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.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

9 responses to “Network Analysis Exposes Kony 2012 As Right Wing Christian Propaganda”

  1. Matthew Saint-Germain says :

    Uhhh… Causality critique.

  2. Pete Larson says :

    Not sure what you mean.

  3. stumpwater says :

    Association (with The Family) does not imply causation (of public masturbation)?

  4. Matthew Saint-Germain says :

    Just because religious people took to donating to the cause first, and even so localized, does not imply causation that the group is a secret religious right organization.

  5. Pete Larson says :

    Actually, the connections of IC, the Family and other lobbying groups are quite clear. The motivations of Russell are also quite clear, based on his own statements.

    Whether the Family orchestrated the event is debatable, but they certainly put up money for it. The network analysis doesn’t indicate where the funding came from, but certainly confirms suspicions that were already there.

    These are shady groups. I don’t trust them. I do like that there are people out there using scientific tools to help expose them and their activities.

    You are welcome to disagree, if you like, though I suspect that you are merely calling for more rigorous (and difficult to refute) methodologies and arguments. I’m positive that you share my skepticism of these groups.

  6. Matthew Saint-Germain says :

    For sure. However, I also don’t disagree that the African Union wouldn’t be going after Kony if it weren’t for IC. Additionally, while it remains to be seen how much of African policy will remain in the consciousness of the American political, I also think IC has done a fairly impressive job of getting these things into the dialogue of a good amount of individual American political dialogue. Talking about these things is a good.

  7. Pete Larson says :

    Some (me) would argue that Kony is a distraction for the African Union, which is suffering under limited funds trying to contain bigger problems like Al Shabab in Somalia and conflicts in the DRC and Sudan. Kony is small potatoes at this point.

    IC have created a massive distraction toward a (now) useless cause, failing to take local needs into account in order to further their own religious and political aims. I don’t think that IC deserves any praise here.

    Would we expect less from a whitey Christian organization in the West?

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