On March 5th, the charity Invisible Children released the video ‘Kony 2012’ in the USA. This has quickly grown to be an international viral phenomenon with over 12.1 million views on Vimeo and over 37 million views on YouTube as of the 8th March. The video is a self-professed ‘experiment’ with the aim to ‘publicize’ the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) leader Joseph Kony in order to bring about his arrest. Kony has terrorized central Africa for 26 years, including kidnapping children and forcing them to be soldiers or sex slaves, and has been number one on the International Criminal Court’s ‘World’s Worst Criminal List’ since 2005.
While this is undoubtedly a worthy cause, there are also questions of the charity’s legitimacy. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614 and yet only 32% went to direct services (the rest going on staff salary and expenses). They have only received 2 out of 4 stars from the charity watchdog ‘Charity Navigator’.
Last year, Invisible Children spent $8,676,614 and yet only 32% went to direct services
The film also has an extremely American-centric slant. Seemingly suggesting that, rather than an international intervention to Kony’s atrocities, we should all raise money internationally for the USA to wander in and save the day instead (because its not like THAT hasn’t gone wrong in the past!)
Furthermore, there is a very real risk of seeing Kony as the symbolic goal that will cure the problem. While stopping Kony is clearly a worthwhile task, we should also ask what the measures are that are going to be taken to take out the problem all together. As we have seen in Afghanistan, the hunt for Bin Laden may be over, yet six more soldiers died only a few days ago. It is unlikely that simply arresting Kony will mean the disintegration of the LRA.
However, despite these problems, I want to put it to you that this is a worthy cause and a fantastic campaign. As the video says itself: “our goal is to change the conversation of our culture” and bringing Kony to the forefront of political and public consciousness is what is so crucial. But, for what its worth, I would encourage people NOT to donate to Invisible Children, but instead print off their posters, post their videos, and generally spread the word (as they claim is their cause). This is what will work. You are not going to bring about change by buying an ‘action kit’ 0r throwing money at a charity; change will be bought about by awareness. On the 20th April, take part in their action, but don’t buy their merchandise.
This brings me to my final point. Part of the video’s message is that the US government has not want to be involved with Kony for so long because the LRA did not directly risk American security or financial interests. Surely then, the problem is that profit is being put above people. Surely then, the problem is that ultimately we shouldn’t just be talking about Kony; we should also be talking about the morality of Capitalism.