The Faceoff: Kony 2012

Audrey Schiffhauer, Columnist

Invisible Children has recently faced criticism for their campaign Kony 2012. Their goal is for everyone in the world to know who Joseph Kony is, and to make it known to people in power that they want this man brought to justice. Invisible Children’s goal is for Joseph Kony to be apprehended by Dec. 31. Here are some common criticisms of the movement:

Kony is no longer operating his army in Uganda.

The Lord’s Resistance Army left Uganda in 2006, and since then has been committing his same atrocities in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. Invisible Children recognizes that the LRA is no longer in Uganda but because they wanted Kony 2012 to reach people who are unfamiliar with Invisible Children, they needed to include the history of the conflict in the video, the majority of which takes place in Uganda.

Some claim the Ugandan army to be corrupt.

In October 2011, United States Special Forces were sent to aid the Ugandan army by providing them with the necessary training and technology to locate Joseph Kony. Invisible Children does not support the human rights abuses that the Ugandan army has committed. None of the money Invisible Children brings in goes to the Ugandan government. The Ugandan military, however, is the only army in the affected area that could feasibly become organized enough to apprehend Kony. They are not prepared to do this on their own and that is why U.S. forces were sent to help them. Invisible Children is not involved in any affairs of the Ugandan government aside from capturing Kony; they are working together to achieve their common goal of stopping Kony’s long reign of terror in Africa.

Most of Invisible Children’s money doesn’t even go to Africa.

Invisible Children has its finances audited every year by a private company in San Diego but recently they have been criticized because only about one-third of their profits actually make it to Africa – this is intentional. Invisible Children has three main goals: to make the world aware of the LRA through free documentary films, channel energy from supporters into large-scale advocacy campaigns and operate programs on the ground in LRA-affected areas that provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance. They use about one-third of their profits to support each of these goals, and a very small amount of money for employees’ salaries.

If you want to explore different opinions or learn more about Kony 2012, look for information in credible sources, not places like Reddit. This organization was started by young people that wanted to do more than just watch. They have no reason to lie to the American or Ugandan people or their audience at large, because these are the very people they have so heavily depended on for support these last eight years. Invisible Children wants to bring us a better world: a world without Joseph Kony.

Tyler Ocon, Columnist

The first time I watched the Kony 2012 video, I found it curious. Then I watched it a second time and realized that, contrary to the rave reviews from everyone blowing up my Facebook feed, the Kony 2012 video (and subsequent campaign) is nothing but inaccurate propaganda intended to target the average American young adult who will propagate information, no matter what it is, in order to feel like they’ve “changed the world” in this age of youth indirection.

Let’s start with the video. First, the oversimplification of the facts is atrocious – no one can appreciate the full breadth of the situation and all its complexities when it is displayed on a black and white format suited for a four-year-old with no concept of “the grey area.” Second, Kony 2012 fails to acknowledge the fact that the Ugandan military also employed child soldiers – a shocking omission, given Invisible Children’s overarching mission. Third, the film gives a misleading impression of Joseph Kony’s strength and his area of operation – Kony is currently somewhere in the Central African Republic with only a few hundred soldiers – a drastic difference from the tens of thousands at the height of his power. The fact that Invisible Children is willing to either ignore or give lip service to the reality of the situation in exchange for YouTube views and retweets on Twitter is reprehensible. I could go further, but I do have a space limit.

As for the campaign, it fails to account for the number of individuals who will inevitably engage in “slacktivism.” The advent of social media has made it so the average American young adult can hop on to a number of causes without knowing what they actually are – and without feeling any motivation. I have respect for those who take the time to do their research – but those are few in number. How many of the 86 million viewers of the Kony 2012 film know the Lord Resistance Army’s (LRA) history in Uganda? How many decided to read up on it after viewing the film? And how many simply clicked the “share” button and smiled smugly, patting themselves on the back for a job well done, only to forget about the video a week later?

Let me lay it out for you: Sharing a video does not make you a warrior for the cause, nor does buying a bracelet, nor hanging up some flyers nor putting a Kony sticker on your MacBook. Out of approximately 5,000 students on campus, I haven’t heard a sound about Kony 2012 in the last two weeks. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like a captive populace that’s determined to make a difference – it sounds like a passive society that “paid its dues” to the cause and went on its merry way. Change isn’t about “action kits” – it’s about giving those affected by Kony’s atrocities the resources necessary to take control of their own destiny. Invisible Children and Kony 2012 depend on publicity and propaganda to further a flawed agenda that only barely serves in the best interests of those affected by the LRA – and the fact that many are willing to play into it only validates their tactics.