(Picture found on Invisible Children Facebook-page)
Most likely all of you have seen this video on Facebook the past two days; Invisible Children‘s 11th promotional film KONY 2012. The video has become a viral explosion, and everyone seems to be socially involved in this cause. For the ones that haven’t heard about it yet, or haven’t seen the video, a short summary: Invisible Children is a non-profit organization co-founded by filmmaker Jason Russell. They’ve premiered a new film under the name KONY 2012 to create awareness for the awful crimes Joseph Kony has been committing for the past 25 years in Uganda. Kony is the leader of militant group named the Lord’s Resistance Army, and has been abducting children for the past quarter decade. Mike Shanahan writes, and the film makes clear, that the group “is famed for […] forcing the boys to bear arms, girls to spread their legs – either as sex slaves or mothers of the next generation of child soldiers.” KONY 2012‘s purpose, so it seems, is to create a huge hype – using convincing video material and the support of Hollywood celebrities to make Joseph Kony a worldwide phenomenon and confront the public with his ongoing crimes.
Invisible Children achieved well-deserved results with KONY 2012, and I don’t doubt the good intentions of the organization. What bothers me, you ask? You. The people in my Facebook list who have shared the video without question, without doubt. You’ve been impressed with a nearly 30-minute-long video that confronts you with of one of the biggest issues Uganda has known for the past 25 years. It makes you believe that you can make a difference by sitting behind your computer, clicking the “share” button on your screen and making a donation. Do you ask why? No, it seems obvious… But did you know that Invisible Children spent $8,676,614 last year, of which only 32% went to direct services and $972,515 was spent on General and Management expenses? Why does no one question a hype like KONY 2012? I believe that people like to be associated with good causes, when their help visually gets acknowledged. Facebook is the perfect solution; share the video, change your profile picture, ACT and let your friends know that you’re against the cruelty happening in this world. But why not question what will happen if Joseph Kony gains worldwide fame? What will happen if he gets caught? What will happen to his following; all the children (according to Invisible Children Kony has abducted over 30.000 children in the past 26 years) that have been forced to kill their own parents and never had a regular childhood? And how many of these children will be killed in this mission? Why is Invisible financially supporting the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army, while they have been accused of rape and looting as well? And, why is it actually about Joseph Kony?
I don’t want to be the cynic here, but I want to encourage debate. I want you to question KONY 2012 and I ask you to read the opinions and research that stand a lot closer to this cause and situation than you. Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire posted a video response on her blog, explaining how Invisible Children simplifies the story of millions of people in Northern Uganda. She notes that some of the footage that has been used is over five years old, and that the situation has been improved tremendously, both by local and foreign initiatives. The film portrays the people of Africa as voiceless and hopeless, and that they need a western hero to solve the problem. Rosebell explains that change should focus on intelligent campaigns; changing policies, supporting ground initiatives and focusing on the true story, by believing in the ability of the people of Africa to make their own change.
As I said before, I don’t doubt that Invisible Children has great intentions, and that they’re doing a great job in creating awareness for this cause. They have opened the eyes of millions of people and made Joseph Kony a known man. I do question their working methods and way of spending the $4,676,436 that has been donated by thousands of kids. I want to encourage you to question, to think for yourself, and to think free. There are no boundaries here as long as you think critically. As Elselyn Tan stated in a note yesterday, “there is power in knowledge and information.” This article links to several other good stories on KONY 2012, and I urge you to take 10 minutes of your time to read them if you took 30 minutes to watch the film. Create debate. Question one another.
Thank you Rosewell Kagumire, Mark Shanahan, Grant Oyston and Mark Kersten, for inspiring people with your questions and providing me with the resources to write this. Also, thanks to Invisible Children for bringing this topic to light, and for actually starting this debate.
Written by Tim van Reyswoud