Weighing in on Kony 2012

I am so tired of seeing all this criticism of the Kony 2012 movement. People are so quick to discredit something that is meant to be noble and benevolent. Let’s take a minute and review some of the criticisms that Kony 2012 is receiving from cynics, worldwide.

1. “By IC’s own admission, only 31% of all the funds they receive go toward actually helping anyone.”

Firstly, Invisible Children is a business, just like any other business. Yes, they are a not-for-profit organization, which means they are not government funded. They operate, just like any other not-for-profit, solely from donations. Invisible Children must pay its personnel to get over to Uganda, Syria, and the Congo. They also require money to raise awareness, whether that be through film-making, advertising, etc. Every charity, or should I say, every successful charity must follow a business model to create, deliver, and capture value, whether that be through economic or social means. Alex Miller, a writer for Vice Magazine, right here in Toronto, makes another good point: “It’s impossible to understand everything about Invisible Children’s motives by analyzing these figures alone. Eighty-nine grand does seem like a sweet wage, but does that matter so much? That its expenses are high compared to its revenue isn’t too surprising, either. The Kony 2012 manifesto is to raise awareness. People are donating to raise the profile of the Ugandan plight, and, overnight, thanks to a film on YouTube, millions more people were made aware of it. Success, then.”

2. “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. It’s often not an accidental choice of words, even if it’s unwitting. It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden.”

Ethnocentrism is a real problem and I fully recognize that. It is defined as “making value judgments about another culture from perspectives of one’s own cultural system.” We have to step back, here, and recognize that this is not an issue of one culture’s differences versus our own. These are human rights issues. The Lord’s Resistance Army is overstepping boundaries and overstepping them by leaps and bounds. While some people saw Jason Russell’s video as “sensational” and “egotistical,” I did not see that at all. When Jason compared his own child, Gavin, to the children being forced to become child soldiers and sex slaves, he was tugging at your heart strings. There’s no doubt about that. Ultimately, however, he was trying to draw a comparison between our own children and theirs. How far would you go to stop this from happening to your own child? I don’t see Jason and his team as trying to be “white martyrs or saviours.” I simply think they are trying to do what is right.

This campaign is to raise awareness and they have done just that. At the end of the Kony 2012 video, they urge you to take action and stress one thing above all, to share their video (“It’s free”). They’re not telling you that you must throw money at their cause, but simply to share their video, in hopes of raising awareness of Joseph Kony’s war crimes. Perhaps I am naive for believing that this mission is NOT “shady” and “misleading,” but I would rather believe that the IC’s intentions are good than take a cynical viewpoint.

Once again, I must refer to Alex Miller’s article, as he said it much more eloquently than I ever could have: “Confronted with the grotesque reality of the atrocities [taking place in Uganda], the Western filmmakers did what I hope I’d do, and resolved to help. No matter what. With that in mind, does it matter if they get paid well? Does it matter if they massage the facts? Does it matter that their charity isn’t completely accountable? Does is matter that they’re naive prats who think it’s the white man’s job to save Africa? Or is that all just pompous hypothesizing by Westerners with enough freedom, information, and education to look down on a simple, kind act? Isn’t it better to just stop criticizing and start helping children in need?”

I think so. Don’t you?

In response to all the criticism and backlash, Invisible Children released this. In addition, click here to see a video from a Ugandan woman who was forced to be a sex slave as a child, at Joseph Kony’s hands.

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