'Kony 2012 Part 2: Beyond Famous' gives recipe for militarism and disaster


On Thursday, Invisible Children released a sequel to its Kony 2012 documentary, titled Kony 2012: Beyond Famous. It is the group’s first film since Kony 2012 director Jason Russell was caught on camera in the midst of a naked psychotic episode, during which he allegedly engaged in lewd acts. Russell himself remains hospitalized.

Beyond Famous continues the push for grassroots action designed to induce leaders to stop Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, which has wreaked havoc in Uganda and surrounding countries. Whereas the first documentary focused primarily on Kony and the crimes he and his LRA have committed, Beyond Famous serves as more of a clarion call to action.

Unfortunately, like the first installment the sequel is vague in its prescriptions, failing to describe in any detail the methods the filmmakers have in mind when it comes to stopping the already weakened LRA. Those methods are only implied, and they most certainly involve military intervention. At one point the viewer is told to “ask your leaders to support these ongoing efforts” to find Kony. But support how? This critical question goes unanswered. As I observed previously, given that Invisible Children cheered the deployment of 100 American military advisers to Uganda last year, it seems that the organization would enthusiastically welcome a larger role for the United States military.

The reactions to Kony 2012 have ranged from the highly laudatory to extremely skeptical, with one writer, Nile Bowie, claiming, “The documentary is unprecedented, not for its educational attributes but for its capacity to use visual branding, merchandising and highly potent emotional communication to influence the viewer to support U.S. military operations in resource rich Central Africa under the pretext of capturing the LRA’s commander, Joseph Kony.”

But even if this hypothesis is rejected, it must be acknowledged that capturing Kony would be nothing short of a logistical nightmare. In recent years the LRA has been active in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kony’s exact whereabouts are unknown. And so if the endgame is Kony’s capture or killing by means of American military intervention, it would likely require soldiers to scour hundreds or thousands of square miles of jungle terrain in search of a man who poses no threat whatsoever to the U.S., or even the majority of people in the aforementioned countries.

Of course, the makers of Kony 2012 and its sequel certainly acknowledge this. But they would say that’s not the point. As the narrator of Beyond Famous says, “We are a new generation of justice, made for such a time as this because our liberty is bound together across the world and across the street.”   

It’s a noble idea, and a less eloquent version of Martin Luther King’s declaration, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” But this attitude could very well create not a new generation of justice, but a new generation of militarism. If a man of Joseph Kony’s small geopolitical stature becomes the threshold for American military intervention, it will make us long for the days of the Bush Doctrine, which will look isolationist by comparison.