Fad Activism and Five Concerns with Kony 2012:
I can’t stress it enough, before straddling the Kony pony do some research on the campaign.
Over the past few weeks the Kony 2012 campaign produced by Invisible Children, Inc. has gathered a tremendous amount of attention from North American social media platforms. The newfound exposure is credited to a 30 minute documentary also entitled Kony 2012. It asks individuals and communities to bring awareness to the LRA and Joseph Kony in an attempt to have him incarcerated. The documentary asks for donations while encouraging social activism and public awareness.
Let me start off by saying that I personally believe Joseph Kony should be arrested and tried for the atrocities he and the Lord’s Resistance Army have committed against the people of Africa. The crimes inwhich he is guilty of are unquestionably horrifying and need to cease. However, I see many problems with the integrity and effectiveness of Invisible Children, Inc. These include:
1. The co-founders unsubstantiated paychecks.
2. Lack of transparency in terms of funding.
3. Support of violent resolution.
4. Focus on awareness rather than action.
5. The materialist sentiment of the “Action Packs”.
1. In June 2011, at the end of the fiscal year, it was revealed that the cofounders of IC, Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole and Jason Russell took home a combined pay of $262,287. This is over 2.9 percent of the not for profit organization’s total revenue. Leading to approxamately $90,000 annually for each of the founders. As the founders of a charity this is unquestionably a ridiculous and selfish salary; especially when you consider a majority of their expenses are already covered by the organization.
The founders of Invisible Children, Inc
2. Invisible Children, Inc. is a not for profit organization which refuses to be externally audited. This should most definitely raise the eyebrows of anyone donating. Why is this charitable organization not allowing any outside sources to audit their financial records? This is inexcusable.
The organization has three goals:
a) Document and make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring these films around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people.
b) Channeling the energy and awareness from informed viewers of IC films into large scale advocacy campaigns that have mobilized the international community to stop the LRA and protect civilians.
c) Operate programs on the ground in the LRA-affected areas to provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.
Invisible Children, Inc. spent 8.9 million dollars last year. Disconcertingly, only 2.8 million dollars ended up making it to Uganda. After film equipment, travel, advertising and a cornucopia of other questionable expenses, a mere thirty-one percent of the funding actually goes to Ugandan relief efforts. This ratio is unacceptable, over two-thirds of the money donated is not going into the country. This raises warranted concerns about the legitimacy and integrity of the organization.
3. Even the money that gets into Uganda raises enormous contention. This controversy stems from IC’s support of direct military intervention. They continue to financially aid the Ugandan governments and other military groups. Unfortunately, the government of Uganda has also been accused of crimes against humanity.
4. Talk without action accomplishes nothing. Facebook statuses, hash tags, and viral videos aren’t stopping the rape, murder and indoctrination of thousands of African children. The people of Uganda don’t need awareness, what they need is aid. Preferably not from a government that is also accused of rape and pillaging. Fighting fire with fire can only lead to more turmoil.
5. Another huge seller for IC has been the infamous Action Pack. It includes a t-shirt, two bracelets, button, stickers and posters. Unfortunately, wearing Kony 2012 campaign t-shirt, button, or bracelet won’t show how much you care about the Ugandan children. This is because a majority of the money isn’t going to them in the first place. Wearing clothing dedicated to a political cause does little to create real and effective change. Wearing a Kony 2012 t-shirt will however show an individual’s support for violent resolution in Uganda.
I’ll finish by saying that I think awareness and activism are both necessary, especially within North American society. Nevertheless, it is absolutely pathetic that it takes a viral video to motivate and create change. It is disheartening to see people catering to a social fad, but not doing their homework on the real issue. A majority of people are not basing their support for the Kony 2012 campaign based on research and love for humanity but rather just sheepishly following the masses because “it’s the right thing to do.” Violent intervention is not a viable way to create a stable environment for the Ugandan community. Fighting violence with violence is not going to better the situation. Donating your money to support an organization that lacks charitable understanding and transparency will not remedy anything.
Thanks for reading.
Here is a link to the Financial Records released in June 2011 by Invisible Children, Inc: http://c2052482.r82.cf0.rackcdn.com/images/895/original/AR11_small_final2.pdf?1325722694