarily have the right idea about how to help?  The KONY 2012 campaign offers a clean, comfortable narrative that makes it easy to get a lot of people engaged, and it worked.  It worked on me -- I certainly didn't care enough to do this kind of thinking and research three weeks ago.  It would be a waste to just let that energy dissipate, by persuading all those people who suddenly care that the KONY 2012 campaign is a bad idea, without at least opening the window to some of the other ways they might be able to help.

If at least 10% of Americans, as a result of the KONY 2012 campaign, just come to understand some of the issues in Africa, that could be enough to make a real difference.  It could be enough to tip the cultural attitude of America such that a huge majority of us are motivated to understand what it really takes to offer sustainable aid to the developing world.

That shift could be huge.  It could lead to faster shifts towards a more informed populace and more transparent governments.  It could lead to better economic and environmental policy, and better accountability for the industrialized world's power elite.

Which, again, is why I think the sardonic criticism and condescension towards people who were moved by the KONY 2012 video is irresponsible and contemptible.  I'm becoming more convinced that the appropriate response to Joseph Kony's sudden notoriety is to use that attention to educate people about the nuances of foreign policy and aid programs, and the real, complicated situations of Uganda and of developing countries around the world.

Joseph Kony: 3rd post

Well, first update: my mom knows about the Invisible Children video.  I want to attempt to contextualize this.  My mom found out about Leeroy Jenkins literally yesterday.  I'm serious.  It was referenced on the Daily Show, so I asked if she'd seen it.  She hadn't, so I showed it to her. Extraordinarily unscientific conclusion:  The Invisible Children video is more viral than Leeroy Jenkins.

 ***

One of my professors, in response to my posting in a Kony 2012 facebook group a friend of mine set up, sent me a couple of links, which made the issue of initial research a lot easier on my part.  I'll admit I haven't dug much deeper than these articles so far, but I'm going to keep at it and I'll do another round-up of what I've learned next Saturday.

The first post she linked me, Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things) by Joshua Keating, addresses flaws and misleading points in the Invisible Children video.  It helped give me a much better handle on the broader outlines of the issue, though it still isn't a full cross-section of information.

My biggest take-away from that article, in direct contradiction of the point I made a couple days ago, is that there are real, noteworthy concerns about the sort of attention Invisible Children is raising.

One of the biggest issues with a simplistic "Stop Kony" message is that discussions of Navy Seals or drone strikes are inevitable when patience runs out with Ugandan-led efforts . But what about the dozens or hundreds of abducted and brainwashed kids? Should we bomb everyone? Will they actually stop fighting after Kony is gone? What if they shoot back?

 ***

The second article, Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions by Musa Okwonga, offered a much more clear window into the situation in Uganda, including the sorts of leads that will likely guide the next step of my exploration into this issue.  It wasn't all critical of the Invisible Children video, either:

For too many years, the subject of this trending topic on Twitter was only something that I heard about in my grandparents’ living room, as relatives and family friends gathered for fruitless and frustrated hours of discussion. Watching the video, though, I was concerned at the simplicity of the approach that Invisible Children seemed to have taken.

But my biggest take-away from Okwonga's article was that we need to be paying attention to the corrupt Ugandan government and  President Museveni, possibly as much as we need to pay attention to Kony, maybe even more.

About ten minutes into the video, the narrator asks his young son who “the bad guy” in Uganda is; when his young son hesitates, he informs him that Joseph Kony is the bad guy.  In a sense, he let Kony off lightly: he is a monster.  But what the narrator also failed to do was mention to his son that when a bad guy like Kony is running riot for years on end, raping and slashing and seizing and shooting, then there is most likely another host of bad guys out there letting him get on with it.  He probably should have told him that, too.

 ***

That article linked to a few other articles, including Obama Takes on the LRA by Mareike Schomerus, Tim Allen, and Koen Vlassenroot.  This article was published late last year, and goes into detail about the United States' history with Uganda and the LRA.  This one, more than any of the others, shows the weird atmosphere that tends to emerge whenever someone is criticizing specific actions taken about an unambiguously worthy problem.

That said, I think this was the most informative article I've read, and it's difficult to find a specific paragraph to pull out.  Really, it's better to just read the whole article.  But here's one quote, for flavor:

In the decades that followed, the outside world largely looked the other way as Uganda's north sunk into violence and deprivation. That changed in the early 2000s, when images of thousands of children taking refuge in the town of Gulu, Uganda, first hit mainstream television. Various celebrities began to speak out about the war, mostly focusing on shocking incidents associated with Kony's rebels; the Ugandan government's aggressive counterinsurgency measures, however, were shocking as well. For example, the government forced the region's population to relocate into what were effectively concentration camps. There, they were poorly protected from attacks, and faced dreadful living conditions. A study carried out under the auspices of the World Health Organization in 2005 found that there were 1000 excess deaths per week in the Acholi region.  

[Emphasis mine]

 ***

Finally, I want to repost Hank Green's video, Kony 2012 and Complexity.

Hank very successfully (and quite a lot more eloquently) made the points I wanted to:  that the Invisible Children video isn't an unambiguously bad thing, but it's not an unambiguously good thing either.  The fact that Hank doesn't have an easy answer about what to do in response to the video makes me feel better about not knowing, either.

His video doesn't go in-depth about the details.  For that, I recommend the articles I linked above, and will be posting in future about what additional information I can gather.

***

The position on all this that I've come to so far is that I don't think I can help.  I'm not in any way convinced that raising awareness about Joseph Kony is the right thing to do, and I certainly don't think supporting Invisible Children is an unambiguously responsible thing to do.

But I'm going to keep following this, and keep blogging about it.  I don't think it's the humanitarian thing to do, or even necessarily the responsible thing to do.  That's sort of the point, though.  I don't know anything about this sort of situation.  I feel a lot of anger and frustration and guilt about that, but just feeling that way doesn't really help.

I think the Kony 2012 campaign, and all its backlash and all its support, will be a good window into the complex issues of activism, international politics, and trying to help people out in complex situations that are still unambiguously awful.  I think it's possible that, if I stay on this issue, but don't try to pressure myself into figuring out what the right answer for me, right now, is, I might be able to learn a lot about what a person can do in general to understand and help in situations like this.  Joseph Kony isn't the only person on the world's Most Wanted list, so I'm sure there will be issues like this again.

This is getting to be a bad habit

I don't have a philosophy though film post for tonight.  Memento is a difficult movie, and I'm finding I'm having a lot more trouble coming up with something worthwhile to say about the movies that I do think have philosophical depth, rather than the ones I think represent fundamental bigotries or systematic slanders. On the downside, that means today is going to be a boring post.  This is in large part due to the fact that I spent most of today playing Minecraft, followed by a significant period of mourning my hardcore game by watching The Daily Show.  (I got killed by Zombie Pigmen trying to set up a blaze farm. Eff the nether.)

On the bright side (for people interested in decent content on this blog, not so much for my time-budgeting) that means tomorrow, there will be two significant posts: the Memento Philosophy through Film post, and my most recent status update on my thoughts about Joseph Kony, Invisible Children, and Africa in general -- in which I think I might be able to come to a conclusion about what I, personally, think I can do, at least for now.

Sorry about the crap post today, but tomorrow will be better.  I promise.

My hastily considered thoughts on the sudden notoriety of Joseph Kony

I've read a selection of articles about the KONY 2012 video since I watched it yesterday, so I'm going to take some time to write out the conclusions I've drawn so far.  This is sort of a thinking-out-loud piece, and I will definitely be following up on the issue more, and, if it seems like the right thing to do, continuing to blog about it. Kony and Hipsters

My first thought on the subject, a direct response to a lot of the Reddit complaints and general atmosphere in response to this sort of issue, is that it's really freaking annoying how many people's first reaction to activism is to attack their peers for sharing a video that indicates an amount of concern for humanity.

I'm not sold on Invisible Children,  because apparently their practices and finances are kind of shady.  I definitely want to look more into that.  But I don't see how any effort of consciousness raising could really be an intrinsically bad thing.  Even if the attention Invisible Children is getting from this will just enable their bad decisions, the appropriate response, if you have a problem with that, is not to get holier than thou about your preemptive apathy.  It's to research the issue and tell those peers what they can do to help.

Consciousness rasing

I think part of my problem with the backlash is that a lot of people seem to think that just knowing about the problems in the world doesn't help, or is even in some way counterproductive.  I do think that there's such a thing as too much consciousness raising, but that's not the case with the Kony issue. Two days ago, I'm 90% certain I didn't know anyone who knew enough about Kony to care.  Maybe some professors.  Certainly not any friends.

And this campaign is, if nothing else, a specific, concrete vehicle for the people of the most industrialized world to comprehend some of the horrible things that happen in some of the less industrialized parts of the world.

Deus ex Machina

As a community, the internet has a lot of power, when we mobilize well.  There's even more power in the government, and international governments.  I'm not saying the Kony issue is an easy one to solve.  But all else being equal, overkill wouldn't be such a bad thing here.  It seems like a lot of people have this expectation that we're supposed to play fair with the scale of the opposing armies with which we engage.  We don't really have to do that.

Caring about Caring

Another thing that really bugs me about the people complaining about the consciousness raising of the Kony 2012 campaign is the criticism that the hipsters jumping on board with it just want to be seen caring about things.  I can't think of a more shallow complaint:  doing decent things because you want people to see you doing decent things is not worse than being an asshole because you want everyone to see that you don't care what they think.  It's better.  There's no sense in which it's not better.

"I heard it first" -- the hipster mentality and sustained attention

All that said, there are real criticisms to be made of this approach.  John and Hank Green have raised the one I think is most relevant -- the internet's ability to focus intensely on a subject does not necessarily translate to the sort of sustained attention and pressure, over the course of months or years, that can actually help solve a problem on an international scale.

Provisional conclusions

I don't quite trust the Kony 2012 campaign.  I'm glad for the consciousness raising they're doing, but I feel I need to do a lot more research before I support them directly.  That said, it would be a waste not to take advantage of this massive, proactive interest in good on the part of the internet, and it would be nice to see the internet rally around a problem other than SOPA, which, though definitely awful, was ultimately about protecting the internet, not protecting innocent others.

Barring some very good reason not to, I intend to keep blogging about this.  I might set aside a day to keep news updates on the Kony issue, although I'll have to see how much energy I have to put into reading about it.  For now, I promise an update on my research on Kony this Saturday.  I'll let you know what further conclusions I've drawn then.

KONY 2012: my initial thoughts

I was on the Nerdfighter reddit earlier, when I came across a disturbing video:

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

Please, watch the whole thing.

It's about a war criminal named Joseph Kony, who's... well, just horrible.  And the organization who made the video are going to try to stop him, this year.

I don't think it's hard to make the case that this would be a really good thing, and I'm definitely excited about the possibility for doing real good this video implies.  On the other hand, I'm apprehensive about this sort of activism -- you don't have to look far to find examples of humanitarian efforts in Africa backfiring horribly.

That said, my initial research (Wikipedia) strongly indicates that, yes, Kony is as bad as the video makes him out to be.  I'm going to do some more research, which I will do my best to summarize here, and unless I find compelling reason not to, I really want to get involved.