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Invisible Children
March 6, 2012 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Kony 2012... The "Invisible Children" movement, a primarily university student effort in opposition to Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army's kidnapping of children, has produced this video to make 2012 the year that marks the end of his utilization of children to maintain his power. This is a moving 27 minute film.
posted by HuronBob (187 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thank you for posting this, HuronBob. I watched the video earlier tonight after seeing it posted on two very disparate friends' FB walls. I was curious.

I was moved to tears a few times, and was so impressed with the momentum that the film maker built. I reposted on my wall as well, and am asking my friends, family and contacts to do the same. I hope Kony is found, and brought to justice.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:59 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rush Limbaugh set a new low for reactionary tribalism on Friday when he reflexively defended Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army after hearing that President Barack Obama was sending a hundred U.S. troops to Uganda to assist in capturing or killing the warlord.

Following some (extremely) superficial Googling, Limbaugh surmised that the LRA were "Christians" who were "fighting the Muslims in Sudan" and therefore wonderful people. In fact Kony and the LRA are what Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth describes as a group of "roving mass murderers" that "descends on a remote village, slaughters every adult in sight, and then kidnaps the children, some shockingly young—the boys to become soldiers slinging AK-47s, the girls to serve as "bush wives."
(Kony's atrocities previously on MeFi)
posted by Rhaomi at 9:10 PM on March 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


This thing went viral fast.

I very much agree that it is a moving film, although to be perfectly honest there were a couple things I couldn't explain that just sort of rubbed me the wrong way upon first watching; but please keep in mind I was a little distracted by watching it as well and will have to revisit it sometime later.

I do want to link to some articles about the Invisible Children charity. Someone posted some criticisms of it on tumblr but the post has since been removed so I no longer have the synopsis. Here is the Charity Navigator score, but to be honest even after two readings of the page I'm not really sure what to make of it. If I recall from the post people had raised issues with the transparency and accountability, and this seems to support that.

People have also taken issue with how disorganized the call to action is and have discussed how it might be hurting far more than it is helping:
Obama takes on the LRA
Worst Idea Ever
the visible problem with invisible children
Invisible Children financial statements (pdf)

Again, I don't really know how viable these sources are... input from other, less tired people would be appreciated.

I'm so sorry I'm not adding much of my own stuff to this and hope this isn't considered de-raily, but I have to go to sleep and know I won't have time to revisit this thread tomorrow. Just trying to bring in more information for discussion.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:17 PM on March 6, 2012 [23 favorites]


that just sort of rubbed me the wrong way upon first watching

It's poverty porn.

I think this post does a decent job discussing why this (and generally Invisible Children, over and over again) is pretty problematic.
posted by lullaby at 9:22 PM on March 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is really, really savvy.
posted by odinsdream at 9:49 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this post does a decent job discussing why this (and generally Invisible Children, over and over again) is pretty problematic.

Yes, and it offers so many alternative solutions!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:06 PM on March 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


People have also taken issue with how disorganized the call to action is

I attended a musical fundraiser by this group. While the music (headliner: Mountain Goats) was excellent, at one point someone from the charity got up and spoke. He basically said their hope was "to get the US government to notice and intervene" in the situation. He sounded like he wouldn't be upset if bombing started tomorrow, and hopefully we'd hit some "bad guys."

This was just a young volunteer-type guy, so maybe what he was saying didn't explain the charity's plan of action well, but it seemed naive at best and dangerous at worst.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:14 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


(What was really really striking was that this young volunteer probably grew up almost entirely post 9/11 - and that maybe he - a presumably self-identified liberal activist - honestly believes problems like this are as simple as pointing out the "bad guys" to the US government and standing back to wait for the drones.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:18 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


With publicity like this, Mr. Kony might have a shot at winning a couple Republican primaries...
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 10:56 PM on March 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


drjimmy11> It also ignores the fact that the US has already tried killing Kony on a couple of occasions, and has failed each time.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:04 PM on March 6, 2012


For what it's worth, six-or-six-thirty, I have not been impressed by my (limited) interactions with Invisible Children. I can't really go into detail here, so I'll just say that I feel like they are probably well-meaning but sort of shallow and don't have a very in-depth understanding of the issues they are working on. Several people I know who work in conflict resolution, human rights, etc. and have had more contact with them than I have are similarly unimpressed.
posted by naoko at 11:09 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Someone posted some criticisms of it on tumblr but the post has since been removed so I no longer have the synopsis.

here.
posted by elizardbits at 11:10 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a post on IC from Chris Blattman, who I generally tend to like.
posted by naoko at 11:23 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what? I don't care if the young people involved are attention-seeking t-shirt wearers or the volunteer spoke inappropriately when he had no idea about the history or sleepovers in carparks do no good or yada yada yada...

If this going viral saves just one child from being abducted and being turned into either a sex slave or a child soldier, that's a good thing. If - she says, dropping to her knees and praying to her deity-of-choice - this utterly nasty man is captured or killed, that's a fantastic thing.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 11:32 PM on March 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


As someone who is much more interested in what the situation is on the ground than what stories we are telling ourselves by engaging this issue (I don't think dismissing the cause as white-savior colonialism is in and of itself persuasive, though it should serve as a very strong reason to triple-check what is actually to be accomplished by dealing with Joseph Kony) – I find the most informative articles to definitely the Foreign Affairs piece ("Obama takes on the LRA" upthread) and, following a couple other links, this article from the International Crisis Group. I'd love an overview of who the players are in this region and what their dirt is, if that is indeed something that can be untangled – the Foreign Affairs article concludes that "If Kony is removed, LRA fighters will join other groups or act independently" – does that mean other groups in the area are using child soldiers?
posted by furiousthought at 11:40 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Seems like when Europeans do charity, it's quaint. When Americans do it, on the other hand, it's usually crass. Maybe there's something about this that I don't like, but it pales in comparison to the many things I don't like about Joseph Kony.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:55 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Joseph Kony is a world-class sociopath. As far as I can tell the main focus is to get this guy's name and face out there which anybody with a Sharpie, a stack of paper and access to a photocopier can do. I'm in.
posted by moneyjane at 1:23 AM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's amazing how quick this is expanding, as far as being a viral idea goes. First I see it here (not the first I've heard of or spoken on Kony, as a friend of mine worked with and helped found a micro-charity in Uganda and turned his trip and return into a mini-documentary on Kony's effects in the country. Though now I'm aware that this sounds almost like some sort of charity/dictator 'I knew about it before it was cool' thing, and it isn't), then a game forum I check on irregularly explodes with posts about it (not usually a politically-minded place, mind you), then within the last half-hour or so Facebook has exploded with people sending around event invites to screenings, banner changes, and memes.

So... impressively done on that front and I'll have to look into the reported problems with this charity in particular; but regardless of the charity, the issue is one that should get stronger recognition.

((Of course, the recent news of Obama sending in a ~100 man strike team to root him out is also promising.))
posted by CrystalDave at 1:55 AM on March 7, 2012


You Should See the Other Guy: Yes, and it offers so many alternative solutions!

So we should never draw people's attention to problems unless we already know how to fix them. Got it.
posted by tzikeh at 2:03 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is impossibly over-viral, it's just splayed all over my internets from every possible angle of approach. It's totally bizarre.
posted by mek at 2:23 AM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a person working in field as a human rights officer I can tell you that the LRA influence is now basically minimized. So it is strange that this is coming out now. I also wonder about this aid group if they are so impassioned to make a long propoganda film on what amounts to a rapidly fading threat when there are soooooo many other more damning issues in the same neck of the woods. But I guess people like it when you can focus all your passions on one person.
posted by tarvuz at 2:39 AM on March 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


So on the one hand, we get a pretty sweet deal on exploitation of Ugandan Oil and Gas feilds - all that cheap petrol, "the west" relies on has to come from somewhere - and meanwhile the other hand gives back a little bit to try and stop some of these atrocities.

I can't help but think maybe these two things are related?
posted by mary8nne at 2:53 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


mek I noticed the same pattern. Everyone is posting it everywhere, which is fascinating in a way as I had trouble watching the film after "this is how all of us come into the world" as VO over a c-section. (Vaginal birth is far more common, daddy-o.)
posted by dabitch at 2:55 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't watch this video right now because the internet here in Chad sucks, but I met a few of the Invisible Children guys up in Gulu a few years back when I was spending some time there with my own (much larger) NGO at our center there for former child soldier rehab. Now, maybe I'm a bit biased, but it was pretty clear from my short time on the ground that my org was doing a lot of really life-changing work in the communities and particularly the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in the area. Helping rehabilitate children of war, working on heart-wrenching but very real reconciliation between community members where the lines between soldier and civilian seemed to blurred to even define. I couldn't really figure out from talking to the IC guys what they were doing there other than gathering media fodder for their grassroots work in the developed world, frankly.

That said, despite how well run they may be or how effective they are on the ground, I don't know of another organization that's actively trying to publicize who Kony is and what he has done and continues to do. I don't know another organization that is as actively advocating for global support to end his reign of terror. I believe that what they want to do is a good thing and while they may not be doing it the absolute best way, the goal itself is beyond critique. Kony needs to be stopped, I think we can all agree on that much.

For those who do want to critique IC and their approach, however...I'm still waiting to hear even a shred of anything approaching alternative solutions. As far as I know, the only other idea in this regard is Obama's military support to Uganda (which has been ongoing at a strategic level for years, and is only recently becoming operational in the field in the form of boots on the ground). And I'd be surprised if IC's visibility in the US over the years didn't have at least something to do with that political decision.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:12 AM on March 7, 2012 [28 favorites]


I spent six months out in Uganda a few years back, working with a missionary organisation. It's been a while, so I'd be interested to hear from people who have been there more recently: is it still true (or, come to that, was it ever true) that the LRA is being mostly bankrolled by the Sudanese government? There's certainly someone supplying them - while I was in Uganda the LRA attacked one of the IDP camps allkindsoftime mentions above, and killed over 60 people. And this wasn't a bunch of guys with rusty AK47s either - they were using some pretty heavy weaponry, up to and including anti-aircraft guns, to attack women and children (I've still got a scan of the local newspaper article about it somewhere - memail me if you'd like to see it).

The rumour I'd heard was that Sudan supplied the LRA in order to try to destabilise the Ugandan government, who in turn were funding the Sudanese People's Liberation Army who were in control of what is now South Sudan. Basically a small-scale cold war, with a battleground full of civilians. Whether or not that's true, it can only be a good thing that attention's being drawn to what's been going on there. Here's hoping things improve.
posted by ZsigE at 5:03 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


While the film is moving and draws attention to a very important issue, in a way I'm glad that my sentiments are echoed here.

The cynic in me can't help but feel that Jon Russell's next move will be into a big-budget Hollywood funded documentary.
posted by hnnrs at 5:20 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


This suddenly exploded on twitter. So far, the best reaction to this video that I have seen is this one, that accurately sums up the "something is not quite right here" vibe I get from that video and people's reaction to it.
posted by molecicco at 5:20 AM on March 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


This man is clearly drunk on trampoline.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:35 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, my 12-year-old son came to me last night, wanting to donate to these folks. I told him I'd look into it & make sure our money was being wisely spent. If he wants to fire off his allowance to these folks, it seems like maybe it's fine -- I don't see where they're scam artists at least -- but if it's not fine, and is a bad idea, can someone who has a better idea of a way in which a 12 yo american kid can substantively help, please post some good charitable alternatives here.

Should I clue him in to Amnesty International instead? I was going to post an AskMe, but saw this thread first.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:44 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Devils Rancher, I think Doctor's Without Borders makes pretty direct impacts on people's lives. Actually I know they make an impact on people's lives everyday. They may be a little too proud of themselves but they do good work.
posted by tarvuz at 6:50 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


MSF/DWB is already on my list of people who get a chunk of my disposable income. Are they working in that area?
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:52 AM on March 7, 2012


Anyone who is against this campaign, for any reason, is a something of a dick, in my opinion. Unless they can show how it can actually help Kony. That stupid essay about Ugandan "agency" and the post-colonial presumption and the rest is just pure dickishness. yes, the narrator is a lisping hamhock, and more than a little smarmy. STFW? Get with the program.
posted by Balok at 6:54 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those who do want to critique IC and their approach, however...I'm still waiting to hear even a shred of anything approaching alternative solutions.

You've worked for years in development, haven't you? Surely you're familiar with what can happen when mostly-good intentions collide with an army of unexpected facts on the ground, how those intentions become completely lost and distorted by a fundamental lack of understanding about the situation by the first-world advocates?

Here's how Invisible Children got started:

In the spring of 2003, three young Americans set out for Africa, in search of adventure and a story. They found what they were looking for. They found a tragedy that changed their lives and has since changed the lives of many who have heard the story. They found the invisible children of Uganda.

Got that? Three kids from San Diego wanted adventure and went looking for it in Africa. They just happened upon the LRA. And jeez, they found these children? Like the kids didn't exist until Westerners had constructed their identities?

I've met the founders of this group. They're not thoughtful people well-versed in international relations or even the history of Uganda. They're extremely aggressive self-promoters (they see themselves more as film-makers) who target college kids with a simplistic, intoxicating narrative and the allure of exotic drama, of monsters on the dark continent and their unthinkable deeds.

The LRA is a vicious and terrifying organization that kills and destroys lives. But they don't exist in a vacuum. As ZsigE said, they are enmeshed in a complex geopolitical web of relations, and our Western outrage and even military action is not going to solve the problems that cause them.

Those people who say "Well, what's your solution?" should consider that badly-conceived "solutions" can make problems worse, and that it's not always the case that any solution from outside parties is better than none at all from them.
posted by clockzero at 6:54 AM on March 7, 2012 [81 favorites]


MSF works in those areas yes. They work all over the damn place, I am currently in South Sudan doing refugee type work and I can say that Sudan itself is wayyyyyyyy more dangerous than Joseph Kony to the everday lives of vulnerable people. If you so want you can go look at a few of my refugee camp photos from around South Sudan at www.tarvuz.blogspot.com to see everday refugee life.
posted by tarvuz at 7:00 AM on March 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


The cynic in me can't help but feel that Jon Russell's next move will be into a big-budget Hollywood funded documentary.

And if that somehow results in less child soldiers and less child sex trafficking, what's the problem exactly?
posted by odinsdream at 7:16 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a picture of the founders, posing with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (taken from this blog post). From the blog post
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces... 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.

posted by molecicco at 7:25 AM on March 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


And apparently he also started a funfair in NYC!
posted by jaduncan at 7:35 AM on March 7, 2012


Holy crap, I finally got around to watching this film today, and it outright lies on multiple occasions, both about US involvement against Joseph Kony, and the nature of the LRA. It does not reassure me that the film-makers have any sort of real idea about how to resolve this situation.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 7:38 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


MSF works in those areas yes.

Thanks. My kid's compassionate, but obviously starry-eyed. I'll have a talk with him this evening about what the most effective use of his energy is. I may let him go ahead & get the wristband he wants to show his support, if that means something to him, but I can double down on MSF the next time I get a little scratch, in his name.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:38 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some food for thought
posted by tarvuz at 7:40 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyone who is against this campaign, for any reason, is something of a dick, in my opinion. Unless they can show how it can actually HELP Kony. That stupid essay about Ugandan "agency" and the post-colonial presumption and the rest is just pure dickishness. yes, the narrator is a lisping hamhock, and more than a little smarmy. So what? Get with the program. This is effete intellectualism at its very worst.

This is intellectualism looking at best practices approaches to looking at a very complex, very nuanced problem. The problem with IC, aside from its glaring financial problems ($90k/year per cofounder), is that if its very perspective on how to help Ugandans is flawed (hence the discussions on paternalism, colonialism, and similar), then the actions informed by such a world-view will not necessarily be helpful, and in many ways may be hurtful - both in immediate actions, and in the potential power structures they erect for the future.

And in that lies my biggest problem with IC – when you take millions of dollars of charity given by well-meaning donors, you have a FUNDAMENTAL need to examine how you're approaching the problem, and if you're just creating more problems, like Jason Sadler's well-meaning, but utterly horrible 1 Million Shirt idea.

In the end, I think that honestly, no aid is better than bad aid. If you want to donate to serious charities, donate to MSF (Doctors without Borders), or do your own research and find one of millions of local charities that are more focused on aid, and less on flashy glitz.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 7:43 AM on March 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


Here's a picture of the founders, posing with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (taken from this blog post). From the blog post

Oh man, I remember that event. All the reporters there referred to those douchebags as "the band" because of their unselfconsciously unironic hipster-meets-Dark-Continent bullshit. I think someone I knew took that photo...

By the way, the deadly weapons that those fucking idiots are holding like wannabe action heroes very well may have been used to kill real, live civilians shortly thereafter. How charming.
posted by clockzero at 8:39 AM on March 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


I've met the founders of this group. They're not thoughtful people well-versed in international relations or even the history of Uganda. They're extremely aggressive self-promoters (they see themselves more as film-makers) who target college kids with a simplistic, intoxicating narrative and the allure of exotic drama, of monsters on the dark continent and their unthinkable deeds.

Not just college kids - IC actually more orientated to specifically targeting high school teens and tweens ( and even younger judging by kid supporters depicted in some of their media )
posted by Bwithh at 9:19 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a picture of the founders, posing with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (taken from this blog post).

*cringe*
posted by mr_roboto at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Always a snake in the grass.
posted by dobie at 9:51 AM on March 7, 2012


@clockzero, do you have a rough date for the event that photo of the IC founders posing with guns is from? I was showing it to a friend ( a researcher) and she says that its old because one of the founders shown has since left?
posted by Bwithh at 10:14 AM on March 7, 2012


Bwithh, it was taken in April 2008.
posted by lullaby at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this discussion. I've been trying to evaluate how reputable invisible children is. I think I'm going to just go back and donate to Doctors Without Borders. If anyone sees mainstream reports or articles (that hopefully are being written right now) about this video and charity and the legitimacy of their claims and operations, please, please post it.
posted by cashman at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2012


Here's a picture of the founders, posing with the Sudan People's Liberation Army

yeesh, that is cringe worthy. I know i shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but when i saw that, it just gave me the same image of rich suburban kids who try to look like gangsters. :\
posted by usagizero at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I get Timothy Treadwell vibes from this guy...
posted by jnnla at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


yeesh, that is cringe worthy. I know i shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but when i saw that, it just gave me the same image of rich suburban kids who try to look like gangsters. :\

This is one instance in which the cover tells the whole story pretty well.

@clockzero, do you have a rough date for the event that photo of the IC founders posing with guns is from? I was showing it to a friend ( a researcher) and she says that its old because one of the founders shown has since left?

Bwithh, it was taken in April 2008.


Yeah, it was April of 2008. The Ugandan government was trying to hold peace talks with the LRA at the Uganda/DRC border, and as I recall, the LRA either didn't show up (when your chief asset is being invisible, meeting your enemy for a conference is not an appealing idea) or there weren't any actual negotiations. It was a complete failure, like every single other effort the Museveni administration has made to either negotiate with or militarily destroy the LRA.
posted by clockzero at 10:55 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yes, to anyone who's interested in charitable giving, MSF (Doctors without Borders) is really one of the very best because all they do is treat the sick and injured. They have no political/ideological agenda that I know of besides basic humanitarianism, they're not trying to get rich or do anything morally questionable through their own NGO, and they're highly-skilled professionals.
posted by clockzero at 10:57 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


One last thing: for further reading on these and related topics, you should really check out Glenna Gordon and Jina Moore, both of whom are outstanding, passionate and brilliant journalists who have covered these issues.
posted by clockzero at 11:00 AM on March 7, 2012


This is an interesting discussion to follow.

I'm good friends with someone who was very recently an Invisible Children roadie (the people who show these films around the US and then ask for money) as well as holding other roles in the organization. She's deeply evangelical Christian and so are a good number of the Invisible Children hierarchy (not everyone by any means but certainly a lot of folks).

It seems like Invisible Children is on par with other charitable organizations in San Diego which are 'faith-based' and oriented internationally (often with regards to refugees in San Diego itself but also working to help Chinese Christians get Bibles, for example). IC attracts some of the same evangelical crowd interested in working with 'persecuted ministries.'

From the outside, Invisible Children seems to be highly organized and plugged-in and I know they have a complex setup that involves bringing volunteers from Uganda to speak along with the Americans as roadies at these events. IC roadies often speak at churches and schools and they have a lot of credibility. The organization relies on 'interns' and 'roadies'--who are often under 21 and pretty much 100% under 25--to do an incredible amount of work, unpaid. Not surprisingly, IC also does a lot with social media and with using films that appeal to a younger crowd.

I'm a bit torn as to how I feel about Invisible Children. I'm glad that my friend and others are learning about the world and especially about the crises that happen beyond US borders but I also question the long-term effectiveness of the organization's goals. Then again, there are few nonprofits who are as credible as MSF/DWB.
posted by librarylis at 11:15 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The organization relies on 'interns' and 'roadies'--who are often under 21 and pretty much 100% under 25--to do an incredible amount of work, unpaid. Not surprisingly, IC also does a lot with social media and with using films that appeal to a younger crowd.

There's a town called Gulu in northern Uganda which is kinda like a little Brooklyn as a result of this kind of thing.
posted by clockzero at 11:30 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Searching for more information that's not "this is all irreducibly complex" or not about the Invisible Children charity itself, I found this overview to be pretty helpful. My takeaways:

- The LRA are basically bandits and have no constituency

- however, they are funded by the Sudanese government to weaken the countries to its south, and as tit-for-tat for Ugandan funding of Sudanese rebels

- The LRA is currently very small; the article estimates 400. So they can easily be dealt with militarily (though probably not by the Ugandan army which seems to be a total mess), but are also going to hide very easily, and can regain strength easily if let alone

- the really sticky part of all this seems to be forging a peace deal so that Sudan and Uganda will stop funding guerrillas within each others' borders, that is, you can kill Kony, and perhaps stop the child-soldier thing at least, but you wouldn't necessarily bring about peace

Let me know how wrong I am about any of this, please!
posted by furiousthought at 12:23 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Glenna Gordon , the original photographer of THAT photo comments:
http://www.scarlettlion.com/invsible-children-the-next-chapter/


Also: The Definitive ‘Kony 2012′ Drinking Game

http://www.wrongingrights.com/2012/03/the-definitive-kony-2012-drinking-game.html
posted by Bwithh at 12:59 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, read this post for a very thoughtful, informed, and nuanced take on the IC campaign and the incredibly complex issues underlying it.
posted by clockzero at 1:18 PM on March 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Seriously, everyone, just read that post -- Mark Kersten is an extremely smart guy who explains the situation really well.
posted by clockzero at 1:22 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has this whole thing just backfired massively?
posted by hnnrs at 1:26 PM on March 7, 2012


Interesting...I'm pretty connected, and have quite a few activisty circles of friends, but this has not blown up on my radar anywhere but here.
I will second that this has been interesting to follow, and it will be interesting, in light of the backlash, to see if Kony 2012 can be sustained until their 4/20 date.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:28 PM on March 7, 2012


The LRA is currently very small; the article estimates 400. So they can easily be dealt with militarily (though probably not by the Ugandan army which seems to be a total mess), but are also going to hide very easily, and can regain strength easily if let alone

This is the only bit that I'd definitely take issue with - I mean, do you think the UPDF (Ugandan army) hasn't been trying for years to arrest Kony? They may not be a highly modern force, but they're no slouches either (it's a national army now, but used to be essentially Museveni's own rebel army during the Ugandan civil war 25-odd years ago - which they won). The key problem is that Uganda is bordered on the north and western sides by, respectively, South Sudan and the DRC, neither of which is exactly a picture of stability, and neither of which either has the resources to take out Kony themselves or the political will to allow the UPDF to cross the border.

I've now managed to actually watch the film. It's not as bad as the conversation here led me to believe - I think there's definitely some icky things about it (the bit with hundreds of young people slowly chanting militaristic slogans was creepy as hell), but the overall idea of getting people to focus on problems outside their own experience is a good one, and they do have some people on board who clearly know what they're talking about (chief prosecutor of the ICC, for instance). That said, I definitely agree that there's some severe problems with the whole thing, and that the answer to dealing with the LRA is less likely to be with external military intervention and much more to do with the kind of things linked in clockzero's comment just above this one.
posted by ZsigE at 1:29 PM on March 7, 2012


Has anyone noted that 'that picture' of the founders with weapons is taken alongside the SPLA, an organisation that also makes use of child soldiers?
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 1:51 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The LRA is currently very small; the article estimates 400. So they can easily be dealt with militarily (though probably not by the Ugandan army which seems to be a total mess), but are also going to hide very easily, and can regain strength easily if let alone

Yeah, ZsigE, I agree that this is questionable, and not only because they clearly cannot be dealt with easily by the military (evidence? the many, many failed military attempts sorta contradicts the idea).

While the Enough Project generally does good work, they don't describe how they arrived at that 400 figure; since we're talking about a very secretive and highly itinerant guerilla paramilitary/counter-society/messianic cult, I'm skeptical, in the absence of any clear evidence, that anyone really knows the size of the current LRA.
posted by clockzero at 1:51 PM on March 7, 2012


Has anyone noted that 'that picture' of the founders with weapons is taken alongside the SPLA, an organisation that also makes use of child soldiers?

Yes, Serial Killer Slumber Party, that's one of the most important and glaring issues with these people's judgment. And the SPLA does a lot more than make use of child soldiers. And they're not just alongside the SPLA, those are the SPLA's weapons.
posted by clockzero at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Daily What chimes in.
posted by naoko at 2:06 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, ZsigE, I agree that this is questionable, and not only because they clearly cannot be dealt with easily by the military (evidence? the many, many failed military attempts sorta contradicts the idea).

Thanks for this. I certainly understand how the 400 figure could be very inaccurate, and I see how the ability of the LRA to relocate to neighboring countries who can't/won't deal with the LRA makes eradicating them very problematic. And I definitely understand (from the justiceinconflict.org article) that the Ugandans would rather rehabilitate the child soldiers than kill them.

Has anyone noted that 'that picture' of the founders with weapons is taken alongside the SPLA, an organisation that also makes use of child soldiers?

And that's what I wanted to know! "Is the LRA unique in their use of child soldiers."

That picture's got a real Last King of Scotland vibe to it.
posted by furiousthought at 2:36 PM on March 7, 2012


Folks, thanks to all for the info and opinions on this. My son did some work with IC the past couple of years (Grad student), he was sold on the organization. I'll point him towards this thread and see what he thinks.

I agree that this is a very slick presentation, I don't think I've seen a non-profit that has sold it's "product" as well as this film does, that's not necessarily wrong, just an observation.
posted by HuronBob at 3:05 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


And that's what I wanted to know! "Is the LRA unique in their use of child soldiers."

They are not, unfortunately.
posted by clockzero at 3:19 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


SO...WE'RE SUPPOSED TO VOTE FOR KONY IN 2012?!

I DON'T GET IT.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:17 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I should have amended that to say "Is the LRA unique in their use of child soldiers within that conflict," I suppose, since that would be a reason to focus on them above other parties. I've heard of history.
posted by furiousthought at 4:17 PM on March 7, 2012


I just want to re-emphasize that organizations like MSF are much better target for donations than Invisible Children. IC's operating budget for 2010/2011 is online (PDF), and there are a couple immediate obvious takeaways:

-Less than half of their expenses ($3.2mil) are direct expenses, the rest is overhead (salary, marketing, administration, etc). $1.4mil of their $8mil in expenses is compensation. This seems... high.
-"The Organization experienced very strong and unexpected revenue near fiscal year end 2011, which is reflected in unrestricted net assets at June 30, 2011."

Specifically, $4.8mil of their $9mil 2011 asset pool is just a pile of cash they are sitting on. That's last year. Now that they've gone lolviral, god only knows what 2012 will look like, but one thing is certain: this organization already has way more money than they can effectively spend. (Well, they did just produce a really flashy video with a bunch of purchased music rights. So we know where some of that $4.8mil went.) But they simply don't have the people or programs in place to turn that money into aid on the ground. Any additional money they get will not translate into aid any time soon.

When we get their 2012 budget, we'll see how much cash they are sitting on... and we'll be able to call for Invisible Children to donate that money to organizations that can use it to effect change, as opposed to produce media.
posted by mek at 4:30 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I understand that MSF has a policy of turning down or refunding donations if they feel they can't effectively spend them on current aid projects - rather than just sitting on the cash or diverting the cash into new projects just to spend it.
posted by Bwithh at 4:49 PM on March 7, 2012


Thanks HuronBob for posting this, and thanks everyone for contributing further links and informative discussion. Fascinating stuff.
posted by harriet vane at 5:52 PM on March 7, 2012


The best that can possibly come of this is a bump in donations for reputable agencies doing relief work in the area. I've been encouraging everyone who posted it on my wall to donate to MSF or Warchild.

Friends who teach social studies are planning to show the clip and follow it up with the visible children link that Molecicco posted. Hopefully it generates some good discussion.
posted by peppermind at 6:59 PM on March 7, 2012


The "Visible Children" post is good, but also linked in this thread is Mark Kersten's "Taking Kony 2012 Down a Notch" which is even better - social studies classes would do well to use Kersten's article to ground their discussion in an understanding of Uganda's current politics.

VICE Magazine's "Should I Donate To Kony 2012" is a good take from the social media, rather than social studies, angle, and attempts a more balanced assessment rather than a takedown.
posted by mek at 7:51 PM on March 7, 2012


This from the Mark Kersten article that clockzero linked to is pretty telling, and certainly speaks to my skepticism on the matter:

It is hard to respect any documentary on northern Uganda where a five year-old white boy features more prominently than any northern Ugandan victim or survivor. Incredibly, with the exception of the adolescent northern Ugandan victim, Jacob, the voices of northern Ugandans go almost completely unheard.

It isn’t hard to imagine why the views of northern Ugandans wouldn’t be considered: they don’t fit with the narrative produced and reproduced in the insulated echo chamber that produced the ‘Kony 2012′ film.

posted by philip-random at 9:02 PM on March 7, 2012


The VICE post is typical hipster wank. It takes a mild stance on both sides and then shrugs its shoulders and says 'meh'
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 9:22 PM on March 7, 2012


Ugandan lady Rosebelk har her respons in video. "You shouldn't be telling my story if you don't believe I also have the power to change it"
posted by dabitch at 10:50 PM on March 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is hard to respect any documentary on northern Uganda where a five year-old white boy features more prominently than any northern Ugandan victim or survivor. Incredibly, with the exception of the adolescent northern Ugandan victim, Jacob, the voices of northern Ugandans go almost completely unheard.

What? I don't even understand this criticism. Of course the five-year old white boy features more prominently. That's the whole point. Whether or not you think it's odious is irrelevant to the fact that it just went global in two days. An effective propagandist knows his/her audience and delivers a straight shot. Storytellers gonna storytell, and you may be upset that some things resonate more forcefully than others, but that's way it is and always has been. This guy knows that a video full of Africans wouldn't be as effective as an extended commercial with a cute little white kid making snow angels in the beach. Don't fault him for being good at his craft.

As others have mentioned above, I'm very impressed by the filmmaking and marketing aspect of this video. At first I wondered if this was a Google production - then I wondered if perhaps Google will start making videos like this. Why should non-profits make shit productions? Someone above criticized the filmmaker by suggesting that his next work is going to be a "Hollywood documentary." What kind of criticism is that? In terms of accuracy and impact, I have no idea where this project rates. But in terms of effectiveness in grabbing eyeballs and pulling heartstrings? You've got to give it up to this dude.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:45 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think these have been posted yet.

Invisible Children Responds
posted by BurntHombre at 6:46 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a town called Gulu in northern Uganda which is kinda like a little Brooklyn as a result of this kind of thing.

I'm not sure if you've been to Gulu more recently than I was there, so perhaps it has changed, but based on when I was there, this description is akin to saying that there's a big town in southern California called Los Angeles that is kinda like a big version of Galt, CA, because someone in Galt owns a video camera.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:54 AM on March 8, 2012


I wish they didn't call it "Kony 2012". It sounds like an election campaign.
posted by Talez at 8:02 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Talez, I think that's the point.
posted by Jaybo at 9:12 AM on March 8, 2012


Interesting article: http://projectdiaspora.org/2012/03/08/respect-my-agency-2012/
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:53 AM on March 8, 2012


clockzero, that picture was taken by Glenna Gordon if you know her.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:10 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


>$4.8mil of their $9mil 2011 asset pool is just a pile of cash they are sitting on.

Can someone help me see this on the chart here? I'm hopeless with financial statements, and am trying to get me ducks in a row for a discussion elsewhere.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:17 AM on March 8, 2012


A lot of people on my Facebook feed are now talking about the dangers of slacktivism in relation to the Kony video.

I think there's a related concept - "Inactive Activism" - which is perhaps a bit more thoughtful and a bit more targeted than the Slacktivists who click "Like, Like, Like!" on every good cause, sign every online petition and do little else. They may be a bit more discreet with their clicks but Inactive Activists are still people who do most of their work to change the world from a couch with a laptop and a wifi connection. (And yes, I'm looking in a mirror as I type that.)
posted by Jaybo at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2012


em>Can someone help me see this on the chart here? I'm hopeless with financial statements, and am trying to get me ducks in a row for a discussion elsewhere.

The asset pool isn't listed on that chart, which is demonstrating a breakdown of spending. Their audited financial statement reflects their cash standing as of June 30th of 2011.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:30 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry if this was already posted and I missed it. The Washington Post looked at Invisible Children today.
posted by postel's law at 10:46 AM on March 8, 2012


Thanks, Nimmie Amee. Further evidence of my arithmetic hopelessness.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:32 AM on March 8, 2012


On NPR today.

It was also talked about on Talk of the Nation but the audio isn't available until 6:00pm EST.
posted by cooker girl at 12:29 PM on March 8, 2012


Man, they need to stick to videos. The response that BurntHombre linked is so poorly written that it makes IC less credible and legitimate, which I'm sure wasn't the writer's intent.
posted by pineappleheart at 12:30 PM on March 8, 2012


Many Ugandans frustrated, suspicious with Kony 2012 - LA Times
posted by postel's law at 1:28 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, the link I posted earlier doesn't seem to be working. Here it is again.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


clockzero, that picture was taken by Glenna Gordon if you know her.

I do. She's quite a journalist.

I'm not sure if you've been to Gulu more recently than I was there, so perhaps it has changed, but based on when I was there, this description is akin to saying that there's a big town in southern California called Los Angeles that is kinda like a big version of Galt, CA, because someone in Galt owns a video camera.

I meant that in a less-than-serious way. It's an exaggeration. We used to joke that there were more NGOs in Gulu than Ugandan residents; I realize what I said was probably not accurate.
posted by clockzero at 4:26 PM on March 8, 2012


kickstarting assassination politics for 21c?

also btw...
Journalism and Compassion
Kristof and the Rescue Industry
posted by kliuless at 4:44 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, this happened last November:

“A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children - because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, “You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God.” And it freaks them out.” --Jason Russell at Liberty University

I'm disturbed by the people who are willfully ignoring the Ugandans telling them to stop.
posted by Ashen at 4:50 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cite for the Liberty U quote.
posted by naoko at 5:22 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to re-emphasize that organizations like MSF are much better target for donations than Invisible Children.

Wrong. MSF can't and won't do crap to stop Kony. It's going to take the US military doing an Osama bin Laden style campaign of information gathering and secret Special Forces hit. I know a lot about the situation there, Uganda govt doesn't want to stop Kony he serves a purpose. The only way this will end is if the American people demand his capture/killing and that can only be done by making him infamous through grassroots propaganda techniques, which forces Congress to act. Did you watch the film, they lay it out. If 100% of your money went to making "media" like this, it would be money well spent.
posted by stbalbach at 9:38 PM on March 8, 2012


Wrong. MSF can't and won't do crap to stop Kony.

I didn't say they would. Of course, the assumption is "stopping Kony" is a productive and efficient use of aid. Citation needed. In fact, many people on the ground have said the exact opposite: this is counterproductive and many other problems are much more pressing, eg. nodding disease.
posted by mek at 9:40 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I find it strange that Number 2 on that list of human rights violators wanted by the Hague was also from Uganda, and his name is Otti. Knoy is clearly a repellent monster, but does removing him not simply replace him with another equally terrible psychopath, by the name of Otti?

The film was very emotionally moving, almost too much really. Just so slick and manipulative I found myself choking up when what I really wanted was more information.
posted by Skygazer at 10:31 PM on March 8, 2012


Ah okay, looks like Vincent Otti was a member of the LRA with Knoy. He died in 2008.

Alrighty then...carry on.
posted by Skygazer at 10:37 PM on March 8, 2012


I'm not an expert ( and the ICC website is not working for me ATM) but I wouldn't read too much into the numbering of the ICC most wanted list ( though clearly Invisible Children are pushing the idea that KONY is Top of the List therefore he is Worst of the Worst , the new Hitler/ Bin Laden). all the people on the list are being charged with horrendous crimes which call out for justice but I doubt the ICC is in the business of officially saying that one country's/ethnic group's war criminals are definitely worse than another's in a carefully ranked order. from what I can tell from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_indicted_in_the_International_Criminal_Court#List_of_indictees

Kony was part of the very first batch of persons indicted by the ICC (8 July 2005), all from Uganda.
Kony's surname is also first in the alphabet of all those persons.
and therefore he is No.1 on the list...
posted by Bwithh at 9:28 AM on March 9, 2012


And of course the ICC's scope is limited:
(from Wikipedia):"The Court can generally exercise jurisdiction only in three cases, i.e. if the accused is a national of a state party, if the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or if a situation is referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council.[20] It is designed to complement existing national judicial systems: it can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes.[21][22] Primary responsibility to investigate and punish crimes is therefore left to individual states.[23]"
And " state parties" far from includes all the countries in the world
posted by Bwithh at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2012


Hmmm, oh wait. I'm wrong. Ignore what I just said about alphabetical order.
Haven't had my coffee yet and don't see the indictments count table column on the wiki page.
My bad
posted by Bwithh at 9:42 AM on March 9, 2012


I'm disturbed by the people who are willfully ignoring the Ugandans telling them to stop.

There are also many Ugandans supporting them. Not to mention the many Ugandans on their staff.
posted by BurntHombre at 9:42 AM on March 9, 2012


I'm disturbed by the people who are willfully ignoring the Ugandans telling them to stop.

There are also many Ugandans supporting them.


Quoting TMS Ruge, a Ugandan writer linked to earlier in this thread:

I am coherent enough to realize when someone is trying to genuinely do good. At the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. There is something wrong with assuming that the people who you are trying to help 1) need help, 2) want your help, or 3) can’t help themselves. IC and this video assumes all the above.

Before anyone says ‘why haven’t you done anything to stop Kony?’, may I point out that it took the world’s most sophisticated army over a decade and billions of dollars to catch Osama bin Laden. Kony has been on the run for 25+ years. On a continent 3 times the size of America. Catching & stopping him is not a priority of immediate concern. You know what is? Finding a bed net so that millions of kids don’t die every day from malaria.

How many of you know that more Ugandans died in road accidents last year (2838) than have died in the past 3 years from LRA attacks in whole of central Africa(2400)? We’ve picked our battles and we chose to simply try to live. And the world should be helping us live on our own terms, by respecting our agency to choose which battles to put capacity towards.


I realize he's only one voice, but he certainly speaks eloquently.
posted by philip-random at 9:55 AM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


And to further clarify:
Hmmm, oh wait. I'm wrong. Ignore what I just said about alphabetical order.
Haven't had my coffee yet and don't see the indictments count table column on the wiki page.
My bad
That first batch of persons consisted entirely of members of the LRA, of which Kony is the founder and leader. So I think the #1 designation does actually carry some weight as to him being the worst of the group.
posted by BurntHombre at 9:57 AM on March 9, 2012


Also, not that Invisible Children need be all things to all people, but I do find it notable that they (or this thread for that matter) make NO reference to Uganda's Kill The Gays bill, which last I heard, was still not dead. Dig a little deeper into Invisible Children and you find them coming across as firmly evangelical (already linked to, but worth a look if you haven't done so already).

Now, I realize that just because you're evangelical doesn't mean you HATE gays, but it does, I think, quickly become a question that should be posed to you, particularly as you whip up a whirlwind of hope and awareness toward "making the world a better place".
posted by philip-random at 10:08 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The ego on this Russell guy is deeply hilarious. Highlights from this NYT piece:

“No one wants a boring documentary on Africa,” he said. “Maybe we have to make it pop, and we have to make it cool.”
“We view ourself as the Pixar of human rights stories,” he added.

Mr. Russell said he was far from finished with his campaign, which he said was an example of just how much young political novices could accomplish. “We are ready to make this bigger,” he said. “We are waiting for Jay-Z” to trumpet the cause.
And as a filmmaker, he said he had already received plaudits from producers in Hollywood. “They are getting in touch with the Academy Awards. They want this to be up for an Oscar.”
posted by naoko at 10:22 AM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't know. Why shouldn't there be a Pixar of human rights stories? Not sure why non-profit pitches have to be unprofessional or poorly produced. In fact, the more I think about it: yes, let's have a Pixar for human rights stories! That would be awesome!

This guy sounds like a doofusy snake-oil salesman but he's a hell of a storyteller. The fact that that doc made it around the world in 2 days is some kind of incredible. Making it all about a cute white kid is a feature, not a bug. The whole goal seems to be to get other white kids inspired to tell white kids about stuff in Africa. So, it's working, right? I say, bring on more Pixar-ized human rights stories - just, in the future, let's have a little more substance behind them.

I'm really fascinated by all of this. And for some reason I don't even care that it's all bullshit. (Does that make me a nihilist?) It's just not the part that I find interesting. I'm fascinated that this dudebro made a 30-minute long Google commercial highlighting the crimes of a (relatively) insignificant warlord in Africa. And that the entire world blew their shit when they saw it. I still don't even know what to think of it all.

Ultimately, this guy and his charity will be forgotten in a week. They didn't expect this thing to get so big so fast and now that it has they're getting scrutinized on a level they didn't expect. So eff him. What I'll be interested to see is if some reputable agency(ies) can in the future throw together such a competent blend of social activism, filmmaking, social media, graphic arts, and yes, even merchandising to promote a more worthwhile cause with more concrete action steps. I do feel like there is an expectation that NGOs make shit pitches - hopefully this changes that.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:02 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Xeni : --Invisible Children raised $13.8M in 2011. 1/3 spent on the film, 1/3 "film-related advocacy" 1/3 "mission to end war, rehabilitate children"-- [sourced from here & here(pdf)]
posted by peacay at 11:56 AM on March 9, 2012


Why shouldn't there be a Pixar of human rights stories? Not sure why non-profit pitches have to be unprofessional or poorly produced. In fact, the more I think about it: yes, let's have a Pixar for human rights stories! That would be awesome!

Mr. Hall + Oates - I'm with you part of the way here. Why should genuinely functional aid organizations not produce effective media? Outside of not blowing their budgets on marketing, I can't think of a good reason, and there are certainly piles of solid filmmaking pros who'd be willing to help, I suspect (and not demand $90,000 annually).

But let's get serious. It's not a good thing to popularize the wrong message, which seems to be what these Invisible Children clowns are doing. Oscar Wilde would've had a field day with them ("being earnest" and all that). What's the right message? I have no idea. But I suspect the place to start is the Ugandan people who, from what I've read thus far, are at best bemused by Kony 2012.

Ultimately, this guy and his charity will be forgotten in a week.

And thus, this is really just slacktivism at its best/worst, the serious downside of which is the cynicism it fuels. I've already lost one friend over this (temporarily), who bought in big time and with full on enthusiasm and didn't take kindly to my repeated updates on how dubious his fresh new activist-filmmaker heroes were.

I'm really fascinated by all of this..

Yeah, me too. It's an amazing thing to watch a meme rise and fall in such a blur of action, all the more so when you realize it's a case of people's emotions kicking into gear before their intellects. Sobering, yet despite aforementioned lost friend, kind of amusing.
posted by philip-random at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why shouldn't there be a Pixar of human rights stories? Not sure why non-profit pitches have to be unprofessional or poorly produced. In fact, the more I think about it: yes, let's have a Pixar for human rights stories! That would be awesome!

I'm ok with there being a "Pixar of human rights," in theory - but these guys are making a lot of Cars 2s and not a lot of Finding Nemos. My problem with that particular quotation was the sheer arrogance of it.

Anyway... for people who are interested in the potential power of video advocacy, one organization I am a big fan of is Witness, which provides trainings to local human rights organizations so that they can make documentaries on issues important to them. I'm not trying to make a one-to-one comparison of Witness and IC, since their agendas and roles are pretty different, but just noting that there are other media-oriented organizations out there that give serious thought to issues of participation and empowerment.
posted by naoko at 12:41 PM on March 9, 2012


Marc DuBois, who's been working with Médecins Sans Frontières since 1999 and is now the director of MSF’s UK office, had this to say about Kony 2012 and how the aid industry has just been Biebered.
posted by gman at 1:24 PM on March 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


gman, great link.

My advice to the aid industry? First, get over it. Then, get on the boat. Invisible Children has more than an audience, more than loyal donors. They’ve built a repository of faithusiasm that will make change happen. As a colleague of mine lamented, too bad we can’t do for tuberculosis or Eastern Congo what they’ve done for Kony. Invisible Children might well deserve our scorn, but we’d be smarter to take notes. They are schooling us in comms, mobilization and fundraising. While we try to exploit social media to improve return on investment, IC turned social media into operations itself.

Yes! Exactly what I was trying to say. Very cool that this guy gets it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:43 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is pretty good.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:05 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is pretty good.

Well, like I said, slacktivism fuels cynicism.

Where is Africa anyway? South America somewhere, right?
posted by philip-random at 3:23 PM on March 9, 2012


Jason Russell:
"I need you to know something. I am here representing you -- your voice. This is a collective. It's a We. And this story transcends borders. It is not about politics. It is not about the economy. This is about human beings -- human beings waking up to the potential and the power that they have. That's what Kony 2012 is about and it's just the beginning - because we are starting something which cannot be stopped"

http://vimeo.com/38145370
posted by Bwithh at 8:21 PM on March 9, 2012



That first batch of persons consisted entirely of members of the LRA, of which Kony is the founder and leader. So I think the #1 designation does actually carry some weight as to him being the worst of the group.
posted by BurntHombre at 9:57 AM on March 9 [+] [!]


But IC isn't saying he's the worst of the LRA group on the ICC list,or even just that he's the worst on the whole list . IC is saying Kony is the new Hitler and the new Usama Bin Laden and that this idea is undeniable.
posted by Bwithh at 8:26 PM on March 9, 2012


Look what I found on the BBC today, (after watching my twitter timeline spit and fume this entire week)

A social media campaign to shine a light on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony has attracted ire of its own after critics attacked its methods. Is using Facebook and Twitter to promote change pointless, or the natural extension of our social media habit?

Invisible Children is not shy about its belief in the power of social media. Its documentary claims there are more people on Facebook than were alive 200 years ago. And the charity admits the film is a calculated social media ploy to raise Kony's profile, at one point calling it an "experiment".

It planned - and prepared - for a viral hit and its aftermath.



It is always hard to criticise good intentions. And yet...

The extraordinarily sudden success, if that is the right word, of the social media campaign by three American advocacy groups aimed at shining a big spotlight on the notorious Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony has prompted some scathing reactions from plenty of well-informed quarters.

I will link to some of them below, but here is an outline, each introduced with a relevant tweet, of what strike me as the main arguments being made against the film and the campaign.


# Don't get people fired up by telling them they can solve something that is not within their power to solve. This is self-explanatory, but here is another tweet that caught my eye on the same point: My basic premise is that the awareness of American college students is NOT a necessary condition for conflict resolution in Africa.

#Don't make yourself the hero. This is both a reference to the self-absorbed role of the film's narrator, and to the broader sense that such campaigns can be deeply paternalistic, even neo-colonial, in their portrayal of Africans as helpless victims who must be saved by brave foreigners.
[...]
At the same time, there are broader issues at stake here, and I do share the concerns articulated in some of the blogs and tweets above, particularly when it comes to the importance of African governments, leaders, institutions and individuals taking control and responsibility.

The outside world has a role to play, but it is patronising and above all cripplingly counter-productive to believe we have all the answers.

posted by infini at 2:21 AM on March 10, 2012


Ethan Zuckerman:

My goal, in this (long) blogpost is to get a better understanding of how Invisible Children has harnessed social media to promote their cause, what the strengths and limits of that approach are, and what some unintended consequences of this campaign might be. For me, the Kony 2012 campaign is a story about simplification and framing. Whether you ultimately support Invisible Children’s campaign – and I do not – it’s important to think through why it has been so successful in attracting attention online and the limits to the methods used by Invisible Children.


and Teju Cole,
who just won a prestigious award for his novel “Open City“, offers a brief essay, in Twitter form, as a reaction to Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign 7 thoughts on the banality of sentimentality
posted by infini at 5:50 AM on March 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


7 thoughts

My faves:

3- The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.

7- I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.

posted by philip-random at 8:50 AM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


infini: Wow!

I like a few of them (3 & 7, as philip-random pointed out), and dislike the specificity of others ("white people and Oprah" reduces a demographic in a similar way that he is criticizing).

Overall, I agree with the (*cough*) sentiment, and think it was really well delivered, especially coming through "tweets".

Similarly, it might be good for people to consider the Adam Curtis short "'oh dear'-ism"
posted by lkc at 7:44 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Similarly, it might be good for people to consider the Adam Curtis short "'oh dear'-ism."

Oh dear indeed. "It's like living in the mind of a depressed hippie."
posted by philip-random at 8:25 PM on March 10, 2012


("white people and Oprah" reduces a demographic in a similar way that he is criticizing).

He gets his point across in 140 characters.
posted by infini at 11:58 PM on March 10, 2012


I am not familiar with PMc magazine and am really hoping that someone will tell me that this interview is satire.

"I am a rebel soul: dream evangelist."
"I am going to help end the longest running war in Africa, get Joseph Kony arrested & redefine international justice. Then I am going to direct a Hollywood musical. Then I am going to study theology & literature in Oxford, England, and then move to New York to start “The Academy” – which will be a school where the best creative young minds in the world attend."
"If Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono had a baby, I would be that baby."
etc.
posted by naoko at 6:34 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great read. This was on Teju Cole's twitter.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:17 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Invisible Children releases new video.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:13 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kony 2012 smashes through 100 million views mark and is fastest growing viral online video on that scale in ANY category. even cute kitty videos.

http://corp.visiblemeasures.com/news-and-events/blog/bid/79626/Update-Kony-Social-Video-Campaign-Tops-100-Million-Views
posted by Bwithh at 3:32 PM on March 12, 2012


Bono also thinks Russell deserves an Oscar. Sometimes I am not sure I am on the same planet as other people.
posted by naoko at 4:49 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why shouldn't it win an Oscar? It's brilliant filmmaking. I don't see why one can't both praise the effectiveness and cleverness of its production while bemoaning its message and intent.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:58 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


And please don't take that to mean that I think it SHOULD win an Oscar. Just, why shouldn't it? Many short form documentaries that win Oscars tend to be sentimental pap, I'm not sure why this is all that different.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:59 PM on March 12, 2012


And please don't take that to mean that I think it SHOULD win an Oscar. Just, why shouldn't it?

Well, I can't compare it to the short docs that have won Oscars because I haven't seen most of them. I can just say that the smell of it drove me from the room before I got to the fifteen minute point. It was a combination of the filmmaker dwelling on his own son for reasons I couldn't make sense of, and then the hanging on the poor Ugandan kid for a prolonged "tears are not enough" moment.

Yuck.

This is not, by any objective measure I'm aware of, good documentary filmmaking. It's cloying, manipulative propaganda.

If you want to nominate it for something, make it BEST COMMERCIAL (long form), because it is so clearing selling something. And trust me, the most significant cultural fallout from it will not be the vanquishing of Mr. Kony (which isn't to say this won't happen) but the impact it's going to have on the advertising biz. 100 million views (and counting) -- what're the odds the next one's going to be about an A-Team style hit squad going after Kony, all duded up in Red Bull colors, of course.
posted by philip-random at 5:48 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


what're the odds the next one's going to be about an A-Team style hit squad going after Kony, all duded up in Red Bull colors, of course.


A-Team??? you're clearly part of the gerontocracy. The next IC video will surely be more like a Disney's High School Musical remake of this , featuring Bieber and Rihanna. And muppets.
posted by Bwithh at 7:47 PM on March 12, 2012


A-Team??? you're clearly part of the gerontocracy.

The A-Team (2010)
posted by philip-random at 8:10 PM on March 12, 2012


Invisible Children releases new video.

New video responds to 'Kony 2012' backlash.
posted by ericb at 12:06 PM on March 13, 2012


Invisible Children Funded By Antigay, Creationist Christian Right.
posted by ericb at 6:42 PM on March 13, 2012


The A-Team (2010)

Yikes. I stand corrected.
posted by Bwithh at 7:57 PM on March 13, 2012


Ugandans react with anger to Kony video
posted by homunculus at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 'KONY' town, video is hardly a sensation.
posted by ericb at 3:13 PM on March 14, 2012


Why make Kony famous? Video rubs raw Uganda scars.
posted by ericb at 3:16 PM on March 14, 2012


The next IC video will surely be more like a Disney's High School Musical remake of this , featuring Bieber and Rihanna. And muppets.

See this BoingBoing post highlighting some of the other Invisible Children video productions. These are absolutely insane. The first especially: a high-production-value musical about how great Invisible Children is. With the same people in the now infamous picture as the all-singing, all-dancing stars. The post's author compares it to a production number from Glee (or, yes, High School Musical). The lyrics are bizarre ("We're on a mission / Put Uganda deep inside your mind! / It needs attention / and a dance to make it sparkle and shine!"). The whole thing is bizarre. Other bizarre, cringe-inducing videos follow.

Something is very fucked up here.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:42 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


See this BoingBoing post highlighting some of the other Invisible Children video productions.

Holy shit!
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on March 15, 2012


Yikes. Those old videos are all kinds of creepy.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:54 PM on March 15, 2012


War Nerd Classic: Altar Boy Vs. Altar Boy In Uganda: The Lord’s Resistance Army & Joseph Kony.
posted by adamvasco at 5:07 PM on March 15, 2012


Um. http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/jason-russell-san-diego-invisible-children-kony-2012-142970255.html
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:28 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, now I'm feeling sorry for the guy ...

Brown said Russell was acting very strange.

Police said they received several calls yesterday at 11:30 a.m. of a man in various stages of undress, running through traffic and screaming. Police described him as "in his underwear."

posted by philip-random at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2012


What was he smoking?
posted by infini at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2012


visible gametes..
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 2:04 PM on March 16, 2012


Um. http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/jason-russell-san-diego-invisible-children-kony-2012-142970255.html

Okay ... this is getting strange ... a lot is unraveling.
posted by ericb at 2:18 PM on March 16, 2012


Proper hyperlink.
posted by ericb at 2:18 PM on March 16, 2012


Updates on the Jason Russell incident.
posted by ericb at 2:23 PM on March 16, 2012


One can't even link to the headline ...
posted by infini at 2:27 PM on March 16, 2012


Invisible Children Founder and KONY 2012 Star Found Masturbating in Public

... which, of course, it's arguable he's been doing all along.
posted by philip-random at 3:07 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Video Of Alleged Incident [contains nudity].
posted by ericb at 4:34 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition"

lol okay
posted by elizardbits at 5:01 PM on March 16, 2012


Wait, that really happened? Holy crap, when I saw it in a friend's Facebook feed without a link, I assumed he was making the same joke as Philip-Random.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:03 PM on March 16, 2012


So, kind of like this Brasseye clip?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:05 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am so glad that all of my crazed drug binge breakdowns led to mostly huddling under blankies and muttering psychotically to a pillow shaped like a ham rather than public naked screaming.
posted by elizardbits at 5:28 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


ericb: "Video Of Alleged Incident [contains nudity]."

I love how the people driving on by don't want to touch that with a ten foot pole.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:09 PM on March 16, 2012


Invisible Children Founder and KONY 2012 Star Found Masturbating in Public

I feel like "found" wasn't the best choice of words regarding this particular public masturbation incident.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:34 PM on March 16, 2012


Would you prefer "caught red-handed"?
posted by elizardbits at 8:09 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


“A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children - because they feel like we have an agenda.

Jason Russell speaking at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.
"But in a November 7, 2011 appearance at Liberty University, as part of Liberty’s Fall Convocation speaker series, Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell hinted that Invisible Children was also an evangelizing effort, and during his talk Russell coached Liberty University students on what could be characterized as extremely low-key, or stealth, evangelism."*
posted by ericb at 9:12 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting blog: Visible Children -- KONY 2012 Viewed Critically.
posted by ericb at 9:14 AM on March 17, 2012


"Invisible Children Funded By Antigay, Creationist Christian Right."

True. Many Christians like donating to causes they consider morally correct. That doesn't mean that Invisible Children's motives are bad, however, or that they are indoctrinating children with fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

From what I can tell, Jason Russell grew up in a family that was very religious. His mother apparently organized Christian musicals and the like. He talks in the video interview about growing up wanting to do musicals like Moulin Rouge and Hairspray, but not feeling capable of it. He went to Africa,and had what can reasonably be called an epiphany, calling, or the like.

That's all okay. And he's done well, because he grew up preaching and knows how to use his charisma to build up a bit of a cult-of-personality around him. He's been successful targeting schools and the born again crowd, which was a good choice for him, because it leveraged his connections. They also have strong connections with the social justice movement, and with celebrities.

The problem is, he is an erratic, irrational, quite possibly depressive person with no depth and a naive, boy scout attitude to the world, who thinks it okay to view a non-profit charity as his personal business for empowering others to do all sorts of things that have nothing to do with helping Kony's victims.

He runs his non-profit too much like a summer camp with special vacation trips. Yes, it can be inspiring, but it also brings up questionable issues regarding the insertion of born-again Christianity -- and Glee-like fandom -- into what they do. And his techniques are pretty creepy and manipulative.

Really, he strikes me as a somewhat sociopathic, with erratic behavior and serious repression issues. He probably believes in what he does, and might inspire your kid... but would you trust them with him?
posted by markkraft at 10:48 AM on March 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


So no, I wouldn't say they indoctrinate people with specifically fundamentalist Christian beliefs... but yes, they do indoctrinate, to a rather obsessive and disturbing degree, and seem willing to press a wide variety of different buttons of young people in order to make it happen.

Perhaps these young people are empowered to do what they do... but do they really help guide that process, and is what they are doing really making a difference, or is it pissed away to make a compelling, somewhat cultish experience?
posted by markkraft at 10:53 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Markkraft - that's bordering on FPP material there. I think we're ready for one on this, the Invisible Children saga having definitely moved into a whole new act.
posted by philip-random at 10:56 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Someone else can post it. I'm too busy dancing.
posted by markkraft at 11:00 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and has anyone posted Charlie Brooker's review of the Kony 2012 campaign?

It's brilliant, as you might expect.
posted by markkraft at 11:06 AM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


"We love our life. We love our job. Most people view us as a non-profit, as a charity. We view ourselves as a business, as a company."
posted by markkraft at 12:03 PM on March 17, 2012


Uganda Responds To Kony 2012 Video.
posted by ericb at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2012


When you've finished dancing markkraft, please make a FPP.
posted by panaceanot at 9:15 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ultimate weekend Metafilter: When you've finished dancing markkraft, please make a FPP.
posted by infini at 11:43 PM on March 17, 2012


New video of the meltdown.

At the end when he does a 'snap-and-wave,' does he say: "Oh, my God, precious."?
posted by ericb at 1:48 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Jason Russell is seen in the video posted on TMZ.com — recorded by someone in a passing car — spewing out f-bombs and screaming about the iPhone, its digital assistant, Siri, and the devil.

The bizarre new clip, shot from a closer angle than the version that emerged Friday, shows Russell pacing madly, cursing and pounding the sidewalk with both hands.

At one point, he shouts about the Apple smartphone and Siri before breaking into frantic applause."*
Oh, Siri! You bad girl.
posted by ericb at 1:58 PM on March 18, 2012


Honestly, it seems like he's doing a dance-rotine there. He just happens to be stark naked and having lost the plot at the same time.
posted by dabitch at 2:57 PM on March 18, 2012


Here's an Invisible Children video from 2006 featuring...OK, I'm gonna admit it. Words totally fucking fail me... but if this wasn't a warning sign I don't know what would be.

The dance routine, featuring the filmmaker, (I'm talking beyond Rebecca Black levels of arse-clenching badness) starts at around 1'50.
posted by unSane at 9:26 AM on March 19, 2012


yeah, if only 4chan had done their job and got behind this at the time, we'd have been spared the whole ... last week or ten days.
posted by philip-random at 6:27 PM on March 19, 2012


unSane, that video... I just... wow...
posted by molecicco at 10:51 AM on March 20, 2012


Questions About Sexuality, Anti-Gay Ties Follow 'Invisible Children' Co-Founder Jason Russell.
posted by ericb at 9:37 PM on March 20, 2012


KONY 2012 Star’s Masturbation Incident Attributed to ‘Reactive Psychosis’.
posted by ericb at 9:39 AM on March 21, 2012


New video of the meltdown.

Religion is a hell of a drug....whoah Nelly.
posted by Skygazer at 3:14 PM on March 21, 2012


ericb: "Questions About Sexuality, Anti-Gay Ties Follow 'Invisible Children' Co-Founder Jason Russell."

With all those musical dance numbers? You think?

From the article:
Adam Feldman, a theater and cabaret critic for Time Out New York, tweeted: "Hard to watch this without thinking that Jason Russell is a flamingly gay guy trapped in a fundie world of self-hatred"

Right on.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:17 PM on March 21, 2012


KONY 2012 group not laughing at actor Jason Biggs' nude freak-out parody.
posted by ericb at 9:20 AM on March 23, 2012


Invisible Children Nonprofit Extensively Tied To Anti-Gay Group The Family.

Invisible Children’s Robust Ties to The Family Suggest Invisible Fundamentalist Agenda.
posted by ericb at 1:36 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


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