Thursday, March 8, 2012

My opinions on KONY 2012 and Invisible Children

As a child the last thing I did before I went to sleep every night was pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul he’ll take.”

Children in Africa have far greater worries as they lay their heads to rest at night. They fear being abducted in the middle of the night by rebel forces. Rebels who force them to join an army of African children, train and force them to kill, hold them captive and change their lives forever. This is something that you and I will never experience. These thoughts will never cross our minds or our children’s minds. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for so many. It is painful to think of, imagine how painful to experience.

By now, I’m sure your Facebook and Twitter timelines have blown up with KONY 2012. Whether or not you have chosen to engage in the material, I am unsure of. Over the past week I have seen KONY 2012 pop up; Facebook first, then Twitter. I wondered to myself, “What does KONY stand for?” I thought it was an acronym at first then I realized it was a person. I saw the words “Invisible Children” linked to it. I had heard of IC before, this stood out to me. It piqued my interest but wasn’t something I had the time to engage in until yesterday morning. There I was; just hopped out of a hot shower, before I began my morning routine I opened my iPad, engaged in social media, pressed play and watched something that was emotionally riveting and powerful.

After watching the entirety of the film, I wallowed in guilt. I complain about tossing and turning in the night and not getting a good rest when these children have to worry about being woken by a stranger in the night abducting them. I asked myself the same question many of you probably asked yourselves, “How did I NOT know about this before?”

A lot of controversy surrounds this campaign: finances, exaggerated claims, military intervention and questionable marketing tactics to name a few. See, I did my research. I learned in school that research was the backbone of everything – thank you to my communication professors at The University of South Alabama.
When I had the urge to write about this, I knew that moving forward I would need to get some facts. I see the relevance of all the controversial claims. Visible Children notes, "Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production.” I would like to note a few things about their spending from a variety of perspectives. In today’s economy – no one is going to work for free. I work in the travel industry, airfare rates are high and not coming down anytime soon. Especially when traveling internationally, to remote places in the middle of Africa, where these people are doing a lot of traveling to. Most companies, including non-profits, would say that their greatest costs are salary and travel. Film production, this is part of their business and how they are reaching millions. Without their filming would we have ever seen the YouTube video that has already amassed over 20-million views? They are using their resources to brand and market themselves. What’s wrong with that? Name a company who doesn’t utilize social media these days.

I do have my concerns. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t. However I feel that no matter how much money is spent on this campaign or fighting this cause, if one child’s innocence is spared then it was all worthwhile.


Brittany Dawn said...

I could not have said it better myself! Thank you for sharing Lindsey!

Anonymous said...

Mashable shares good info...

"You can evaluate Invisible Children’s 2011 budget, which is public online, for yourself: $1,074,273 was allocated to travel and $1,724,993 was allocated to staff compensation."

What's wrong with that? That's obscene. A charity's board of directors should not be netting $150,000 a piece in individual annual salaries.

"Others across the Twittersphere have accused KONY 2012 of promoting slacktivism — the idea that sharing, liking or retweeting will solve a problem — across the social web. Slacktivism was even turned into the college student and Wonka memes."

“Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.”

From other sources:

"What makes the video seem like a “scam” is the solicitation of donations and purchase of the action kit which includes two bracelets, t-shirt, stickers, buttons and posters for $30. IC has made almost $14 million dollars with approximately 31% going towards helping anyone, according to news site The Daily What, and backed up by the organization’s own financial records."

Anonymous said...

Invisible Children is creating awareness, but not necessarily a timely, or useful awareness. In fact, it could be causing more harm than good to peacekeeping, civil unrest, and U.S. missions seeking Kony.

But, "Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for 6 years."

"The LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.”

From Forbes...

"Even more pointed, Amber Ha posted a letter to Jason Russell on her Tumbler which included this first-person account, “Last year I went to Gulu, Uganda, where Invisible Children is based, and interviewed over 50 locals. Every single person questioned Invisible Children’s legitimacy and intention. Every single person. If anything, it seemed the people saw Invisible Children as a bigger threat than Joseph Kony at the time. Why is it the very people you are trying to ‘help’ feel more offense than relief with your aid?”"

There may be undesired effects to peacekeeping...

From Forbes...

"The upshot of all the criticism for me is that the radical simplification of the situation in Uganda that makes KONY 2012 such an effective piece of social media is the same thing that undermines it as a piece of political activism. The area of Northern Uganda in question has been experiencing a time of relative peace and stability since Kony’s exit six years ago and many there fear that IC (and U.S.) efforts may increase conflict in the area."

From other sources...

"Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response..."

Anonymous said...

"To call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement."
- Award-winning Ugandan
journalist Angelo Izama

From Foreign Policy Magazine...

"Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film (and by others) refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years. Eerily, it is also the same number estimated for the total killed in the more than 20 years of conflict in Northern Uganda."

"In October last year, President Obama authorized the deployment of 100 U.S. Army advisors to help the Ugandan military track down Kony, with no results disclosed to date."

"As I wrote for FP in 2010, the small remaining LRA forces are still wreaking havoc and very hard to catch, but Northern Uganda has had tremendous recovery in the 6 years of peace since the LRA left."

Then you have people from Uganda, saying the "movement" is misguided and 15 years too late. One girl from Uganda shares her thoughts:

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