#STOPKONY2012 - To Support or Not To Support?
If you’ve logged onto Facebook in the past 24 hours, you’ve probably seen the "Kony 2012" video pop up at least a few times on your news feed. The same goes for Twitter.
In case you’re not familiar with, the video was produced by a San Diego non-profit called “Invisible Children, Inc.” The charity produced and uploaded the 28-minute documentary - titled “Kony 2012” - to YouTube in order to bring attention to Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army, which, according to ABC News, is alleged by human rights groups to have “terrorized central Africa for years.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the documentary has been viewed more than 40 million times since it was uploaded on March 5. In part, the video’s success can be attributed to multiple celebrity endorsements. Among those voicing their support via Twitter: Oprah, Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Ryan Gosling. President Obama also came out on Thursday in support of the Kony 2012 campaign.
But, as the Los Angeles Times noted, “the campaign has also spurred a debate about whether the nonprofit behind the effort and its empowering tools of social media — Twitter, YouTube and Facebook — are dangerously oversimplifying the dilemma.”
Some wonder if the “Stop Kony” social media campaign is really even doing anything to help. The Guardian’s Michael Wilkerson wrote:
There is no question that the LRA has been one of the most horrifying armed forces in the past half century. But while the video urges spreading the word, signing a pledge, buying an action kit of Kony 2012 bracelets and posters, and of course donating to Invisible Children, it’s hard to understand how this will aid the current slow chase of Kony and his forces through some of the most intractable terrain in the world.
US military advisers have been helping the Ugandan army track the LRA since October, and Invisible Children wants to keep pressure on the US to maintain or improve that assistance. But as there has not been a whisper of possibly withdrawing this support, raising it as the reason for urgency seems slightly odd.
Furthermore, as the video has become more widespread, so too has the criticism of “Kony 2012” and the non-profit behind it.
According to The Huffington Post: “The campaign’s newfound attention was quickly riddled with criticisms of the Invisible Children organization, including its aid-spending practices, a controversial photo of the NGO’s members posing with guns, and the project’s neo-colonial undertones.”
And Visible Children, a tumblr blog critical of the “Stop Kony” campaign, pointed out that Invisible Children is focusing on military intervention: “Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away.”
On Thursday, the company responded to some of the criticism. In a statement posted to its website, the non-profit said, in part, “As you will see, we spend roughly one third of our money on each of these three goals. This three-prong approach is what makes Invisible Children unique. Some organizations focus exclusively on documenting human rights abuses, some focus exclusively on international advocacy or awareness, and some focus exclusively on on-the-ground development. We do all three. At the same time. This comprehensive model is intentional and has proven to be very effective.” (Read the full statement here).