hashtag activism

I was actually reminded of this old post during my recent tiff with the folks behind the Xenia Declaration. (Who still count a man accused of sexually assaulting one of his thiasos-mates as a signatory. Guess they’re too busy hunting crypto-Nazis to bother policing their own.) But I digress …

A couple years ago I remember a bunch of people posting those slick KONY2012 graphics and heart-wrenching Invisible Childrens videos to stop the evil dictator Joseph Kony. I don’t use “evil” lightly but in his case it totally applies. Genocide. Torture. Rape. Forcible conscription of child soldiers. Trying to impose a theocracy based on the 10 Commandments. I didn’t need Oprah, George Clooney, Taylor Swift and Ryan Seacrest to tell me this dude was bad news, but apparently a lot of other folks did because after it started trending on Twitter and Facebook that shit was everywhere. They organized a couple rallies in Eugene and someone even put a sticker up near the train tracks I crossed every night on my way into work.

But here’s the thing; even though Kony lead the Lord’s Resistance Army and was trying to turn Uganda into a Christian fundamentalist state he’s a spirit-medium guided by the ghost of a WWI Italian soldier:

Even the most respectable experts give credence to Kony’s ‘mystical’ status, the New York Times describing him, in all seriousness, as ‘a former altar boy who became possessed by spirits’. The spirit apparently responsible for Kony’s survival is called Lakwena, the ghost of a First World War Italian army medic. Kony claims Lakwena has helped him avoid Ugandan army attacks since the spirit first possessed him in the 1980s.

And he uses toys and reptiles to plan his military campaigns:

It has been reported that Mr. Kony keeps an ample stock of snakes, turtles, and lizards, for just such mediumistic purposes. Not having the benefit of being tutored at a military academy, Mr. Kony deduces a battle’s outcome by setting toy guns, and helicopters on fire to see how the models will burn; thereby foretelling victory or defeat in an upcoming battle. LRA casualties are simply predicted by placing a finger in a glass of water. And if Joseph Kony’s spirit panel isn’t giving him good military advice, the LRA leader can always count on “angels” for divine guidance on campaign strategy. The LRA’s child soldiers are told that commands come from these angels, who commune regularly with Mr. Kony. It must have been one of these heavenly messengers who provided Mr. Kony with the holy advice to expand the Ten Commandments to Eleven Commandments–the Eleventh Commandment being “Thou shall not ride a bicycle.”

And apparently it works. He was indicted for crimes against humanity by the Hague in 2005 and yet remains at large. Obama sent peacekeeping forces into the region in 2011 and again in 2014 and they weren’t able to catch him either. Even more telling, the global slacktivist campaign against Kony came to an abrupt end when Jason Russell was filmed rampaging through the streets of San Diego naked, pounding the pavement, screaming obscenities and claiming to be under attack from a devil.

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