Selling Old Newspapers Shouldn’t Be Profitable: Invisible Children and Kony 2012

If someone on the street was selling you an old newspaper, would you buy it?  Okay, let’s move to the 21st century:  if your iPad was only downloading podcasts from six years ago, would you continue your subscription?

Invisible Children - Gulu Office

In 2006 Invisible Children began its campaigns to educate Western audiences via media and marketing about the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and the LRA. What resulted is millions of dollars in advertising, action kits, and attention intended to benefit the children of northern Uganda. In their latest flick, Kony 2012, Invisible Children continues to sell the stories of night commuters and the overwhelming fear and agony of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as the “real story” of northern Uganda, invoking Western audiences (both rich and rich) to make an effective impact by tweeting the video to their friends, holding Gulu Walks, and raising awareness.

In 2008 I received a university research grant and, partnering with a local university research facility, I began gathering information and interviewing both primary sources as well as secondary sources in northern Uganda on the effects of long-term conflict and camp settlement on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the north—persons who are forced to flee from their homes as a result of conflict. What resulted was a wakeup call in my research:  much of my intended research was outdated, the LRA threat has greatly diminished since 2006, and the real story that needs to be researched, quantized and talked about is growth and development in a post-conflict northern Uganda, particularly as the Ugandan Peace and Recovery Development Plan (PRDP) continues to fail on its promises of funding.  What does post-conflict economic recovery look like? How can international, national, and local nonprofits and social entrepreneurship be constructive during the transition from aid to development?

Despite my research, degree and opportunities to travel to Uganda, I definitely do not consider myself an expert; there are so many organizations and individuals I know who have been there from the beginning, who can actually speak Acholi and Luo, and who have a much better idea about what “the real story” in northern Uganda looks like today.

But Invisible Children continuing to sell the stories of night commuters and the overwhelming fear and agony of the LRA is the same as selling old newspapers to an ignorant public that may be too busy to realize that the date on their page (or their podcast) is from six years ago.

One blogger made a pretty good analogy to what this looks like in American terms:

I’m going to compare what IC is doing to an analogy that I thought of this past summer when I was Uganda thinking about this issue. Imagine that today you heard about what happened in NYC and Washington DC on September 11, 2001 for the first time. You were shown a video of footage from that day. You saw the planes hit the towers, you heard President Bush’s address, you saw the Pentagon wreckage, you watch in horror as you see people plunge to their death, jumping from the burning towers. Now imagine that you are inspired by this disaster. You want to something to help. What if you went to NYC today, expecting to see piles of rubble to clean up? What if you went, expecting that there would be thousands of people in the streets crying, looking for loved ones? But what would happen when you arrived and discovered that there was none of this, but a whole host of other problems? (http://ilto.wordpress.com/2006/11/02/the-visible-problem-with-invisible-children/)

Similar examples can also be found in the delayed timing and results of campaigns against Darfur.

So, why are we getting old newspapers? 

Western audiences know the “African” story already and don’t bother to look at the dates.  We know that in “Africa,” people are poor and helpless and unable to do anything for themselves.  We know that “Africans” are uneducated and trapped in a sea of corruption, unable to escape without the help of foreign rescuers.  These are all assumptions in Western audiences (for more on the source of these assumptions and further illustrations, I would point you to Erik Ritskes’s post: http://ericswanderings.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/invisible-children-and-joseph-kony/). Therefore, watching Invisible Children reminds us of what we already “know,” ignites our guilt and armtwists us into at least doing something, even if it’s just spreading a video across social media (Notes on video specifics found here on How-Matters: http://www.how-matters.org/2012/03/06/good-guys-bad-guys/).

The people who sell the newspapers are likely passionate and well-intentioned, but their good intentions don’t make good results.  As many bloggers criticize Invisible Children, they often welcome in their own criticisms towards young people, the American public, Western civilization, the power of social media, technology, people who don’t like “Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like,” and everyone who does not have a degree or certificate in African Studies. Many essentially criticize that most people (excluding themselves) are just not as well informed as they are. I commend Invisible Children for their efforts to rally young people toward things bigger than themselves. But I’m sure that even those who work for Invisible Children – anyone who has visited Gulu – would be able to attest that the story being sold in Kony 2012 is an old one.  I’m sure that it was someone’s idea to push for the story, thinking that people would give more and then, as they get inspired, they would learn about more of the facts.

However, from a legal and ethical perspective, should selling old newspapers be profitable—particularly for 501(c)3 nonprofits like Invisible Children?  Sure, if celebrities do it, it’s on their dime (note how “successful” Oprah’s African school and other celebrity experimental examples have been) but unfortunately at the expense of beneficiaries. Is it okay that people are induced to funnel money via manipulative marketing and media? I’m pretty sure the answer is a resounding “no.”

As we now move from one Invisible Children movie to the next, the question remains:  when or how will Invisible Children catch people up on what is actually going on?

Do they intend to?

As my newsfeeds have and will continue to flood with Kony 2012, I, for one, am definitely not renewing my subscription.

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73 thoughts on “Selling Old Newspapers Shouldn’t Be Profitable: Invisible Children and Kony 2012

  1. rowanemslieintern

    Reblogged this on UpLook and commented:
    “Imagine that today you heard about what happened in NYC and Washington DC on September 11, 2001 for the first time. You were shown a video of footage from that day. You saw the planes hit the towers, you heard President Bush’s address, you saw the Pentagon wreckage, you watch in horror as you see people plunge to their death, jumping from the burning towers. Now imagine that you are inspired by this disaster. You want to something to help. What if you went to NYC today, expecting to see piles of rubble to clean up? What if you went, expecting that there would be thousands of people in the streets crying, looking for loved ones? But what would happen when you arrived and discovered that there was none of this, but a whole host of other problems? ”
    From http://ilto.wordpress.com/2006/11/02/the-visible-problem-with-invisible-children/

    Excellent take on some of the big issues surrounding Invisible Children, particularly relevant with the recent release of KONY 2012.

    Why has Facebook decided to read links to this ‘Visible Children’ campaign? Have Invisible Children filed a complaint?

    Reply
    1. JMC

      The person / persons that were responsible we’re quite literally hunted down and taken out YEARS after the crimes were committed and lets be honest the damage done by Bin Laden were quite minimal compared to the thing Joseph Kony has done and would continue to do without threat of action from bigger forces. No matter how long ago these crimes were committed the children they were committed against deserve Justice!

      Reply
      1. dsango Post author

        Thanks for your input!

        I definitely agree that there should be justice for the crimes committed, as do many local organizations that have been working hard via traditional truth, justice and reconciliation processes as well as through the somewhat contentious International Criminal Court, stationed US troops, etc.

        However, I would like to link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people. Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good. Hope you find it informative and helpful!

        http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/elizabeth-dickinson/trouble-stopkony

  2. slowinertia

    You didnt bother painting an accurate picture of the situation. just saying the information is outdated does not help. Am I to believe that Uganda is now a utopia free of child soldiers? Even if it were the person who committed these crimes needs to be captured and brought to justice so there is still merit to the Kony 2012 campaign. Especially since there are still horrible atrocities going on in africa and throughout the world. If anything it gets people out of their Amero/eurocentric boxes. I do not have a degree in african studies but i do have one in neuroscience. I hear outdated information about the brain’s chemistry in every prozac and paxil commercial… that doesnt mean its wrong to try bringing the nature of depression (etc) to light to the general public.

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Uganda is not a utopia free of child soldiers but northern Uganda is scattered with communities reintegrating and reconciling these children back into their communities. People have been working, families have been rebuilding, organizations have been assisting and trying to transition toward a more sustainable future.

      I think this is different from wrong information on drugs, because selling old news miscontrues our ideas of people and their current realities, thus making it impossible to respectably come together, understand together and do the very things that fuel the fire for this campaign. Selling old news freezes time and continues to tell audiences that Ugandans are still frozen in the fear of the war – this is not an accurate picture and it serves to disempower and make people dependent. This, I believe, is wrong.

      Reply
    2. Saria

      @slowinertia: Actually, I am shocked to hear that a degree holder in neuorscience would not be bothered by the constant spread of misinformation about how drugs work and how these drug companies distort the truth in order to make a tidy profit from consumers who may or may not benefit from the drugs. I know it makes me furious as someone with a Psychology degree. So it is important for anyone in any field to bring light to possible misinformation and distortion of truth, especially when it benefits a particular company or group at the expense of a much larger group. That is what dsango is doing here.

      About your “Amero/eurocentric” argument. The problem is that this ad campaign IS Amero/eurocentric… It is tailored to be consumed by an Amero/eurocentric audience and reinforces the Amero/eurocentric concept that it is both the moral obligation and burden of the White Man to Save the Powerless Black Man.

      And who benefits most? The “Invisible Children,” children who are already visible to their own communities who have spent years dedicating themselves to recovering from such atrocities? Or a non-transparent “charity” organization that has enjoyed 4.5 million views on their latest media installment?

      Reply
      1. Sam

        Okay, so here’s the general feeling I’m getting from the various critiques that I’ve read, including yours:

        -This ad is amero/eurocentric and reinforces stereotypes.

        I agree that the ad is amero/eurocentric. Given its success in garnering publicity (which the massive number of blogs that have posted both in support and in opposition displays), I’d say they probably chose the best route to reach their target audience.

        However, I also understand the concern about the “White Man’s Burden” and the idea that Africans are powerless to save themselves. I agree, the idea of a “White Man’s Burden” is terrible. But is that really what the creators were going for? Or are they trying to say that human beings that are lucky enough to be separate from conflict are not relieved of the burden of caring about their fellow, not-so-lucky human beings in Africa? In a sense isn’t there a “Human Being’s Burden,” to help those that we can help? Don’t get me wrong, this guys reminds me of this other guy here: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-nAHMHRgDl64/TZqniQbnGYI/AAAAAAAAAAY/1fLWgm7zVS0/s1600/aging_hippie_liberal_douche.jpg. But still, is it so bad to try to convince teenagers that are caught up in themselves to take a look at the problems facing others that are struggling with major issues?

        -The second is that the people that made the video are not all that great.

        Honestly, I’m not a big fan either. I hate videos like this that are so clearly trying to go viral. It is pompous, and conceited, and they spend a lot of money to make it. But let’s not hold the messenger against the message they are advocating.

  3. Alan

    Hi! I found your article brilliant! yet… don’t you think it’s still a good cause? considering we can do this type of campaigns now, which we couldn’t have a few years back.
    10 years passed and nobody forgot Osama bin Laden. People cheered outside the White House when he was killed. Although I find that as despicable as those who cheered when the towers collapsed, it did signal one thing: US media managed to fill people with enough fear and hatred that they behaved just as those we condemned so many years ago. So my question is: why not also use media to raise awareness on the things that happen outside our comfortable little lives? Why not use that awareness to possibly avoid these things from happening again? I see no harm in it.
    We still all know about the Holocaust 70 years ago, but how many people know what happened in Bosnia 15 years ago? The average high school kid in the US doesn’t even know where Bosnia is!!
    All I’m saying is… sell old newspapers for as long as you have to in order to make people realize these things STILL HAPPEN TODAY.
    Let’s catch ALL bad guys, and not only those who are convenient.
    And by the way, I agree 100% with this:
    “What does post-conflict economic recovery look like? How can international, national, and local nonprofits and social entrepreneurship be constructive during the transition from aid to development?”
    But you see… sadly, that won’t sell any papers. :(

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Thanks for your comments!

      I think an additional point I can make clear is that selling old newspapers freezes people in time.

      What would people think about New Yorkers had they only received the old news? They would think that they must be sad and helpless and confused. They would think that someone would need to sweep in and help give them a voice.

      This is not the reality of Gulu or Uganda at all. Time has gone by, people have grown and moved on. I am not saying that Uganda has now become a utopia, free of all problems, but what I am saying is that many people and organizations on the ground have been working towards a sustainable future for the region for some time now.

      Let’s see a movie that recognizes their efforts and recognizes that people are not frozen in time. This is already difficult because most Western audiences are certain from their understanding of history that Africans are poor and helpless. This movie continues to underline this assumption.

      P.S. – On your last point, I think it should sell papers! There should be interest on how to respectably assist and partner with local organizations to fight issues greater than ourselves.

      Reply
    2. caradelsol

      I agree with many points in this article, in these comments, and particularly in your comment, Alan. Uganda may be recovering, but the LRA has in fact only moved to the northwest. Kony is still at large and still rallying troops. We continue the hunt for Holocaust war criminals – even today, when 99% of them are long dead, long after Germany, Poland et al have recovered so that they could and can be prosecuted publicly as a statement that even in this imperfect world, we were not going to excuse such behaviors. Kony must be stopped. The dangers of a white man’s pursuit of Kony is that those governments will almost certainly feel entitled to exploit more of the natural resources extant in the region. So what can we do? We can call for stopping Kony because it needs to be done, but can we also call for limited intrusion?

      Reply
  4. Pingback: A reader's digest of KONY 2012 | whydev.org

  5. andy

    If somebody were selling old newspapers about 9/11, I wouldn’t go to NYC expecting to clean up rubble. I would do everything in my power to PREVENT this from ever happening again. This is exactly what we did with the war in Afghanistan. It’s all about prevention and elimination of an evil in the world. You have an interesting take on the Kony 2012 movement, but it’s a pessimistic one. At the very least, this is a great way for our generation to come together for a uniform cause and show that as a population of normal, everyday citizens, we can make a difference.

    Reply
    1. Tye

      You emphasized the word PREVENT, but you have to understand that the Kony 2012 movement has nothing to do with PREVENT-ion. Invisible Children, a group that I would commend for their good intentions, is essentially leading a U.S. military intervention. I don’t think anyone would detest the capturing of Kony, however, the approach suggested by IC, in my opinion, cannot be the in the best interest of the U.S. or Uganda. Instead of seeking superficial aid from celebrities and politicians (who are more concerned about the well-being of our own country) to incite action, why doesn’t IC turn to Uganda’s President Museveni?

      I am an optimist, I do believe in a better future. All I would like to say is that, with the influence and power IC is attaining, I would hope they would be more critical about their approach in intervening. Again, it is exciting to see there are many in this world with good intentions, but there needs to be more question asking to ensure these intentions are followed up with good, productive results.

      Andy, take a look at this alternative perspectives and hopefully you will see where many of us are coming from:

      http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/
      http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/03/07/stop-kony-yes-but-dont-stop-asking-questions/

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Christian Ethics, Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, and International Advocacy « James W. McCarty, III

  7. Pingback: Christian Ethics, Invisible Children, Kony 2012, and International Advocacy « James W. McCarty, III

  8. Greg McInerney

    There is merit to trying to raise awareness about attempting to capture a man suspected of war crimes. I’m also interested as to what little reference you make to the President of Uganda, a man with blood on his hands also and who has single handedly dismantled the constitution to serve more and more terms in power. How can we focus on “growth and development in a post-conflict northern Uganda” with him in charge?

    Reply
      1. Greg McInerney

        Thank you for the link sir. I commend your writing and have shared it around with my friends. At the very least people are talking about Africa again, even if it is perhaps a bit misdirected.

  9. ZakT

    naive they might be but raising awareness is a cause in itself. I wouldnt give them money but raising awareness, no matter how badly or inaccurately, is surely an end worth pursuing, no?

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Thanks for your comment!

      I don’t think it’s better. Raising awareness about half-truths and frozen pictures in time isn’t very constructive in partnering with people on the ground, understanding the real dynamics of what’s going on, and respectably working together with the relevant parties (i.e. the Acholi) on a sustainable solution.

      Ideologically, I agree with you – awareness is very important. However, ineffective awareness only means more noise, more wasted money, and more misunderstandings about a topic worthy of awareness.

      Reply
  10. Ian

    Nazi and Khymer Rouge war criminals are still being hunted and arrested to this day.. should we stop this because their atrocities have passed an arbitrary sell-by date?
    Not everyone has the chance to have the experiences that you did and this article struck me as being condescending to those less well informed.
    The IC video has allowed me to learn about something I only had a marginal knowledge in and I can only see this as being a positive.

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      I apologize if you felt I was being condescending; as I think I stated in the article, I am not trying to show how much more I know from my experiences, but rather, how important it is to ask questions and look for the real stories from real people and understand their realities. I only wish that more people can at least learn the real stories instead of glittering media from IC.

      Selling old news miscontrues our ideas of people and their current realities, thus making it impossible to respectably come together, understand together and do the very things that fuel the fire for this campaign. Selling old news freezes time and continues to tell audiences that Ugandans are still frozen in the fear of the war – this is not an accurate picture and it serves to disempower and make people dependent. This, I believe, is wrong.

      I think it’s great that you know more than you do before, but there’s much more to learn. That’s what I learned in 2008 anyway.

      Reply
  11. JT

    Isn’t the cause of stopping a war criminal important? It seems to me the KONY 2012 propaganda is aimed at stopping a criminal, not victimizing Uganda. They may use data from 6 to 20 years ago, but it’s all dated. I don’t think it’s misleading as much as you’re misinterpreting their intent, which is to catch a war criminal.

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Thanks for your input!

      I would like to link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people.

      Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good – in this way, it is victimizing Ugandans and not helping efforts to stop Kony. Hope you honestly find it informative and helpful.

      http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/elizabeth-dickinson/trouble-stopkony

      Reply
  12. Trevor K

    The company I work for plans photography expeditions to Uganda on a weekly basis, and the country has improved significantly since we started in 2008.

    Reply
  13. Janet

    Doesn’t the video say he has moved on to other near-by countries. Uganda may be less effected than when you state this issue was more relevant to them, but don’t you think the video did stress that he has moved out of primarily Uganda, changed tactics and needs to be tracked elsewhere?

    Reply
      1. dsango Post author

        Hi Janet,

        Thanks for your comment. I guess this is a matter of opinion – I think this was very lightly touched upon for a 30 minute video.

        I would like to link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people. Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good. Hope you find it informative and helpful!

        http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/elizabeth-dickinson/trouble-stopkony

  14. MD

    While I absolutely respect your opinion and especially your dedication to helping others I don’t agree that it’s “white noise”, “glittered media” or “old news”. Fact: there are thousands and thousands of child soldiers STILL out there right now Fact: Kony is continuing his recruitment’s and work as we speak. I do see what you’re saying as far as the vast improvements that have been made over the years and would agree to that (thanks to people like you) – but the truth still remains that this is still very much a current problem. With all do respect, I can see the argument you’re making with 9/11 but feel it’s comparing apples to oranges with no real support. Just because the situation has vastly improved, does not mean it’s not a problem anymore and it’s a closed case. It’s a very big problem. I would urge you also to consider that you’re in communities right now where you’re surrounded by growth and improvements because of the organizations that you’re working with every day – you’re seeing communities and families grow and living better lives (which is beautiful!) – but sadly that is not the reality for all of the nation.

    To touch on your other point of the importance of post conflict
    growth and development in Uganda. There’s plenty of organizations out there doing just that! Invisible Children just happens to focusing on another equally important piece of the pie, putting a war criminal behind bars. Why should that be argued against? They go hand in hand. If you stop Kony, that makes your job in post development a lot easier, right? Eliminate one major root in the problem (which is Kony) and growth and development will be even stronger.

    Beyond that – we’re a nation completely distracted by consumerism, materialism, media – etc making our worlds insanely small and unaware to the rest of our fellow human beings around the world. What IC has done and the movement they have made is astounding and broken people from that destructive state of mind and has created a shift in conciseness. I’m sure there are hiccups with IC, just like you and me, everyone in the world and EVERY organization in the world. But the pros and cons are not even comparable. Their solutions backed by truth are doing WAY more good than any of their flaws.

    “both the moral obligation and burden of the White Man to Save the Powerless Black Man” – that comment from another blogger was absolutely shameful and pouring with ignorance. That’s completely irrelevant and holds no argument. It is not about the color of your skin, where you live, or where you are from. It’s about helping mankind. We are humans, whether in Africa, USA, Asia, South America, where ever – and I support the thought of helping our brothers and sisters around the world – not just in our backyard. Every person in this world deserves the same rights as a human being that I have.

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Hi MD

      Thank you for sharing your comments.

      I believe that human beings deserve to be able to live, and that the injustice shown in the film is wrong. But who should carry out that justice? Should it be the U.S. government? Should it be people who care? Should it be Invisible Children? Who deserves the right to carry out that justice? Just because America has the power to do something doesn’t mean that it has the right to. Who deserves the right to help in the way they see fit? The article below is from a key local stakeholder in Uganda, and he unabashedly wants Ugandans to be able to keep that right to try one of their own.

      http://projectdiaspora.org/2012/03/08/respect-my-agency-2012/

      In reference to the “burden of the White Man to Save the Powerless Black Man,” I don’t think this is outside of the issue in the least. For the Acholi and others affected by the LRA (and the rest of Eastern and Central Africa, the African Union and other stakeholders), it hasn’t been an invisible issue. It seems that the term “invisible” is in reference to that fact that this topic has been invisible to the people who matter, who have the power to make change and to save people. There is subtle racism and privilege issues all over this, and I think that this is something we all have to struggle with.

      How will truth be revealed (in a respectable way; people who have suffered like you’ve seen in the video are not the first people to want to show off their sufferings to the world International Criminal Court), justice served, and peace kept, particularly in communities trying to reintegrate former soldiers? There are ongoing debates on the complexity of Uganda’s truth and reconciliation process – how these things are done is very important to the future of those communities.

      I would like to also link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people. Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good.

      I think it is amazing that people have become more aware of what Joseph Kony has done, but without greater knowledge on what caused Kony and the LRA to come into existence, what continues their schemes, and what organizations, communities, and local governments are and have been doing for justice, IC’s campaign actually disarms its promoters from having a greater discussion and impact towards peace. That, I believe, is a sad thing.

      Reply
  15. Pingback: reflections on kony 2012 « life.remixed

  16. Kay

    Yes, it is an ‘old story’ but it is being retold through a ‘new medium’. Social networking has allowed us to form a mass movement to attempt to stop an existing problem like never before and Invisible Children are utilising this.

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Hi Kay,

      Thanks for your comment! After living in Silicon Valley for 5 years, I definitely agree that social networking is a powerful tool and it could be helpful in doing big things. That’s why I think it is important for young people like myself to be thinking about things bigger than themselves and working with local partners to help bring about social change together. We saw how useful Twitter was in Egypt (although I wonder what is happening now!).

      However, what happens when social media can actually cause harm and disrupt processes that have already started? I would like to link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people. Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good.

      I think it is amazing that people have become more aware of what Joseph Kony has done, but without greater knowledge on what caused Kony and the LRA to come into existence, what continues their schemes, and what organizations, communities, and local governments are and have been doing for justice, IC’s campaign actually disarms its promoters from having a greater discussion and impact towards peace. That, I believe, is a sad thing.

      I honestly hope you find this informative and helpful.

      http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/elizabeth-dickinson/trouble-stopkony

      Reply
  17. robert

    as always david you are amazing. i don’t have time to read the comment conversation right now. i’ll come back and do that later. for now i am really challenged but what you have written.

    Reply
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  19. JMT

    It appears your intent is to criticize the technique of Invisible Children while somewhat begrudgingly admitting that their intent is good. I can’t help but wonder if you actually watched the Kony 2012 video, the latest “flick” – as you call it – of the Invisible Children organization. The video acknowledges that the situation in Uganda has improved in recent years and that the LRA has moved into another territory.

    The clear intent of this video is to bring the man Joseph Kony to the attention of the worldwide public. The clear intent of the video is to foster such a movement that non-African governments will not be able to turn away from the atrocities this man has committed.

    I’m not sure why you think calling to the attention of the public the past and present – just not so in Uganda – crimes of this person is a negative thing. Should not this man be brought to justice? Should not this man pay for his crimes?

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Hi JMT,

      Thanks for your comment! After living in Silicon Valley for 5 years, I definitely agree that social networking is a powerful tool and it could be helpful in doing big things. That’s why I think it is important for young people like myself to be thinking about things bigger than themselves and working with local partners to help bring about social change together. We saw how useful Twitter was in Egypt (although I wonder what is happening now!).

      However, what happens when social media can actually cause harm and disrupt processes that have already started? I would like to link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people. Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good.

      I think it is amazing that people have become more aware of what Joseph Kony has done, but without greater knowledge on what caused Kony and the LRA to come into existence, what continues their schemes, and what organizations, communities, and local governments are and have been doing for justice, IC’s campaign actually disarms its promoters from having a greater discussion and impact towards peace. That, I believe, is a sad thing.

      I honestly hope you find this informative and helpful.

      http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/elizabeth-dickinson/trouble-stopkony

      Reply
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    1. dsango Post author

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your short comment – I am interested in the IC response.

      Quoting from the article in the Re:Why Work With the UPDF If the LRA Is No Longer In Northern Uganda, “The people and government of Uganda have a vested [interest] in seeing him stopped.”

      My question is, what people? Do they mean the Acholi, of which some have their own truth and reconciliation processes by which they would rather see Kony and his thugs tried vs. the International Criminal Court? Do they just mean those Acholi who support the ICC? And is this how they want to do it – by the world rising up to aid them and for them to be dependent on them?

      Apologies if you find these questions condescending or rude, but I have serious questions about local accountability and partnerships with actual communities and local government leaders. Sure, it’s possible to meet some people and have some short conversations; I have to admit, this is what I did in 2008. But I’m talking about established, committed relationships with the leaders who represent the people – is that happening with this campaign? Or is it running on assumptions of what “they” want? The people in this quote remains elusive.

      This leads me to my further concerns about the bad side of social media, particularly ill-informed social media.

      After living in Silicon Valley for 5 years, I definitely agree that social networking is a powerful tool and it could be helpful in doing big things. That’s why I think it is important for young people like myself to be thinking about things bigger than themselves and working with local partners to help bring about social change together. We saw how useful Twitter was in Egypt (although I wonder what is happening now!).

      However, what happens when social media can actually cause harm and disrupt processes that have already started? I would like to link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people. Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good.

      I think it is amazing that people have become more aware of what Joseph Kony has done, but without greater knowledge on what caused Kony and the LRA to come into existence, what continues their schemes, and what organizations, communities, and local governments are and have been doing for justice, IC’s campaign actually disarms its promoters from having a greater discussion and impact towards peace. That, I believe, is a sad thing.

      I honestly hope you find this informative and helpful.

      http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/elizabeth-dickinson/trouble-stopkony

      Reply
  22. Mal

    I regret to voice my opinion that this article is not brilliant, but rather far from. It is a negative perspective clouded by this idea that a serious issue isn’t so serious anymore once a large period of time passes by and circumstances change around a bit. It doesn’t matter how much time goes by. So long as there is a man like Kony out there getting away with what he is doing, our country SHOULD be making a media madness out of it, and bringing awareness to our otherwise unaware, sheltered country. Because, like MD said, these children in Africa– who are STILL being abducted and forced into the LRA– “deserve the same rights as [every] human” in America. Bringing awareness and “jumping on the bandwagon” of what IC is doing for this cause isn’t misconstruing our ideas, or freezing time. We can only fully support what this organization is doing by spreading the word of Kony, his past in Uganda being a primitive part of what is spread, yes, but ALSO what is still occuring today, in 2012. This injustice isn’t gone, just because Uganda has made some progressive strides in the past years. I’m not discrediting your knowledge, but regardless of the fact that a slightly smaller number of children are suffering today than they were ten years ago, justice is still due to be served for what has been done.

    I believe in this cause and that America has the power to do something about this, despite the negative hesitators. Invisible Children is teaching and showing our world the reality of an INVISIBLE tradgedy that has been (10 years ago and STILL today) a major issue. It’s changing the focus of the media, which you know, and people will react because the reality is this: the children who have suffered and are still suffering are as real as you and me, and they deserve our help. Justice is truth in action, after all.

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Hi Mal,

      Thank you for voicing your opinion.

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that I don’t think the issue is serious anymore. I have been privileged to see that many individuals, organizations, and local stakeholders and trying to help people in the wake of what has happened, particularly those who have lived in displacement camps for the last 20 years (another topic that has not been stressed much in this debate).

      “these children in Africa–who are STILL being abducted and forced into the LRA–‘deserve the same rights as [every] human]’ in America.”

      I believe that human beings deserve to be able to live, and that the injustice shown in the film is wrong. But who should carry out that justice? Should it be the U.S. government? Should it be people who care? Should it be Invisible Children? Who deserves the right to carry out that justice? Just because America has the power to do something doesn’t mean that it has the right to. The article below is from a key local stakeholder in Uganda, and he unabashedly wants Ugandans to be able to keep that right to try one of their own. For these people (and the rest of Eastern and Central Africa), it hasn’t been an invisible issue.

      http://projectdiaspora.org/2012/03/08/respect-my-agency-2012/

      But how will truth be revealed (in a respectable way; people who have suffered like you’ve seen in the video are not the first people to want to show off their sufferings to the world International Criminal Court), justice served, and peace kept, particularly in communities trying to reintegrate former soldiers? There are ongoing debates on the complexity of Uganda’s truth and reconciliation process – how these things are done is very important to the future of those communities.

      I would like to link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people. Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good.

      I think it is amazing that people have become more aware of what Joseph Kony has done, but without greater knowledge on what caused Kony and the LRA to come into existence, what continues their schemes, and what organizations, communities, and local governments are and have been doing for justice, IC’s campaign actually disarms its promoters from having a greater discussion and impact towards peace. That, I believe, is a sad thing.

      Reply
  23. Pingback: Catching Joseph Kony « Backslash Scott Thoughts

  24. Martha

    Everyone kept hunting Nazi war criminals for decades after World War II. Not sure why a group that has made its focus hunting down this criminal is significantly different from that? I see your point that they are not being completely open that these events are “greatly diminished” (but ARE they still happening at all?) and that the worst of these atrocities happened a decade ago. I think their story would have been just as compelling with that info. But the Konly2012 video left me with the idea that their goal is to find Kony and bring him to justice. I still fail to see why that is so bad.

    Reply
    1. dsango Post author

      Hi Martha,

      Thanks for your comments!

      I would like to link you to this article that highlights more on the complexity of stopping Joseph Kony, the multiplicity of guilty parties who committed the crimes featured in the flick, and the importance of “do no harm” in advocacy when talking about the stories of other people. Despite the intentions of their campaign, it is doubtful that IC will contribute to any of the peace/justice processes that have already been established and worse, may do more harm than good. Hope you find it informative and helpful!

      http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/elizabeth-dickinson/trouble-stopkony

      Reply
  25. Pingback: How Should We #StopKony? | Patrol - A review of religion and the modern world

  26. robert

    wow david. the lesson i am learning from all the discussion on your post (and others like it) is “don’t question invisible children or campaigns that allow me to feel like a social activist by doing nothing more than sharing a video on facebook.” it kind of scares me when an organization, campaign, or person is above questioning.

    Reply
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  37. Eve

    When it is all said and done, when my grandchildren read about Joseph Kony and eleven-year-old sex slaves in Haiti and children sleeping on the streets in Ethiopia and foster kids in their fifteen home, and they say, “What did you do about all these tragedies?”

    I am not going to say, “Well, I didn’t want to be labeled a white supremacist, so I wrote mean blogs about folks who threw their hat in the ring.”

    I am not going to say, “It was complicated. So I didn’t do anything.”

    I am not going to say, “People were extremely critical back then. It was PR suicide to engage difficult issues. I remained troubled but silent on the sidelines. I cared in my mind.”

    I am not going to say, “I researched and debated and read a lot of books and articles. I was very, very informed. Believe me, I understood the issues. I waxed very poetic about it all.”

    I hope to say, “I joined the fight, because justice denied anywhere means justice denied everywhere. I jumped in, imperfectly, even though I knew critics would come out of the woodwork, questioning my motives and methods and ignorance and intentions. I decided to use my voice and my resources, because that could be my daughter and my sister and my community. That mother is me. Those children are you. I didn’t get it perfectly right. I couldn’t address it all. I couldn’t even address the entire scope of one problem. I didn’t change the whole world. But I moved.”

    May we not move foolishly.

    Or arrogantly.

    Or rashly.

    Or naively.

    But may we move.

    http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2012/03/15/kony-critics-throwing-rocks

    Reply
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