Archive | April 5, 2012

Network Analysis Exposes Kony 2012 As Right Wing Christian Propaganda

"I want to masturbate in public"

Readers of this blog (all 2 of you) are well familiar of the intense skepticism I hold for evangelical Christian groups operating in Africa (and everywhere else).

Forbes magazine ran a fascinating piece on Social Flow. Social Flow used their network analysis software to track connections between Twitter feeds that all had “#Kony2012” in the text.

What they found was nothing short of illuminating. A visualization of the data can be seen at the bottom of this post.

We expect that connected Twitter users will be linked by geographic region and would expect more connections in large urban areas such as New York and LA. Far from being clustered in metropolises, people promoting Kony 2012 were located in smaller cities, such as Pittsburgh, Dayton, OH, Birmingham, AL and Noblesville, IN (wherever that is):

“The large cluster on the top right includes users from Birmingham Alabama who were some of the earliest to publicize the video. The cluster is substantially larger than the others, leading us to believe that Invisible Children had strong roots in Alabama. Additionally, the hashtag#Kony2012 initially trended in Birmingham on March 1st, a few days before the video was even placed online. Other clusters in the graph include Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City and Noblesville Indiana.” But not only were there geographical clusters, but cultural clusters as well, “This movement did not emerge from the big cities, but rather small-medium sized cities across the Unites States. It is heavily supported by Christian youth, many of whom post Biblical psalms as their profile bios.”

Amazing. Kony 2012 billed itself as a happy accident. The evidence indicates that this was a well coordinated, well funded campaign waged by a powerful religious group. “Stealth Evangelism.”

Talk To Action (thanks Jeff) is a secular watchdog organization devoted to exposing the (in my opinion) damaging and self-serving influence that the religious right has on American politics. They have recently done a series of posts on Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 campaign. The more I read about this and the more I find out about this organization, the weirder it appears to me.

Talk To Action has done some digging and found that Invisible Children receives funding from the Family and other right wing Christian sources. The Family are a powerful, though secretive US fundamentalist group and were behind Uganda’s reprehensible Parliamentary bill which called for the execution of anyone suspected of being a homosexual. Though the group denies this is the case, the evidence against them is fairly damning. It appears though, that the Family are behind much of the recent Kony 2012 craze.

Invisible Children’s founder (and creator of the Kony 2012 video) Jason Russell was heard saying the following, where he admits that IC is using the issue of suffering kids in Africa so that his batshit religious group can gain access to kids in public schools:

“Coming in January we are trying to hit as many high schools, churches, and colleges as possible with this movie. We are able to be the Trojan Horse in a sense, going into a secular realm and saying, guess what life is about orphans, and it’s about the widow. It’s about the oppressed. That’s God’s heart. And to sit in a public high school and tell them about that has been life-changing. Because they get so excited. And it’s not driven by guilt, it’s driven be an adventure and the adventure is God’s.”

This is, of course, before he got caught running around town publicly masturbating.

Who Will Really Head the World Bank?

Last week (or whenever) I wrote the praises of Dr. Kim, now head of Dartmouth, who is slated to be Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the World Bank after Robert Zoellick steps down in June. While it’s a given that the Americans will have their way, this has not stopped the rest of the world from proposing its own candidates.

The Economist, for those living in a box, is a (European) right leaning weekly news magazine. Inexplicably, I have been given a free online subscription. Despite occasionally receiving emails from its editors that this subscription has been given to me in error, I continue to have full access to the magazine (and its audio component) every week. I don’t complain.

This week’s included an article on Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, present Nigerian finance minister, and former Managing Director of the Bank (one of many), appointed by Zoellick himself. Graduating magna cum laude from Harvard and later pursuing her PhD in regional development at MIT, she seems suited to the task.

The Economist (and now also the Financial Times) believes Kim to be a substandard nominee, noting his lack of experience in development economics and economics in general. They also note his lack of experience at the Bank and not so subtly malign his work at Partners in Health as “charity work.” Interestingly, they overlook his experience on the HIV/AIDS commission at the WHO, an organization that is hardly charitable.

Worse yet, they dig in to Dr. Kim’s past, noting that he quoted radical academic Noam Chomsky in a University address and his praise of Cuba’s health care system, painting him as some sort of communist lefty, as if to say that providing cheap and effective health care is a bad thing. Certainly, the United States could stand to learn a lot from Cuba’s system.

It’s almost as if the Economist stole from the playbook of the Republican Party during the 2008 presidential election. I would think that his having given former Pres. George H.W. Bush an honorary degree at Dartmouth would erase such suspicions.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is not a bad candidate. Her experience at the Bank and her status as one of a few respected members of the horribly corrupt Nigerian government make her suited to the role. It is also not surprising that colleagues at the Bank have come to call for her appointment. However, it could be that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s connections to the Zoellick/Wolfowitz Bank may be that which makes her a less than desirable candidate. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala could be an entrenched contintuation of a heavy handed Bank aligned with US financial interests, rather than an advocate of truly human development.

Certainly, the Americans will win, as they always do in matters pertaining to the Bank. However, we could have done much worse than Kim. My personal opinion, though a person who has limited experience with or at the Bank (read: none) is that the head of the Bank is a diplomatic and managerial position. The head of the Bank may bring vision and choose those who may develop strategy, but does not develop strategy. Dr. I assume that Kim, who clearly has laudable intentions will choose a staff which will address seemingly ingnorable problems such as world wide poverty and inacceible health care. Though I would like to see the Bank leadership go to a non-American candidate, my vote, at this time, is for Mr. Kim.

Go, cosmic rapper.

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