The head of Joseph Kony, minus his teeth, sells for $1 million. His actual teeth go for $50,000, depending on availability. A little too pricey? How about $100 for a thank you letter from Richard Gere for funding a Tibetan militia to resist Chinese rule. A mere $25 will also get you a personal thank you for donating to build a “discrete tactical vehicle” for U.S. military interrogators.
That’s the nightmarish world depicted by Kickstriker, a hoax built by a group of NYU grad students from the Tisch School’s ITP program for Clay Shirky’s tech communications class. The object of the fake site is to get people to think about “how a world of crowdfunded warfare might not be so far away,” reports Wired. “Polemically, that’s really interesting,” Mr. Shirky tells Wired, “but that’s actually a thing that could happen, given that there are these guns for hire. What would it take to create a crowdsourced hire of [mercenaries]?”
The site’s subversive “About” page takes its mock inspiration from the incredibly problematic Kony 2012 campaign, which Wired points out was marked by “messianism, comfort with U.S. military intervention and disquieting racial undertones“:
Following the massive success of Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” campaign, we found ourselves excited about the potential that crowdsourcing held for addressing global conflicts. We were equally disappointed when that campaign unraveled, amid a backlash and public scandal. While “Kony 2012” succeeded at raising awareness and connecting potential activists with an issue, it ultimately failed due to suspicions regarding the role that Invisible Children played as a middleman. Kickstriker is our attempt to cut out the middleman in online activism, allowing funders to directly support the causes they care about.
Kickstriker begs the question, what if the causes you care about are making it easier for the military to torture prisoners, building a better weaponized drone, or helping Blackwater hunt down Joseph Kony?
It’s a purposeful exaggeration, of course. We’d venture that the kind of people interested in black ops or wet work are probably pretty careful about leaving an Internet trail. To us, the more real-world concern might be what happens when the ease of crowdfunding sites is applied to things like political campaigns and other causes, which Kickstarter prohibits. What if you didn’t need a pair of billionaire brothers to organize and mobilize an extremist movement?
The project’s cofounders, Mehan Jayasuriya and James Borda, aren’t all doom and gloom, however. As Wired notes, they also embedded a little “Easter Egg” in the site. The names of the “MIT students” working on the drone? “That would be real names of the rappers Lil B, Kreayshawn and Gucci Mane.”