Friday, March 9, 2012

Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, and shut the hell up.

I bet you saw this coming. I'm also betting you're going to see how long this is and stop reading right now...and that's certainly a mistake you have the luxury of making if you live in a first world country.

So. Everyone knows I'm a passionate person. I feel passionately about ALMOST everything I think. It's sort of in my genetic make-up that, if I think it, I think it's worthy of passionate feelings. Opinions are nebulous things I hold dear, personally, and that renders me an obnoxious wind-bag very much of the time. For of all of you who don't know me live and in person...just take 2 seconds and thank your lucky stars, because it's kind of a chore to be my friend.

That said, here we are, together...on this page that I own and control. And #Kony2012 is sweeping the nation and the globe, and if you're unclear about what it means or if this is the blog you're coming to for facts, then let me do my level best. There is a lot of misinformation going around right now about #Kony2012 and Invisible Children (IC), which is the parent non-profit, and I'm going to try and dispassionately describe the mission and the financials of what #Kony2012 means. (That right there is a lie...I can't do anything dispassionately...I'm typing this passionately. Sorry.)

I'm going to first pull info DIRECTLY from the website "Kony 2012 is an international campaign by Invisible Children, aiming to bring Joseph Kony to justice." And here is what this means:

Joseph Kony is the leader of a rebel group that MOVES AROUND THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA, from country to country. The group is named the "Lord's Resistance Army" (LRA) and they kidnap boys to force them to fight. They rape and murder the girls or sell them into the sex trade. He is not located directly in Uganda and the video that Invisible Children made does portray events that occurred in the past. This war is very old...and it's current. So the images, while dated, are true to life today.

The #Kony2012 movement has ONE purpose: capture Joseph Kony in front of the world's eyes. They aren't seeking to reform governments or bring democracy to African countries. They seek to CAPTURE one man and put him in an international court for his crimes. THAT IS IT.

There are two goals...only two goals.
1- Make sure the whole planet knows who Kony is. If he's as "famous" as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein or Momar Qaddafi, then he can't hide. Seriously....this is the first mission. Let me translate it so it's hyper clear: they want you to know his face. They want you to show other people his face. THAT is mission one. And it's FREE and it's simple.

2- Utilize the 100 US advisers that are already there to support the Ugandan army in his capture. THAT'S IT. Invisible Children isn't asking for military intervention, air strikes, ground troops or any other manner of the US war machine. The US military advisers are set to come home this year and the clock is ticking. IC wants the job finished before they come home. 

Is this making sense? It's a simple mission with one directive. It's not complicated, it doesn't involve cultural understanding, it doesn't involve giant governmental commitment or vast resources. They are seeking the arrest of one man. That's the goal. Maybe it's so complicated for people because it's so simple.....

Here's where I get hyper-passionate, because on this issue people seem so myopic I wonder how they function in life at all.

GO TO THIS PAGE where they've released their financial report: 

If that's too time-consuming, let me sum it up. 

-They have a sub-par charity rating (by one organization whom the world is content to trust as being completely outside the realm of influence or motive...weird) because they haven't really been big enough in all their years to require 5 board members. They're hiring one now. WOW...that's pretty crazy, huh? They must be complete thieves. ONLY 4 BOARD MEMBERS?!?! For a charity hardly anyone recognized before 3 days ago?? Preposterous.

-Only about one third of the money goes to a ground cause. READ ON MY LITTLE SHEEP!! Here's why...they only ever seek to dedicate 1/3 to ground support. Why, you ask...(no you don't, you just want to demonize them for the 30% without asking why, but WHY is the reason I'm writing keep reading.) Invisible Children has a three-prong attack in their make-up. Now I know that (strangely) three prongs is more than we can handle in our brains, even though the ONE mission of #Kony2012 is equally befuddling. 

The three prongs are: Awareness (1/3 of money) Documentation (1/3 of money) and Ground Cause (1/3 of money). That's three thirds. It equals all the money they get and a complete breakdown of where every single dollar went is on the link I gave before. 

THEREFORE, if only 30% (or 37% according to their 2011 financial disclosure) is spent on ground work...then they aren't shady or suspect. They're doing exactly what they say they're going to do. What is the point of ground work if no one knows what's happening? And travelling to remote areas of Africa, as blond American white boys, isn't necessarily the safest thing to do ever in all of life. It's dangerous and expensive. And they're FILMING it. And then bringing that back to the first world and giving it away for free. 

They DO pay the state of California, the three founders pay themselves $80,000-$90,000 a year. Which is just a bit above the median household income for the state, if we can believe the US Census, and accounts for less than 3% of their total revenue (that's less than 1% for each of them). For reference: The founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation pays herself over $417,000 a year, which is also less than 1% of total revenue.

Ah, now we're down to the nitty gritty. What DO you HAVE to do? Nothing. 

You don't have to do one teeny tiny thing.

You can block all #Kony2012 messages from Twitter, or Facebook. You can stop reading people's tumblr's for a while (or people's blogs...whatever...) until our global 20 minutes of attention wanes. You don't have to do anything. 

And if you're not doing anything, then maybe you want to politely excuse yourself from the international conversation.

Because some people are feeling really passionately about this, and they might WANT to donate their time and effort (even *gasp* their money!) to this cause. And people who want to nit pick it to death aren't really doing anything positive. If you don't support them, don't support them. It seems relatively simple to me...but please don't criticize them as way to criticize ME for doing some homework and deciding that I think they're okay. 

No one is coming to your house and stealing your money or your kids (that's something they're doing in Africa...and there's this movement taking place you might have heard of...) so everyone can take a BIG DEEP BREATH and carry on with their lives just like normal. Donate or don't. Make a flier or don't. Post Kony's picture or don't. But for those people who read a few incendiary blogs, spouting lies and (not even veiled) misrepresentations and then criticize the effort based on that? My passion for YOU spilleth over....

Why not look around, count your blessings, make a quiet pledge to do something useful...and then get on with it? 

How novel.


  1. I totally agree on what you say!!! I' m so damed tired of the criticism... I'm not buying all of what "Invisible Children" stands for but they main goal is to capture a man who must be taken to face justice in the International Court, wether or not he id"active" or not right now - and that I support!
    I'm amazed that theese guys acctually in only 3 days reached ther first goal: let the whole word be awere of who Joseph Kony is and spread his face. People all over the whole world is talking about KONY 2012 and everybofy has seen his picture! I'm amazed....


  2. Thank you for your comment, Kristin. The power of social media can't be minimized anymore, and that's fantastic!

  3. Basically, you have a man who made a promise. To his friend in Uganda and to stop Kony. He has done so much and has not only put his reputation on the line but he has his son there as inspiration. He collects a salary of 80-90k you say. That may be a lot but compared to what you say Susan Komen makes, not so bad. The problem is, Kony is still out there. SO let everyone get off criticizing and let's get this guy caught. Imagine if Social Media was around when Hitler was out there! How many lives would have been saved? And I am sure there would have been critics saying, how much you getting out of trying to stop this guy Hitler! Maybe, just maybe...there are actually some good people out there!

  4. That's true, Brad. I don't think I've ever thought about how different history would be if widespread communication had been possible. Even telephones are small and slow compared to public platforms like You Tube, Facebook and Twitter. It connects us in real time. Thanks for reading.