I am going to be attending The Art Institute in Santa Monica beginning April 2nd. It’s going to take three years to get my Bachelors of Science in Digital Filmmaking. The school promises a career in my field of study… they have like an 83% rate of their students getting a job after they graduate. I really think this is how it will all begin. Ill be able to film whenever I want using their equipment. That in itself is amazing. Ill be in Santa Monica… living by myself… I’ll be focused and productive. I can’t wait. To have a job. To have a car. Yup. This is definitely the beginning of something amazing.
We got trouble.
You do not need to ask my permission to share this. Please link it widely. For those asking what you can do to help, please link to visiblechildren.tumblr.com wherever you see KONY 2012 posts.
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 notalone.
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 their charity program (page 6)*. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money funds 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 ofrape 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arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission.
Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on funding 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 Christ 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 funds this 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 helping fund 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 funding 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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Grant Oyston is a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. You can help spread the word about this by linking to his blog at visiblechildren.tumblr.com anywhere you see posts about KONY 2012.
*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.
It’s fake until you learn how to actually listen - nay - actually care. Until you stop waiting for your turn to speak. Until you are authentic… and calm… and comfortable… Until you can get over yourself and your anxiety. It’s going to be fake until you stop trying to manipulate it.
I am indecisive. I loose interest in things very easily. I am not disciplined. I am not patient. I am impulsive. I crave too much for the rewards in life. I care too much about the future. I don’t focus on the now. I am Sloth.
So… I’ve always had this mindset. Do not bash religion. Do not bash anything for that matter. If you don’t accept something you should not bring other people down because of it. Everybody has their own opinions and you should not force your own opinions on others if they don’t want you to.
So I was at a Catholic retreat thingy because my mom wanted me to go with her. Idk… I usually always decline to these things because I really don’t like organized religion but I decided to go just because. Going really got me thinking about the people who genuinely like these retreats, like my mom.
I mean… Sure my rule that I always seem to keep reminding myself states “Everything is a reflection of yourself and the only way you can understand anything is through interpreting it.” means there is no possible way I can understand if these people actually go for their unconditional devotion to God, however, I am so convinced that there is an underlining cause to go to these retreats for every single person in that room who genuinely likes being there. Whether it be that they were conditioned as a child to perceive God a certain way by their parents and pastors or that they are trying to fill some sort of hole in their life caused by their insecurities and family life. I really do think that there is so much more than God going on in these Catholic retreats.
It’s like being at an AA meeting. People go there to pray for their sins. It’s therapy for them. Going to church. Seeking approval from pastors who reflect the model citizen based on thousands of years of conditioning. They say that God is in the details and I truly think I understand what that means to me now. God is in the details. God is always with us. God knows us so well. We can relate to God and seek therapeutic advice whenever we honestly try. God is a placebo in that praying to him is, in turn, us coping with our problems and finding a solution on our own. We are God.