Yesterday my inbox was flooded with people asking me to post Invisible Children’s latest video calling for the capture of Joseph Kony. I don’t automatically post things like this just because everyone else is doing it. My gut was telling me there was more to this and I better do some more…
We got trouble.
For those asking what you can do to help, please link to visiblechildren.tumblr.com wherever you see KONY 2012 posts. And tweet a link to this page to famous people on Twitter who are talking about KONY 2012!
I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.
KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m notalone.
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 for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee. But it goes way deeper than that.
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that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission.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.
Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates 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.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.
As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”
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 or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.
Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.
Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.
If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.
~ Grant Oyston
Grant Oyston is a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. You can help spread the word about this by linking to his blog at visiblechildren.tumblr.com anywhere you see posts about KONY 2012.
Please do not email Grant except to provide alternative causes, or with media requests, as I am no longer able to read emails (which I’m receiving at a rate of over 1000 an hour).
SIMPLY REBLOG AND YOU CAN HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
SIMPLY REBLOG AND YOU CAN HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Hey there, my name is Shayla and I’ve been gaming for as long as I can remember. I’ve been lucky enough to grow in a stable household and I’ve never had to deal with a life altering illness, but I know first hand how important video games can be. Gaming can offer an escape from our daily lives and a chance to unwind. People my age and older benefit from it- now imagine how important it is for children who are suffering from illnesses of all kinds to have distraction and a chance to have fun in their lives. That’s why I want to donate to Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play charity.
ABOUT CHILD’S PLAY
“Since 2003, we’ve set up and organized Child’s Play, a game industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in our network of over 70 hospitals worldwide. Over the years, you as a community have answered the call and come together to raise millions of dollars.
Child’s Play works in two ways. With the help of hospital staff, we set up gift wish lists full of video games, toys, books, and other fun stuff for kids. By clicking on a hospital location on our map, you can view that hospital’s wish list and send a gift.
Child’s Play also receives cash donations throughout the year. With those cash donations, we purchase new consoles, peripherals, games, and more for hospitals and therapy facilities. These donations allow for children to enjoy age-appropriate entertainment, interact with their peers, friends, and family, and can provide vital distraction from an otherwise generally unpleasant experience.
ABOUT MY FUNDRAISER
- For every re-blog of this post, I will donate 20 cents to the Child’s Play charity! The deadline I’m setting is February 19th so on that day, I’ll do the math and figure out how much I’ll be donating to them.
- I AM NOT ASKING FOR ANY MONEY. All I want is for people to reblog this post and spread the word! The number of reblogs will decide how much I donate to Child’s Play. I don’t want your money. Just your awareness and kindness.
- I don’t know how successful this will wind up being, but you have my word that every reblog WILL act as money towards Child’s Play. Even if I have to set a certain amount of money out of my pay cheques and do so for years, I’ll do it and that’s a promise!
1 reblog = 20 cents
10 reblogs = 2 dollars
50 reblogs = 10 dollars
100 reblogs = 20 dollars
150 reblogs = 30 dollars
200 reblogs = 40 dollars
500 reblogs = 100 dollars
1000 reblogs = 200 dollars
5000 reblogs = 1,000 dollars
And so forth!
Whether you’re a gamer or not, please reblog this!
For more info on Child’s Play, please go here.
[Two smiling people at a table. One is saying “I’m so happy we live in a world without slavery and imperialism.” There are boxes pointing to various objects around and on the people. They read:
COTTON: Picked in Uzbekistan where 2 million children as young as 7 are forced to pick cotton for 3p a kilo.
APPLES: Picked in California by Mexican migrant workers, not being paid minimum wage nor provided housing.
LAPTOP: Made in China by adults working 18 hours a day at 32p an hour. The laptop will end up back in China’s landfills, where children will dismantle it for its valuable metals including lead.
MOBILE PHONE: Gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten mined in Congo in abysmal working conditions, causing disease and the regional conflict responsible for the deaths of over 5 million people and systematic rape of women.
ORANGE JUICE: Picked in Chile by women working 60 hours a week, below minimum wage.
FACE: Detoxed with Dead Sea salts sourced in occupied West Bank; land stolen by Israel from Palestinians, who are subject to continual and severe human rights violations.
COFFEE: Picked in Guatemala where entire families with children as young as 6 are forced to pick a 100-pound quota in order to get the minimum wage of less than £2/day
SHIRT: Sewn in India under forced labour conditions by people earning less than 25p an hour, for 16 hours a day, while being unable to send their children to school.
DIAMOND: Mined in Sierra Leone by children as young as 7, working in dangerous conditions for 10p an hour, six days a week.]
this needs a million notes