On Mar. 5, the organization Invisible Children (IC) uploaded a 29-minute video called KONY 2012 to social media platforms. The film aimed to spearhead foreign military efforts to arrest Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)a rebel group in Uganda known for its use of child soldiers.
Within 48-hours, the public donated over $5 million to the cause; within seven days, the video received 36 million views. Yet, despite winning celebrity endorsement and the hearts of millions, KONY 2012 has also sparked passionate, wide-ranged criticism from the media, the public, and scholars around the world.
IC was quickly denounced as “irresponsible” and accused of financial impropriety, such as spending donations on travel expenses and filmmaking. The organization was also called “immoral” because it failed to mention that the LRA war crimes depicted in its film peaked between 1999 and 2004, and that Kony is currently hiding out somewhere in the Congo, where the UN says the LRA is on its last legs. Other critics have said the video’s promised “beautiful ending” (in which Kony surrenders without bloodshed) is impossible and at odds with Uganda’s efforts to catch the LRA leader “dead or alive.” Finally, critics have questioned whether a global manhunt for a war criminal should be mounted using re-tweets, T-shirts, bracelets, and posters.
Personally, I have no problem with the movement to capture Kony. He has done more than enough terrible things in his lifetime to deserve a swift andmore in tune with Ugandan officialsfatal prosecution. What I do have a problem with is the that fact we of the Western world are making such a fuss over this whole thing when the issue has been pretty much dead for close to 10 years.
First, the level of controversy hitting the charity is out of proportion. It’s almost as if people are pissed about the last charity race they got sucked into and are looking for a fight. They say IC’s message is misleading. I ask, what advocacy campaign in the history of mankind hasn’t been misleading? Advocacy is just a fancy word for advertising (verbal or otherwise) aimed to sell an organization’s ideas, morals, and goals to the public, governmental bodies, or other decision makers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. Advertising may have a bad image, but it’s a masterful way to spread ideas, and telling people about a cause is not a crime.
As such, I’m not angry at IC, and I feel they are being transparent in their workings. In fact, IC just released a short new video in which CEO Ben Keesey talks about the organization’s message, methods, and spending. (I just wish IC would re-host their crashed website so we could take a look at those financial reports Keesey talked about.) According to the video, IC puts less 40 percent of donations towards direct services. Honestly, that’s pretty average for a charity today, and it’s not like they’re hiding the fact that the organization is an advocacy grouphence the mass spending on films and screeningas well as a charity.
Yet, I also cannot blame the critics mentioned above. They are doing the world a valuable service by asking the questions every single person who watches KONY 2012 should ask instead of blindly following the information found in a single, 29-minute viral video.
Indeed, what I’m most exasperated about in this whole affair is the fact that so many in the general public have not learned to question what they are fed. That they haven’t figured out that a trending video is not the same thing as up-to-date information.
A mass amount of people is a power to be reckoned with, but a blind force on a single path is nothing more than a mob. Passion combined with education is what creates a strong collective. Even if that means many groups on different paths, there is nothing to stop them combining strength to reach their common, definitive goals.
So, be it with Kony or whatever comes next, please watch the video and intake the campaign, but then stop. Don’t press the donate button and become a slacktivist. Instead, think, question, and do your research. Only then, when you know all facets of the issue and who’s involved, may you decide to jump on the bandwagon, turn tail and run, or take your own course of action.
If you’re truly passionate about helping a cause, you won’t mind putting in the extra effort.