Kony 2012 Faces Criticism Over Facts And Fundraising
Earlier this week, DrJays highlighted the Kony 2012 video that has swept across the web, getting over 55,000,000 views on YouTube as of last night. But just as the movement has gained a tidal wave of support through undeniably effective social media tactics, it has faced equally growing criticisms that have plagued its parent organization, Invisible Children, since the group’s founding.
The biggest complaint of Kony 2012‘s detractors is that Joseph Kony, the brutal warlord who has abducted, raped, and murdered thousands while building his “Lord’s Resistance Army” of child soldiers, is no longer in Uganda, and has not been active there for years. His number of soldiers has dwindled to the low hundreds; the often cited number of 30,000 refers to the total number of children he has abducted during his reign of terror, not his current forces.
Michael Wilkerson, a journalist who has reported from Uganda, explains in Foreign Policy how Kony 2012 does not clarify these facts:
Only once, at 15:01 in the movie, over an image of a red blob on a map leaving Northern Uganda and heading West, is the fact that the LRA is no longer in Uganda mentioned, and only in passing:
“As the LRA begain [sic] to move into other countries, Jacob [one of the children filmed in Northern Uganda in 2003] and other Ugandans came to the US to speak on behalf of all people suffering because of Kony. Even though Uganda was relatively safe they felt compelled to tell the world that Kony was still out there and had to be stopped.”
That’s it, in a 30-minute movie. And with both the graphic and reiteration of how awful the LRA is, you might think reasonably “move into other countries” meant expanding rather than fleeing.
Misinformation is never good, especially when it is whipping masses of well-meaning supporters into misguided action. But the real problem comes with that action. Wilkerson also explains that Invisible Children supports a Ugandan government and military that is rife with corruption and crime, and might be making the situation worse as Kony poses little immediate threat, and none in Uganda.
Furthermore, the video states that it’s singular goal is to stop President Obama from withdrawing the advisory troops he has sent to regional militaries there; but no such withdrawal plans have been announced. One expert on the situation said the international attention may have set back the mission.
Finally, Invisible Children has continually faced criticisms for it’s finances, which are public since the organization is a not-for-profit. The group has been called out for spending large amounts on staff salaries and filmmaking, and relatively little on direct aid. It also does not employ an external audit.
What do you think? Is Kony 2012 misguided, or the best strategy?