Invisible Children’s Scam?

I was told by at least a dozen people to “make sure that Kony gets in the paper.” OK. Here it is.

First off, get your facts straight, please.

Invisible Children is not the most angelic organization in the world. In fact, they are one of the most controversial activist non-profits operating in Africa today. They have routinely been accused of mishandling funds and misleading donors. In fact, some organizations that track non-profits have given them the lowest rating of any aid-giving non-profit in all of Africa.

According to Invisible Children’s own public financial sheets, less than 1/3 of their donations were even spent in ways to help children in Africa. Meanwhile, the three founders are making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Things like this, mixed with their refusal to cooperate with the Better Business Bureau, or have outside agencies audit their largely cash donation have led to a lower transparency rating on reputable websites like charitynavigator.org. Besides the borderline-fraudulent finances of Invisible Children, their solution (or lack of) to the “Kony problem” have be less than acceptable.

They have yet to give any real answers as to how they intend to “stop Kony.” The only thing that they have managed to do is create an emotionally manipulative video to deceive students into donating money. Their only claim is that by liking and sharing this video, and buying their merchandise of course, you can help stop this madman. I’m sorry, but the thought that some kid sitting on his bed in Orange County is having any impact in stopping Kony isn’t just deceitful, it’s hubris and reminiscent of some White Man’s Burden story. This isn’t the first time Invisible Children have played on the White Man’s Burden shtick. One of their recent campaigns was the mock abduction of yourself, to help abducted children.

I’m not downplaying the incredibly important role as a catalyst for social change any one person can be. You, as a college student, have tremendous power to make change in the world. Buying a bracelet from Invisible Children is not doing anything though. Especially when it’s from an organization who can’t tell you what they are going to do with your money other than give it to militants.

Yes, Invisible Children supports direct military intervention. After failed wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, even harping back to President Clinton initiating aid to Congo that resulted in, according to the Human Security Report Project, 5.4 million lives lost, I would think that we should know by now that military intervention in other countries is not a good idea. There is a Ugandan saying that goes, “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” How à propos.

To make things worse, Invisible Children isn’t supporting just any military. They are choosing to support one of the most corrupt militaries in the world. This military oppresses any freedom of press, religion, homosexuality (which should make all the left-leaning college students cringe), and routinely torture citizens using the infamous “kandoy” technique (it involves binding hands and feet behind the back, severely beating and attaching electrodes to genitals). The Ugandan military has violated human rights through the means of rape, torture and genocide (like that of the Acholi people) just like the man Invisible Children is trying to stop. And don’t forget the fact that Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is mostly composed of child soldiers. The Ugandan military’s plan to eliminate the threat of the LRA is not to liberate the children, but to kill everyone in the army. So, basically, Invisible Children is directly supporting a group that rapes citizens and murders children. If that comes off sounding a bit extreme, read the last paragraph again and tell me if it was anything but true.

Invisible Children countered on their website by saying that they also support the United States sending advisers to Uganda. I just want to point out the fact that, in an eerily similar situation, we sent a handful of “advisers” to then French Indochina. Cue the Vietnam War.

Now, let’s move onto the fact that Kony probably isn’t even alive. He was seen in 2006 (trying to make a peace bargain), and after that, he was last seen starving to death in the Congo. If he IS alive, he’s in Congo.

Why would Invisible Children be supporting a military in Uganda then? After scouring African newspapers, you’ll find that Kony and the LRA haven’t even been active in years. So what is this? A huge PR stunt, basically.

Kony 2012 is just the newest in Invisible Children’s scams to get you to give money to the three founders. Just to clarify, I’m not saying that Joseph Kony is a good guy (I’m not Rush Limbaugh, after all). I think he is a terrible, terrible person. I do, however, think that there are much worse people who are much more active in Africa that deserve the attention.

Kony, however, is a catchy name, and the story makes for a great viral marketing campaign. I think that, while deeply corrupt, Invisible Children is (probably) a good-hearted organization. But that doesn’t mean that they can manipulate the masses so they profit off people’s emotions.

So, I urge you, reader, to get your facts straight … and stop sending me Facebook invites.

 

Justin Huft is a third-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at jhuft@uci.edu.