On Tuesday, rumors began circulating online that Joseph Kony, the African warlord leading the Lord's Resistance Army for decades, had died. But these reports aren't true. Their origin, it seems, is a "satirical" post in the National Report from late last week.
The headline proclaims, "Joseph Kony Gunned Down by Seal Team 6, Obama Takes Credit." Here is a sample of the post, which is obviously meant to prompt outrage from, presumably, conservative readers who believe it's true:
One White House official, who agreed to speak with National Report on the condition of anonymity had this to say: “The hunt for Kony that began several years ago is now over. The recent expansion of boots on the ground, as well an increase in drone capabilities, accelerated the mission. President Obama gave the final orders to assassinate the former LRM leader as issues with extradition and trials would be hard to handle in the US. The President obviously considers this to be a major accomplishment.”
The National Report has made news a couple of other times for prank reports like this. Last fall, the blog "reported" that Dearborn, Michigan had voted to adopt Sharia law. Although the post was fake, its content easily tricked a subset of readers who already believed a conspiracy theory involving a Muslim takeover of some American towns, including Dearborn. The town received an onslaught of angry calls, and eventually had to deny the details of the obviously false article.
So unless we're entering into a moment of fantastic coincidence, Kony is still eluding his pursuers. However, it appears that the National Report article made its way into a couple of rumor mills before mutating into actual news. The Uganda People’s Defence Forces commented on the rumors by saying that they hadn't heard anything verifying the reports, but that "that would be very good news for humanity." It was all enough for a BBC reporter to check with his Ugandan government sources:
In late April, the Ugandan military said it had captured one of the LRA's leaders, Charles Okello, in the Central African Republic. The military also freed ten of the group's captives. Kony, however, remains very much on the loose.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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