You’ve probably seen Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 video. If not, please watch it.
This video has gone on to become way more successful and viral than Invisible Children could have planned. And it’s generating a firestorm of controversy. Unfortunately, some of the critics are inaccurate, inflammatory, and ignorant. However, some great, comprehensive reporting has come from this campaign.
I’ve worked with nonprofits for several years. Some of these articles do not understand how nonprofits work. To clear up some misconception: The government grants 501c(3) status to nonprofits, no one else. Nonprofits file taxes, a form 990. Nonprofits are independently audited, and their records are made available. This means that detractors with questions could have easily found answers, had they looked.
Also, the CEOs of IC each make about $80,000. And they are world travelers with families. Some are claiming that that is too high, that the founders are “lining their pockets”. The average CEO in the US makes $2,200, 000. Invisible Children CEOs make less than five percent of that, and are not “lining their pockets”.
Invisible Children won a contest for $1 million donated by Chase Bank. This does not mean their interests align with JP Morgan Chases’ military interests abroad. A nonprofit accepting money from an institution does not mean they implicitly or explicitly endorse of that organization’s intentions or actions, despite what some claim. [Edit: This linked article doesn't argue that IC endorses JP Morgan, but it does say that Chase is "very interested in Uganda’s assets and are looking for means to foster business-friendly awareness of Uganda’s problems for their own benefit." I don't think this means that IC should have rejected the donation, simply on the grounds that Chase's donation was selfish.]
Invisible Children is fighting for awareness of human rights violations. The Hague is calling for Kony’s arrest. IC is assisting. People who didn’t know of Kony are now familiar with the man and his methods. This is great progress, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
I’ve been involved with Invisible Children for almost eight years now. I’ve been a TRI supporter since they started that campaign, I’ve held Invisible Children events, I’ve bought the merch, I’ve spread the word. In my opinion, they’ve changed as an organization since inception, to become less wide-eyed and a little more savvy. It’s open to debate if the direction they’ve taken is beneficial to the children targeted by the LRA. I appreciate that these issues are coming to the fore.
People feel entitled to libel them this week, now that they have multi-national attention. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I’m not discrediting that. Of course we need to have rational thought about this, and all other important human rights issues.
I love that there is disagreement about this issue. It shows people are thinking critically. But I am incredibly frustrated by the cynical, faux-intellectual responses that this video is getting. I’ve been reading articles from people who think this video is overemotional “hipster” manipulation. Yes, it’s hipster, and yes it’s from an overprivileged, colonial standpoint. But look at who is running the business, and to whom this campaign is targeted. Would this video have gotten the attention it has if it wasn’t slick and shiny and had a crying Ugandan boy? I think not.
In retrospect, Invisible Children could have tidied up their financials and been friendlier with some of the auditing and rating third party organizations. But I don’t think they expected such a massive response to the video, and so many inquisitors.
Not everything about the Kony 2012 campaign is perfect, of course. I’m not sure the Ugandan army is the best partner for the work IC is planning to do in central Africa. I also don’t know that plastering Kony’s face everywhere is the best way to draw attention to his crimes. But I do agree that he should be tried in court for his crimes against humanity. Nor do I think that military invention is the best strategy.
Now, why 2012? After all their years of work, why are they starting this campaign now? I think it’s because Obama’s term is up in a few months. Imagine what Romney would do with the 100 American advisers on the ground in Uganda. I think IC is taking advantage of this pre-election news slump, along with an agreeable American president, to strike while the iron is hot. And in the wake of the Occupy protests, people are primed to take action while the powerful and rich do nothing. I think that’s why IC chose this year for this campaign. And I hope they chose correctly.
Don’t jump on the hater bandwagon. Go ahead and disagree. But use this video to prompt you to do what you think is right, not to trample what is shaping up to be the defining human rights issue of our generation.
As a side note, I chose not to buy the Kony 2012 kit from IC. My husband is an artist, we don’t need to buy signs and artwork. We’ll attend Cover the Night with our own thoughts and artwork.