An Interview With Lowkey on the ‘Manipulative’ Joseph Kony 2012 Campaign

It has been over a week since the Kony 2012 video went viral. The video, by Invisible Children, is now nearing 80 million views on YouTube. One of the most vociferous critics of the campaign is musician and political activist, Lowkey.

I spoke to Lowkey about the video.

What did you think of the video?

“I think the Kony 2012 campaign has had a manipulative and negative affect on the younger generation. But it has made the older generation question this level of emotional manipulation. That the answer to everything is the US military and has made people question what Africom actually is. And why the US feels the need to expand its military presence in Africa. It then leads people to the idea that the US is essentially trying to have a counter weight to Chinese elevation in the region.”

Why are you against US military intervention?

“I think Africom was founded by George Bush in 2006 and it clearly sets out its aim to increase US military prescence in Africa. However, the majority of African countries rejected Africom which means it had to have its Headquarters in Germany, imagine that.

However Nigeria was one government which welcomed Africom and Uganda is another  government that is now welcoming US military expansion. Now unless you are those specific people within those governments, you will not view the presence of the US military on your land as something positive. We also need to remember that these countries welcoming US military presence have very, very, very questionable human rights records and very questionable histories, with regards to democracy – this word that we band about, if you ask Kony what his objective is, he says democracy – now it’s amazing how we have someone in Africa saying his objective is democracy and he is the number one enemy. Yet we have people in other parts of the world, like in the Middle East, who have not said explicitly that their aim is democracy and we are, without question, supporting them.

Do you feel there is hypocrisy taking place?

If you are a US citizen and your first point of call for war criminals is not your own government, then you do not really have the wider interests of humanity at heart. The US is accused of far more heinous crimes than Joseph Kony. Essentially, this video is encouraging youth to look at things in a very simplistic and damaging way. If you use Joseph Kony 2012 by Invisible Children as the pretext, you can take anyone to any point of the world and say there is a bad person doing something bad to these people – that’s the only explanation you need to give. And then you say the only solution is US military involvement in the land. My God. You can justify anything, absolutely anything. That was the whole idea of the video. It was him explaining to his son the situation in this very simplistic way. There was no intention to explain the wider context of the situation.

It’s not saying this bad thing is happening we need your money to make it better, which is one thing. It is saying we need your money and your voice to expand what is a stated aim of US policy. It’s not as if Africom didn’t happen. That’s what they’ve been trying for years, and it hasn’t been working very well. And this is what the Nato campaign in Libya was largely about: the expansion of Africom. What’s so manipulative and horrible about it, is that they use genuine emotions that people have that are natural. How could you not feel for somebody whose brother has died? People are not made of stone.

What should happen to Joseph Kony?

Kony himself is utterly irrelevant. That’s why it’s so strange. They put Hitler and Bin Laden there [on the poster] and Kony there. Well you know which ideological perspective they are coming from. And you know who they are talking to and who they are talking for, most importantly. Most people who are worried about human life are not going to view the solution as being the US military. The solution has never been US military because it has never worked way, never.

And, finally, why did you delete Twitter?

I find it’s a distraction. Twitter is different to Facebook in that any little thing that people think they just Tweet it, and I would rather not know. I would prefer to concentrate on my music. Saying that, music hasn’t been the number one thing on my mind at the moment, rather than being a good musician or good artist – I’ve been reading a lot – and I would rather be a good and more all round person.

You can find Lowkey on Facebook here

His latest album, Soundtrack to the Struggle can be found on iTunes

Follow me @omar_shahid

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