KONY 2012, Invisible Children and Other Activist Phenomenon

It’s obvious that the acts Joseph Kony has committed against humanity are heinous.  Yet, I wonder what to make of the KONY 2012 campaign lead by the likes of John Russell and his organization, Invisible Children.  Recent evidence has mounted against the reliability of this organization against Kony, and his attacks and kidnappings of Ugandan children to form a horrendous army. 

For one, the organization has used a great percentage of its monetary donations to make hundreds of videos, requesting rallied American youth support (…ironically, very much like an army) against Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.  According to Invisible Children’s 2011 annual report, the group brought in $13.7 million in revenue that year. The breakdown of expenses shows…$2.3 million was spent on “awareness” programs. The group spent $1.4 million for management and general expenses, $850,050 on “awareness products,” $699,617 for media and film creation, and $286,678 for fundraising.” (See Sources- 1)  These same videos also display High-School-Musical-esque, extensive, show stopping musical numbers that look like they would cost a fortune. (these videos are further explained in a “Ten O’Clock Live” segment, (See Sources- 2), with Charlie Brooker…along with a hilarious, but informative full exposé on Invisible Children and the KONY 2012 campaign)  The rest of the charitable monies (3.3 million) are directly funneled to the Ugandan government’s army in order to provide funding for weapons and resources, to allow them to rise up against Kony.  Although, with a bit of research, one realizes that the Ugandan army itself is guilty of many sexual and violent crimes against its own people. [as stated in “The Resolution of African Conflicts: The Management of Conflict Resolution & Post-Conflict Reconstruction” (See Sources- 3)]

To see the full breakdown of Invisible Children’s expenses and where their charitable donations go, see: (See Sources- 4)

Here is just a sample from the website: (almost 9 million of the close to 14 million in donations are used for the charities functional expenses-“awareness” products, films, travel expenses, salaries of the groups leaders…etc.)

Not only are the programs and expenses staggering, there is also the fact that many of the Ugandan people and their government are insulted by these video campaigns. “On March 13, the documentary was screened in northern Uganda, where many are personally affected by the acts of Kony. The reaction was surprising. People began getting angry, yelling, and throwing stones at the screen and the organizers who co-ordinated the screening…People were angry that real victims were not used in the video. Most of all, however, they were angry about the method in which they were trying to solve the issue. By making Kony a celebrity, the people of Uganda affected, felt insulted and sick, seeing millions around the world carrying around or wearing Kony’s name or face. One woman related the efforts of Invisible Children to if people around the world were to wear Osama Bin Laden’s name and face on their clothes, bracelets and signs.” (See Sources- 5)  The Prime Minister of Uganda, himself, stated in response that while the KONY 2012 campaign is quite “inspiring” he believes that “we (the Ugandan government and people) do not need a Youtube video to take notice of this problem.” Right Honourable Amama Mbabazi goes on further saying, “Let Africa deal with its problems, instead having the US military invade it under a “humanitarian” banner.” (See Sources- 6)

It was also emphasized by Ugandan leaders that these travesties have been occurring in Uganda for decades, so…why now?  Especially when Kony hasn’t really been heard from for over 6 years.

 

The straw that broke the camel’s back though was the incident which occurred 3 days ago, when Jason Russell (co-founder and spokesperson of Invisible Children, and figurehead behind the KONY 2012 campaign) was arrested for public drunkenness, vandalism of property, and public masturbation. [See TMZ video for footage of his breakdown: (See Sources- 7)]

The CEO of Invisible Children spoke out for Russell calling it an “unfortunate event” and explaining that Russell is now being hospitalized for “dehydration, exhaustion and malnutrition” and that his actions were due to his health condition caused by the stress of the campaign in the last few weeks. (See Sources- 8)

 

So…if you’ve stuck with me this long, you are probably wondering what to make of all this.

Well, it seems to me that while it is inarguable that Kony is a vicious and disgusting man who must be stopped, perhaps Invisible Children is not the organization we should put our faith in to do it.  It abuses of charitable donations to pay salaries, make big budget films,…and gives the rest to the Ugandan government, who is also known for crimes against its own people.  …or how about thinking first of the Ugandan people and their wants, considering they are the actual victims of Kony. 

The foundation of Invisible Children also does not seem to pick the best people to represent them in leadership.  The heads of the organization have abused money and power…but, none being as questionable as Jason Russell.  It was claimed that Mr. Russell was arrested for his crimes and sent for mental evaluation because he suffered from “dehydration, exhaustion and malnutrition” due to the stress of the campaign.  I don’t know about anybody else, but I went through long extended periods of sickness as a child. It took sometimes months of hospitalization and bed rest to get over what should have been a simple virus that other kids could get over in a few days.  I know what it is like to be extremely dehydrated and exhausted, and let me tell you, I would not have had the strength to go out and vandalize a few cars, masturbate in public, or run around drunken and naked.  I was listless and at times unresponsive, so I have to question whether we are getting the full story…and why did Russell feel the need to do all of this while under stress, couldn’t he have just got drunk while fully-clothed and inside a bar or his home like any other person?  There are men and women who run multi-million and billion dollar companies, doctors who perform surgeries and hold a person’s life in their hands, firefighters and police officers who risk their lives everyday keeping us safe, soldiers who put their lives on the line for our country.  They, I would assume, experience a greater deal of stress than the Invisible Children co-founder, yet they don’t feel the need to get drunk, perform lewd acts and destroy public property.  I also find it a bit ironic…why is the well-paid, free American citizen dehydrated and malnourished.  I’m pretty sure that the actual Invisible Children are far more dehydrated and malnourished, considering their country is not that of a 1st world status. 

 

All of this leads me to one of my points that (and yes it’s sad we have to think like this, but) with every new campaign, “charity,” or cause, we all have to make sure to be a little skeptical at first.  We live in a generation and time in which social media spreads our news and information like wildfire.  It is becoming very hard to distinguish what is trustworthy and reliable when we live in a world of compulsive re-tweeters and re-posters.  I am a college age student and I cannot tell you how many people I knew who re-posted the Kony video on Facebook, who I then tried to talk to about it later that day.  Some never watched the 30-minute video, and they hardly knew what it was about.  …OR if they did take the time to watch the KONY 2012 video they hadn’t dug further into Invisible Children or looked into the organization to which they so hastily supported.  This to me is unsettling and disappointing.

            Let’s face it, not all, but a large number of college-age students just want to find a cause for their generation.  Many only want to have something to protest, not caring what it is or believing in it enough to really fight for it.  Every generation thinks they have to find something against the government (or against an organization), just so they can say that they had their own Civil/Women’s Rights-type of movement or that they were a part of something greater than them self.  It all falls under the stereotypical, clichéd, college activist phase in a person’s life…and I will be the first to admit I want to fight and protest on behalf of a cause, someday.  But, I want it to be for the right reasons. 

            I’m all for fighting for something you believe in…and protests can be a wonderful thing.  They open doors to change, alter our government’s policies, and get people excited about civil rights, freedoms, and our government, which is the essence of the democracy we have in this beautiful country we live in.

            BUT, too many people just jump on the bandwagon for the latest trend and whatever humanitarian/political effort is popular at the time.  Many don’t research or takes the time to really invest in a cause that is close to them, that they know everything about, that they are truly and completely devoted to.  You saw this happen with some people in the Occupy movements.  There were quite a few I knew who took part in Occupy because it was “cool” to belong to a protest.  OR, when asked, many would have completely different reasons for why they were involved.  Those involved in the movement who were in it for the wrong reasons, didn’t seem to have a united front, a driving mission statement or a clear addendum of ideas/principles. Many even turned to violence and aggression in their Occupy movements instead of peaceful protests like that of Gandhi and MLK, overshadowing the truly devoted and purposeful protestors.

 

            …And, sadly, like so many other charities and causes, KONY 2012 will probably be forgotten within a few months time…and everyone will be onto their next humanitarian case. Remember 9/11?…and our mission to help Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran overthrow tyrannical powers and form democracy. Remember when you turned your Twitter picture green in support of the opposition party in the Iran election? Remember those whose lives were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina? Or the victims of the earthquake in Haiti? How about the uprisings in Egypt a few months back? These tragedies, and others like them, are ongoing still today. Do you really remember and continue to support and fight for these causes, or have you tossed them aside like yesterday’s newspaper.

 

What people need to realize is that just because an organization supporting the cause may be corrupt, or just because time since the event passes…it doesn’t mean the problem goes away.

 

            So…what does all this mean.

 

The next time you decide to commit to a cause, be in it for the long haul. Know what you’re talking about. If you’re passionate enough about it, you will want to research it. Know something about the organizations that support it, and then support those that truly give and are charitable. It’s an over-used and trite phrase, but…Get involved and make a difference.  But, do it because you want to and it’s something you believe in.

 

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough, we must do.”

                  -Leonardo da Vinci

 

Sources:

 

1. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/19/2702193_p2/uganda-horror-no-longer-invisible.html#storylink=cpy

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6_bHzrKzik&feature=player_embedded

3.http://books.google.ca/books?id=czMrNdvNuWgC&pg=PA62&lpg=PA62&dq=UPDF+rape&source=bl&ots=ci63KTOEn7&sig=YrY7g_wWwmmIEb0MmCkk398RhBo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yW1XT-m-MITW0QGywKG6Dw&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=UPDF%20rape&f=false)

4. http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=12429

5. http://soundcivilized.com/2012/03/what-happens-when-you-screen-kony-2012-in-uganda/

6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtGrAFx7-ok

7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjdH2LDH5LM

8. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/03/16-6

 

 

Other Sources:

 

- http://www.theblaze.com/stories/is-there-more-to-the-invisible-children-story-in-uganda-than-meets-the-eye/

- http://animalnewyork.com/2012/03/how-invisible-childrens-kony-2012-convinced-thousands-of-americans-to-agitate-for-military-action-in-africa/

- http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/14/after-all-the-attention-will-the-kony-2012-video-even-matter/