Why I Don't Give a Damn About the KONY 2012 Criticism, and Why You Shouldn't Either

Why I Don't Give a Damn About the KONY 2012 Criticism, and Why You Shouldn't Either

I'm not a political figure. Hell, I don't even own an Obama "Yes We Can" t-shirt. All I am is an indie recording artist who tries to help make a difference in the world in any way that I can. That is why I support the KONY 2012 campaign.

Today, I am writing about a blog being circulated by Jezebel.com (which happens to be a site that I love.) The article  "Think Twice Before Donating to Kony 2012, the Charitable Meme du Jour" is a snarky post that was written to make people aware of the pitfalls of the organization Invisible Children and to warn folks against buying into the KONY 2012 hype without knowing all the facts first. Fair enough. I have seen a dozen blogs like this, and I hope the readers of this post will be as eager to share it as people were to share the blogs that criticized Invisible Children.

The following excerpts were assembled in a blog by writer Kate J.M. Baker. My responses are supported by facts that I am more than willing to share with you here.

Dubious Finances

From "Visible Children":

"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.

ACTUALLY, Charity Navigator gives Invisible Children an overall rating of 3 out of 4 stars. The Visible Children blog neglected to mention this. It would appear that Jezebel.com (I love their site, so no shade intended) did not check this fact before re-posting. As it relates to the low accountability rating, participating in charity review efforts are voluntary. If an organization doesn't do it, that does not mean they are crooked, but it does mean that organizations such as Charity Navigator can't determine if this charity adheres to the Standards for Charity Accountability which would make it easier for Invisible Children to seek out donations from corporations. But Invisible Children doesn't beg for donations from major corporations, they rely on donations from concerned citizens.

As I mentioned before, their overall rating with Charity Navigator is 3 stars. Other charities that also hold a 3 star rating with Charity Navigator include Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois. So it looks like Invisible Children is in good company.

Let's be realistic here, a nonprofit organization is essentially a business. Generating funds to keep the organization going is a necessary part of the business. According to charity watchdog GuideStar, Invisible Children's mission statement is as follows:

"Invisible Children is a youth for youth movement that uses film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities to peace and prosperity."

Invisible Children never claimed that the mission behind KONY 2012 was to raise money to give to Uganda. If you don't like their platform then DON'T DONATE. Being angry at Invisible Children for generating funds to raise awareness instead of generating funds to lend aid is the same thing as being mad at Subway for not selling Chicken McNuggets.  And let's not forget... they donate 32% of their funds to direct aid in spite of the fact that financial aid is not their main objective. The staff of Invisible Children have homes to pay for and families to support, equipment to buy, immunizations, international transportation, and boarding to pay for, and considering the fact that fundraising is a competitive & complicated task I'd say they must be doing something right. Their success at it does not make them bad guys. It is up to you to decide for yourself whether or not you are okay with donating money to them. However, should that deter you from participating in a movement aimed at saving abused kids?

Exaggerated Claims

From Foreign Affairs magazine:

In their campaigns, such organizations [as Invisible Children] have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA's use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.

Were the scope of Joseph Kony's crimes truly exaggerated? Apparently, Kony was considered a big enough threat by George Bush for him to take steps toward thwarting the LRA during his presidency.  According to an article in the New York Times from October 14, 2011, "American efforts to combat the group also took place during the Bush administration," which included Bush sending 17 counterterrorism advisers to "train Ugandan troops and provided millions of dollars worth of aid, including fuel trucks, satellite phones and night vision goggles, to the Ugandan army." Since there was little awareness of this issue at the time, when Bush's efforts failed there wasn't any public demand to stick with it & the problem went overlooked until Obama ordered up to 100 armed military advisers to Uganda to help stop the rebels in 2011.

If 2 presidents acted on resolving this issue then it is difficult for me to believe the claims are exaggerated. And besides that, how many raped & kidnapped kids are an adequate number of children for it to count as important? How many little boys being forced to kill does it take to qualify Joseph Kony as a terrorist who needs to be stopped?

Support for Military Intervention

From "Visible Children:"

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government's army and various other military forces. Here's a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People's Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is "better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries", although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn't been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

In reply to this writer's claim that Invisible Children supports the Ugandan Army and turns a blind eye to their abuses, the very same article that he listed to make his point clearly shows that this is not the case. (Dude... did this Visible Children author even read the stuff he listed as references or was he just looking for stuff to justify his own point? Damn that's corny.) Anyway, Invisible Children's position on the matter is as follows:

"We do not defend any of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Ugandan army. None of the money donated through Invisible Children ever goes to the government of Uganda. Yet the only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to coordinate efforts with regional governments."

I suppose the KONY 2012 crew could plan their own guerilla movement without asking for help from the lawmakers in the countries that have been harmed by Joseph Kony's crimes. They could rally their own little army and unlawfully go find Kony's encampment themselves and unload a can of whoop-ass on those mofos, & maybe it would even force the country's government to take action. This would help Invisible Children fulfill their social goals, right? That would be cool, except for one thing. This LITERALLY fits the FBI's definition of terrorism. It's probably better that they try to work within the system seeing as how they're not career criminals OR military strategists, they're just some hippie film maker dudes trying to help resolve a complex issue that they can barely understand.

Marketing Tactics

From Yale Professor Chris Blattman:

"[The video] feels much the same, laced with more macho bravado. The movie feels like it's about the filmmakers, and not the cause. There might be something to the argument that American teenagers are more likely to relate to an issue through the eyes of a peer. That's the argument that was made after the first film. It's not entirely convincing, especially given the distinctly non-teenage political influence IC now has. The cavalier first film did the trick. Maybe now it's time to start acting like grownups.

With all due respect, Mr. Yale Professor Guy, maybe it's time to stop trashing strategies that are obviously working. Let's take a look at Invisible Children's mission statement again:

"Invisible Children is a youth for youth movement that uses film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities to peace and prosperity."

Are they attempting to use a youth for youth movement that uses film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war? Yes. How are they doing this? With the Kony 2012 film. How can we measure it's success? By the degree to which awareness is raised. Is there a measurable rise in awareness? Yes, it has become an issue of international discussion. Does your personal opinion that they need to grow up matter? No. No it does not. It's a documentary, not Good Will Hunting.

"Invisible Children is staffed by douchebags"

From Vice:

"Now when I first watched the Kony 2012 video, there was a horrible pang of self-knowledge as I finally grasped quite how shallow I am. I found it impossible to completely overlook the smug indie-ness of it all. It reminded me of a manipulative technology advert, or the Kings of Leon video where they party with black families, or the 30 Seconds to Mars video where all the kids talk about how Jared Leto's music saved their lives. I mean, watch the first few seconds of this again. It's pompous twaddle with no relevance to fucking anything."

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but ummm...it's an opinion. The people who are running the KONY 2012 campaign aren't really as important as the overall goal, which is to raise awareness and show our governments that we are holding them accountable for addressing this issue. It's an election year, people! Politicians sorta have to care about what we want right now.

Do I think that Invisible Children are the saviors of mankind? No. But I can appreciate the fact that they have made the world care about something real. I can only imagine that if the internet had existed back when other social movements aimed at creating political change were going on, there would have been oodles of blogs dedicated to criticizing those, too. I imagine the titles would have been stuff like:

"Why Jim Crow is the Only Way to Go"

"Women Want Rights? Not Without a Fight"

"The Illinois Sodomy Law: Why Gay is Not Okay"

"How to Look on the Bright Side of Apartheid"

That looks really dumb, right?

I'm not saying that Invisible Children is perfect, I'm just saying that they are doing a good job of raising international awareness, and awareness forces people to form opinions and those opinions spark people to take action. SO WHAT if people are watching the 30 minute video and being inspired to become "activists?" If the 30 minute video inspires 20,000 people to make 1 phone call to their government to express their desire to see Joseph Kony's rebels stopped, then that's not a fad. That's a political movement. The film has already inspired action in the US, such as this petition on Whitehouse.Gov asking for signatures in an effort to urge the American governmet to make this matter a priority. You can belittle KONY 2012 or cloud it in controversy if you want, but the ultimate goal here is to end the suffering of the children in Central Africa. Why anyone would want to downplay this issue is a mystery to me. If you aren't going to help then, with all due respect, get out of the way.

Comments

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  • I was going to write a post about this yesterday after seeing the video, saw that you already did and stayed out of it. I didn't have time to do all the research you have done. I commend you for that. One more article for you that I did read this morning from Foreign Policy magazine: http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/03/07/guest_post_joseph_kony_is_not_in_uganda_and_other_complicated_things#.T1iwzzdU5Cc.twitter

  • In reply to John Chatz:

    I am aware that Kony is now retired but his encampment is still active and is currently going unchecked, and I find it hard to believe that after 30 years he has relinquished all power and is no longer in a position of authority within the LRA.

    I think that what people are not understanding is the significance of raising awareness. We are affected by campaigns to raise awareness everyday, we just don't think about it that way. As soon as you set food into downtown Chicago you see campaigns to raise awareness for the new Caramel Mocha coffee at McDonald's, campaigns to raise awareness for how cool you'll be if you drink Smirnoff, campaigns to show how beautiful you'll become if you join Weight Watchers. Ad impressions are an invaluable tool to elevate interest and the public response to these campaigns determines what the entity in question will do next.

    The KONY 2012 video is part of a campaign targeted at encouraging people to hold their government responsible for helping the children in Central Africa, and the millions of impressions creates a circumstance by which the entity in question (the government) has to figure out what to do next. It is not our job to figure out what to do next, nor is KONY 2012 encouraging us to come up with the master plan. It is encouraging us to hold our government responsible for coming up with the master plan... that's THEIR job. Why do people keep forgetting that part? Have we gone so long without our government coming up with solutions that we've forgotten that it's their job to solve problems? Sheesh!

    So yeah... I'm not really swayed by all the anti-Kony stuff but I do think it's a good thing that there is a lot of healthy debate going on, I just get annoyed with these "journalists" that are flat out posting blogs without checking facts. That's just dummmmb :op Thanx for commenting :o)

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    In reply to Nikki Lynette:

    I do understand what you are saying, but why are many people making a big deal out of this in the first place Nikki. I felt uncomfortable like something was not right the first time I watched KNOY 2012. I also felt uncomfortable at those in my family that I never see doing anything charitable, all of sudden jumping on the wagon for this, for popularity? To be a real activist we need to suffer for someone else. Who is suffering for KONY 2012? They are not sleeping in tents freezing in the cold, or living in jungles, or out on the street everyday talking to people etc. The T-Shirts, and other items are cheesy and go way beyond the cheesiness of other charities that are similar. There is also something seriously wrong with the co-founder.

    Many Ugandans do not want this exploitation, and that is what it is. Be in a safe environment, go to a cool concert, wearing a cool T-Shirt, do not forget to take lots of pictures so you can get 15 instant likes on Facebook for being a wanna be activist, all in get rid of their guilt for not participating in real charities or activism, because this is far safer. I have invited them to participate in many charitable events, and they refused, but this was cool so why not right?

    I have been involved in charities, and activism for a long time since my High School days. I am now 39, and it is part of me and in my blood. I do not do it to be famous, win friends, win a popularity confess, many times it can make me unpopular, and not even always to make me feel good and get rid of my guilt. I do not even publicize what I do, only if it means getting much needed support for something, but most do not know what I do, or have done including my mother and sisters.

    Why do I do it than? Because it is the right thing to do, not necessarily because it makes me feel good, for than that would be Egoism instead of Altruism. Natural spiritual progression is to be like our father in heaven, just as we do with our parents. God is all altruism, and we do it because we wish to be like God as we mimic our parents. True spiritual growth.

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    In reply to Nikki Lynette:

    By the way I just watched your video, for I did not know who you are. To be honest you should be even more famous than you are. You got some good stuff there. I am mostly into rock, but I can see talent when I see it. Maybe you could try a song with more rock in it, some awesome electric solos. be like rock hip-hop or something. LOL I am actually the bass player for our classic rock cover band Land Shark. Lot's of fun.

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    I think there's a few more things that have been left out. It's been reported that only 30% of the proceeds from Invisible Children's donations are going to this cause. Where is the other 70% going? And, from personal accounts I've heard that Invisible Children's had a rep for being over-the-top, young, unnecessarily sensational. People on the ground in Uganda have said they aren't exactly children in town asking to escape the LRA either. There's just way to much speculation out there to lead me to believe maybe I could fall back and not jump on this cause. So what's their plan? Does this money go to the army? (I don't believe it) There's been reports that Kony isn't even in Uganda anymore. I have to believe our military is on this already. The Director's cause and efforts are more than admirable but Invisible Children needs to come up with a better solution. I'm just not sold.

  • In reply to Frantz:

    - 32% of their proceeds go to direct aid. As I mentioned in the article, Invisible Children's mission statement IS NOT to raise money for direct aid, it is to raise awareness, which they are doing. They raise money to support these goals. Non-profit organizations are businesses. The CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation gets paid $439,256, they pull $54,866,684 in total contributions in a year and net $36,021,386. Charities make money, its a business who's value is contingent upon how well they are doing their job.

    - A "reputation for being over the top, young, and unnecessarily sensational" sounds like the same thing Fox News was saying about Obama 4 years ago. Are we really forming opinions about stuff based on speculations? Have u ever had anyone say untrue things that tarnished your reputation?

    - I've spoken to people from Uganda too. This is what a native Ugandan posted on my wall yesterday:
    "The fact dat we began da movement here in Uganda (Nothern Ug)... Save Our Selves campaign, I'm glad it has xtended to da state. Dat video is just a small bit of what Kony did...it hurts me to knw dat he is a Ugandan n' killing Ugandans :'( Plz Join the Movement, Ugandan or not."
    He is actually in Uganda right now and is participating in their own movement, but the still considers the Kony 2012 campaign important. I'm sure not all of them feel this way but many have expressed their support of Kony 2012 to me. I actually learned more about Joseph Kony from them than I did from the Kony 2012 video.

    - The money does not go to the army. I included a quote about that directly from Inivisible Children in this article.

    - As I mentioned in the article, their job is to raise awareness. They are not politicians or members of government so it is not within their power to devise a plan. Their goal is to make people care enough to demand change, by contacting their local government & participating in activities to help spread the word about Joseph Kony. This way the people responsible for forming plans and solving problems (the government) will do their jobs.

    - Kony is not in Uganda, he is still in Central African and his rebel force is still active. As I mentioned in the article, Obama has sent military advises to Uganda to help consult their army on how to combat the LRA.

    Before you reply to this comment I think you should actually take the time to read this article, u said that there were "things left out" when in actuality almost everything that you menitioned was addressed in this blog. I realize you have questions but I don't know how anybody could be "sold" or not sold on an issue without learning the facts first. Especially when all you have to do is scroll up and read them for yourself.

  • Startin' some sh!t, as usual. As soon as I read your last blog I googled kony and IC and educated myself. That's just what I do when I get info from people wanting support for their cause de jour. What I came up with was suprising (especially kim kardashian's involvement-barf), but instead of wondering where is the money going, I really started wondering, "where in the hell have I been???". Rather than trying and convicting the people who have made it their business to get people informed, I'm finding myself guilty of not being aware of what's going on outside my little world. Anyway, thanks again Nikki, and keep your foot in the world's @ss!!!

  • In reply to misterchi:

    LoL :op Thanx Mr. Chi. There has been a lot of false information circulating about this whole thing and that is so weird because the truth is not hard to find :o/ I hope people are able to focus on what is important and stop playing into the media drama

  • Love it Nikki. I worked in social services for nearly 20 years. You got to keep the lights on and the people paid. The budget for Invisible Children is appropriate.

    I have to echo the sentiments of misterchi. My husband and I were horrified that we didn't have this information about Kony a long time ago.

    Keep up the good work!

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