Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Truth about Invisible Children, the group behind the KONY 2012 video


Here is the truth about Invisible Children, the group behind the KONY 2012 video, as told by Grant Oyston, the man behind the Tumblr blog linked above... Go check for more information on the matter. 

3/7/12 8:37 PM EST Update: It appears the link to the blog is currently down because so many users keep checking out in rapid succession... At any rate, here's what the first post on that blog says for everyone who wants to see it... Feel free to let as many people know the truth as possible.

"We got trouble.

For those asking what you can do to help, please link to wherever you see KONY 2012 posts. And tweet a link to this page to famous people on Twitter who are talking about KONY 2012!

I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.

KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m not alone.

Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 31% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee. But it goes way deeper than that.

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.

As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.

Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.

If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.

~ Grant Oyston"

 *For context, 31% is bad. By contrast, Direct Relief reports 98.8% of its funding goes to programming. American Red Cross reports 92.1% to programming. UNICEF USA is at 90.3%. Invisible Children reports that 80.5% of their funding goes to programming, while I report 31% based on their FY11 fiscal reports, because other NGOs would count film-making as fundraising expenses, not programming expenses.

Editor's note: Here are some additional cliffs for everyone...

-Joseph Kony IS an incredibly evil man to be sure, and his crimes certainly are horrific and unforgivable, and he deserves to be brought to justice. Nobody's disputing that. But Invisible Children is probably not the group to bring Kony to justice for the following reasons...

- The Invisible Children Organization is corrupt. Not all of their donations goes to improving the lives of children. In fact, only 32% of the money they've earned actually goes towards trying to help Uganda children out.

- Kony is most likely no longer in Uganda, and probably hasn't been for a long time. He is most likely starving in some forest in the middle of nowhere as we speak.

- The Uganda government, a country that's trying to introduce a bill that would sentence homosexuals to death, has committed crimes on par with or even worse than Kony. They have done plenty of raping, pillaging, looting, and massacring of their own. They have used the Kony situation as an excuse to wreck havoc and to exploit other countries.

- Be aware that when you donate to this organization that some of the money will go to these corrupt governments and the personal wallet of this charity.

- Invisible Children functions are boycotted by many Ugandans who are aware that they received bribes from General Salim Saleh.

- People want direct Military action in Africa just to hunt one guy. People didn't learn from what happened in the Middle East.

- People think throwing money at a problem will make it go away. People didn't learn from what happened to Haiti.

- The problem comes from corrupt governments on both sides and the greediness of some charities.


  1. I just have ONE question:
    What do they WIN with doing this? I'm not on neither side, the blog left that point unclear for me

  2. Check out this facebook page with some more information about this topic

  3. I would like to know where do you find this information?

    How do you know that Joseph Kony has been out of Uganda since 2006?

    I agree with you that they could be more focused on what they spend the money for. Even though, as the post older than mine post has said, what they get by doing this?

    They have good intentions and they have rocketed the popularity of JK!