On March 5, the organization Invisible Children shared a video already amounting 10 million views after just two days time. The film aims to build awareness around Uganda, Joseph Kony, and the abduction of children into war.
The film has taken over most online social media. #Kony2012, Invisible Children, and #stopKony have already made national and worldwide Twitter trends. Here, you’ll find everything you need to be in the know with an even two-sided take.
Who Is Joseph Kony?
Joseph Kony is a Uganda guerilla military leader and head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a violent group seeking for government control of Uganda. Since Joseph Kony’s authority in 1986, an estimated 66,000 children have been abducted and forced into combat.
In just 30 minutes, the film “KONY 2012″ breaks down the issue in such a way that really does inform anyone with no knowledge on the subject. Ultimately, the Invisible Children Charity behind “KONY 2012″ aims to make Joseph Kony internationally famous to rally the support that ends him and his regime. I absolutely believe this is worth all 30 minutes of your time:
Much like every story has its two sides, Kony “2012″ has a two-sided argument on everything from their finances to the effectiveness of their goals. There is a noble cause hear reaching an unprecedented number of people. But with an international broadcast coming from just one source, it’s all too easy to join the “KONY bandwagon”. What didn’t you hear the first time that you might just want to hear now?
Invisible Children: A Less-than Legitimate Charity?
Plenty of groups are beginning to raise questions on Invisible Children’s legitimacy as a charity. Research people! Before donating any funds to a charity, know where your money goes.
For starters, the Better Business Bureau doesn’t recognize Invisible Children because “(Invisible Children) did not provide requested information.” Charity Navigator, the long standing non-profit organization that evaluates all other charities, has given Invisible Children all of a two-star rating for accountability and transparency. Have Invisible Children actually hidden their finances from the public? No. The information is out there, but it’s no where near satisfying. By their own admission, two million dollars has gone to travel expenses and their film-making business, leaving only 31% for their noble cause. For an organization openly asking to be taken seriously on an international scale, this is a big no-no.
In fairness, Invisible Children has been quick to respond. They thoroughly address all the major points of criticism here, with some satisfaction. At the very least, no one can accuse Invisible Children of lacking transparency. But among others, Washington Post correspondent Elizabeth Flock isn’t convinced.
What is the Most Effective Solution?
Invisible Children have openly admitted to simplifying a problem; in their own words, “the film meant to serve as an entry point to the topic”. Ultimately, their purpose and call to action is the death of Joseph Kony. But that brings up two arguments on its own:
1) Will Joseph Kony’s death actually bring peace? The prevailing argument here believes Kony is less the cause for the wide spread turmoil witnessed in Uganda and more a symptom of all the problems that come with wide spread poverty.
2) The support of the current Ugandan government only supports a military force that has proven to be a destructive regime, guilty of rape and sexual assault. The Daily What Blog puts it more eloquently than I’m going to attempt:
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. Thesebooks each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.
Truthfully, Obama has taken measures against Joseph Kony. If you want to make the most of your money, here are charities to consider. (1) (2) When only 31% of what you give Invisible Children goes to actually helping someone, at least research the alternatives people
The Bottom Line
On one hand, the Invisible Children accomplished no easy feat with “KONY 2012″. Awareness is an accomplishment in and of itself. Were it not for this group, a collective 20 million people wouldn’t be involved in a worthwhile cause. On the other hand, there message oversimplifies not only a problem but that very important thing called a solution.
Their end game, the death of Joseph Kony, will only go so far. With the present level of corruption in the region, even the U.S. government can not always allocate the right funds to the right people. Time and again, the very money meant to help has fueled opposing forces. Joseph Kony is one piece of a very big puzzle.
After all the good and bad attention their way, Invisible Children made an adequate public statement, thoroughly addressing all the major points of criticism. If you read no other cited link I offer you, I suggest you read their statement here. Their finances are no model of a non-profit. Their documentaries are no model of unbiased journalism.
But, the proper steps can be taken. They can get there. The sooner Invisible Children gains recognition from the BBB and the right institutions, the sooner they’ll be taken more seriously by the bigger authorities, including their ever ambitious list of “culture and policy makers”. With enough time, we’ll know if their actions speak as loud as their viral words.
All that said, I believe in the general message behind Invisible Children. I believe three film-makers have the best of intentions. And much like their cause in Uganda, Invisible Children is no black-and-white picture—just a light altruistic shade of gray.
Even though I donated my bit to Invisible Childrens’ Donation, I can’t get myself to encourage the same. That 31% figure just about ended any chance of that happening. But, I will say this. If you want to contribute to the pocket expenses of very talented artists that will further awareness of this cause, go with Invisible Children. If you want to contribute to the actual relief of the very people that need relief, the respected long-standing institutions have been there—just because they lack the momentum of 10 million views a day makes them no less effective.