Guest Blogger Jennifer Slattery looks critically at the STOP KONY 2012 campaign pushed by the Christian advocacy group, Invisible Children, whose 30-minute film about Ugandan militia leader and war criminal, Joseph Kony, has been getting considerable attention. Unfortunately, some of their information—and possibly even motives—look a little dubious.
Last week, social networks exploded with the STOP KONY 2012 campaign. It left me a bit bewildered having to inform so many friends and colleagues that their noble intentions were in fact being played. No one should feel embarrassed about sharing the film, and empathizing with the plight of the Ugandan people before they knew what was up with this organization. I admire their show of empathy immensely. Unfortunately, some people choose to take advantage of one of the best parts in humanity. We saw it in the wake of 9/11, in the names of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and even the devastating quake that ruptured Haiti. So first off, some important facts you deserve to know before handing your cash over to the film's organization Invisible Children:
Fact: Kony hasn't been in Uganda since 2006. As admitted by Invisible Children themselves.
Fact: President Obama sent troops to find, and capture or kill him already.
Fact: Only about 30% of the money donated to IC goes to the cause.
Fact: The Uganda government's army has been committing rape & genocide in Rwanda. (Not to mention that whole "kill the gays bill" debacle aided by C-street U.S. politicians.) They are the current "bad guys" there.
Fact: The makers of the film are egotistical enough to pose with assault rifles and rocket launchers alongside the the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (Yet another raping, murdering militia plaguing the region). See the pic for yourself:
To me, this picture encapsulates a lot of what we get wrong when our culture interacts with people of other cultures, races, and regions.
The story told by #KONY2012 is not about Uganda, but about how ego heavy activists get involved for self aggrandizement, rather than the problems, causes, and solutions they profess to be concerned with. The frat-boy meets Rambo shot above is the epitome of whitewashing the past colonialism of our culture to champion ourselves as saviors. Kony is far from unknown, even if it's the first many here in the "First World" are hearing of him.
The fact is that these guys promote this film/campaign even years after the LRA's forces were pushed out into the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. The filmmakers also fail to address the myriad of issues involved in the Ugandan troubles; how there are no good guys. The LRA, SPLA, and the Ugandan Government's army have all terrorized and killed the innocent, abused children, and raped women there. The army has even been reported by the United Nations as to have committed genocide in Rwanda. Is that any less deserving of our ire than the past crimes of Kony? The nations of the world are involved, the UN has written report after report updating the situation. He is already infamous, hunted, and basically "stopped."
The problems with this campaign are numerous, and the solutions posed ignorant and out of touch with reality. Here’s a must watch response to the KONY 2012 video from a Ugandan blogger on youtube (and please subscribe to her updates @rosebellk on Twitter):
The situation now calls for humanitarian aid to the people there now in the POST KONY period. Uganda also needs protection from high and mighty westerners seeking to play savior to their people. And by savior, I mean that literally. The maker of the film also has admitted the real "mission" of Invisible Children is one of “stealth” evangelizing:
"A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children - because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, "You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God." And it freaks them out."
--- Jason Russell, speaking at Liberty University, November 7, 2011
Indeed the connection with an Evangelist movement is not just philosophical, but also financial:
" — all of these ministries – the Discovery Institute, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, The Fellowship Foundation, The Call, Ed Silvoso’s Harvest Evangelism, and Invisible Children – received at least $100,000 in 2008 from what has emerged in the last decade as the biggest funder of the hard, antigay, creationist Christian right: the National Christian Foundation." ~ From the well researched and sourced article Invisible Children Funded By Antigay, Creationist Christian Right.
Filmmakers can do a lot of good in the world. John Pilger is a great example, though his work is rarely given any coverage here in the U.S. The distributors here at Hello Cool World work tirelessly to give informative documentaries visibility. Films like The Corporation expose corruption across a vast array of social inequality and injustice. Their 65 red roses campaign seeks help for many children suffering and dying from Cystic Fibrosis. But Invisible Children's Stop Kony part XX-XII is merely continuing the manipulative milking of the very painful reality of Uganda, and of the very noble feelings of sympathy in good people. Honest people, who really do hope, plead, and work every opportunity they get for a better world don't deserve being taken advantage of. These filmmakers have shamelessly done this for about a decade, and its long past time that they give up the ghost (and the dough). Every dollar funneled to them is a lost opportunity to really get the Ugandan people help. Please check out Isis-WICCE (Women's International Cross Cultural Exchange) a group that courageously works in post conflict transformation and peace building, and are specifically located in Uganda. Again, do not let the greed and manipulation of a few discourage you from reaching out to people who you can help. When in doubt: It's always best to stick with the tried and true, reliable and transparent organizations like The Red Cross or Amnesty International.
On March 21, 2012 at 06:34 PM Zsuzsanna wrote:
Thank you Lonnie Smith. You have literally reueritptnd my line of thought and way of dealing with certain issues. This is so much more pressing. I will be sending this video to many; just as soon as i remember how to do that(smile). May Father God continue to bless, guide and keep the producer(s) and writer(s). of this information. I am with you. Artemis Williams, Single On Purpose Ministries.
On March 23, 2012 at 05:12 PM Kaycie wrote:
At last some rationality in our litlte debate.
On December 18, 2012 at 01:46 PM Felix wrote:
I want to focus first on one thing: awareness.And that is what this cmgaaipn has succesfully achieved. I also think that this was the main goal of it, making the world community to be aware of Kony, the LRA and the situation in Central and East Africa. Millions of people, myself included, stopped for half an hour their mindless browsing and got to know a different reality we didn't even know existed. I strongly believe that that sole achievement is priceless. That's huge, I don't know if everybody realizes this. It shook our little world at least for some hours. At least this campaing showed me that it is possible to raise awareness globally on important matters.Secondly I'd like to point out that this action to help bring some peace and sanity in Central Africa is flawed it should be greatly welcomed. I've read today some comments in various blogs pointing out that: this is not the best approach to end the problem, that the problem is too complicated and it's been oversimplified by Invisible Children (IC), that the founds are not being spent in the best way ans the list goes on.But I ask: If all the above is true, does it render IC and its cmgaaipn less valuable. Definitely not. Perfect is the enemy of good right?I think that tackling problems should be done with a mix of researching and doing. Most people who criticize only limit themselves to point out flaws with the plan of action but don't propose any solutions, let alone involve themselves in new plans of action. I agree that you can't just act impulsively as sometimes you can make things worse, but I also reckon that waiting, researching and planning for too much time sometimes leads to inaction, becasue the problem is too complex , you don't know where to start or simply because the enthusiasm has worn off.I've seen the same criticisms some years ago against an NGO that now has become the most renowned NGO in Latin America, supported by the IADB, and companies such as Deloitte, LAN airlines, The BCG and some more.It started back in 2003 by a bunch of college students outraged by extreme poverty in Latin America. They started building wooden houses for the poor that didn't have where to live. People back then criticized that extreme poverty was way too complex for some rich kids to try to solve it, that buildings houses wasn't going to solve the problem, etc.Some years after they've have constructed 85,000 houses for the poor, have established community programs such as micro-loans, school support, entrepeneurship workshops and more.And it all started by action, and down the road correcting the mistakes, learning from them, and most important: never giving up.It's easy to be a critic, you just need time and a Internet connection.It's much harder to do something to tackle a problem, when that problem is really complex, when everyone is ignoring it, when you are not an expert on the subject, and when you raise awareness of it and lots of people criticize you. But you don't give up, because it's worth fighting for.
Jennifer Slattery is a dedicated human rights activist, former private investigator, and a member of the Occupy Movement. She lives in NY, and would be happy to answer any and all questions you might have: firstname.lastname@example.org