*** If you already know all about the Kony 2012 campaign, you can skip to the bottom to read my indubitably insightful opinion.
I feel a little nervous weighing on such a serious issue, but I don’t think this is something that can be summed up in a facebook post or a Tweet. Also, as a devout English major, I don’t think I’ll be able to come to any real conclusions for myself unless I carefully flesh this out in a post. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the Kony 2012 campaign. Let me first sum up what this is all about, and then I’ll present you with the gift of my indubitably insightful opinion.
Joseph Kony is the leader of a cult-like rebel military group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (reminds me of certain characters in Glauber Rocha’s “Black God, White Devil” for you cinephiles). They began their activity in the 80’s. Joseph Kony has been indicted as a war criminal. His group is currently active in their native Uganda as well as The Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and The Central African Republic.
According to The Washington Post
“Since its creation in 1987, the group has engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government and committed an extraordinary number of human rights violations. Most notably, his troops enter a village, killing the adults and kidnapping the children. The boys are enscripted into the army and the girls are taken as ‘bush wives.’”
The Post also quotes Obama as writing that the LRA has
“murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa” and “continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”
The most horrific image that has emerged from the cruelty of the LRA is that of children as young as four and five being abducted. The boys are forced to carry guns, fight, and kill their own families. The girls are raped and kept essentially as sex slaves.
The Human Rights Watch says that
“The LRA is not large — an estimated 200 to 250 seasoned Ugandan combatants, plus at least several hundred abductees — but as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently told me, Uganda lacks the special forces, expert intelligence, and rapid-deployment capacity needed to stamp out this enemy.”
1) The Organization: Invisible Children is an organization working to expose and end the actions of the Joseph Kony and the LRA in Uganda. They have been a 501(c)3 non-profit since 2006. The movement began when the three founders went to Uganda as filmakers. They are dedicated to ending the LRA and it’s terrible effects on its victims by raising awareness through grassroots/ guerrilla marketing tactics that echo the unprecedented techniques of the Obama campaign in ’08.
According to their website:
In Central Africa, all of our programming is a partnership between Invisible Children and LRA-affected communities. We focus on long-term goals that enable children to take responsibility for their futures and the futures of their countries. Our programs are carefully developed initiatives that address the need for quality education, mentorships, the redevelopment of schools, and financial stability. In areas where the LRA is still active, we focus on civilian protection and rehabilitation.
Our work in the United States focuses on advocacy and inspiring America’s youth to “do more than just watch.” We believe that by uniting our voices we can use the systems, influence, and resources of the United States to expedite an end to the conflict.
You can watch their newly released documentary/call to action in order to hear their message. If nothing else, it’s visionary filmaking.
2) The Critics
Here’s a great article that sums up a lot of the criticism of Invisible Children and includes the response of Jedediah Jenkins, director of idea development for Invisible Children: Invisible Children Responds to Criticism.
Grant Oyston has gotten a lot of his attention for his tumbler blog Visible Children, which criticizes the Invisible Children organization.
Another criticism is that awareness won’t actually help anything.
If you are a numbers person, you can read their audit here to see their income/profits etc first hand.
3) Ezra’s Opinion
Forgive me if I’ve glazed over the criticism, but you can read it for yourself, and I really just want to get to my point. Kenneth Roth, executive director of the Human Rights Watch, believes that
“President Obama needs to put [the principle of justification of force in instances of human rights violations] into practice, and there is no better case for the humanitarian use of force than the urgent need to arrest Joseph Kony, the ruthless leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and protect the civilians who are his prey.”
As far as general support and advancement of the viral message goes (although since I started writing this post a couple days ago, it seems it had the typical 15 min fame of an viral video and is already sliding off the radar), no harm can be done. Whether Invisible Children is using their money wisely or not, what they are saying about Kony is true. Why not use the internet to bring to light crimes against humanity before they can become a worldwide problem (Hitler, cough, cough).
The other potential problem is how they are using their money. Accusations are being made that huge amounts of it are being used for marketing. But this isn’t a secret. They say it on the website that awareness is one of their biggest goals. I think the worst that can really happen is that young Americans spend some of their money on a cause, something that they believe in. Even if that money isn’t going anywhere, it’s better spent than the money they spend on shoes/clothes/accessories that they told are going to create happiness in their lives. See what I’m saying? So facebook-ers spread a message that is actually relevant to the real world and isn’t lol-worthy? I think that’s a plus.
Not to mention, this is a grand experiment in new ways to change the world. What if every non-profit and humanitarian organization started getting their messages to go viral? What it we could transform the way Americans can easily remain ignorant about the social woes in other countries and even in their backyards? Are you willing to be part of the wave of cynics who refuses to allow creative global problem solving to interrupt your hot girl stalking, 9gag lol-ing, farmville playing world?
In my (extremely large) mind, the benefits outweigh any potential harm. KONY 2012. Let’s make him famous.
I genuinely want to know what you think. Is this going to help? Chime in via comments!
This video was just released. It’s a pretty good explanation of the financials of Invisible Children. If you have doubts about them, I would watch this. I am becoming more and more convinced that whether you agree with their strategy or not, the organization as a whole has laudable intentions, and I think they have earned the right to our support.