Okay, the big controversy today has been caused by Invisible Children’s Kony2012 campaign. To stop me from having to recap, here is the film they released: http://vimeo.com/37119711
And, trending this morning, here’s an article, reposted by Neil Gaiman on his tumblr feed, by Grant Oyston: http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/18900935579/i-think-this-is-what-im-most-comfortable-posting-on
Below is my response (originally written on a friend’s repost of Gaiman’s repost on Facebook):
I don’t know enough to endorse Invisible Children, but the critical point is that the professor giving the 31% figure is doing so because he doesn’t include film-making as programming. However, Invisible Children’s strength is that they are raising awareness about Kony, so to deny the film-making as programming is, I think, a bit off.
Not every charity is Charity:Water or the United Way or The Red Cross. Whether you agree with the Kony2012 campaign or not, it’s only by massive awareness that it will work, far beyond the level of awareness needed by those other organizations that I mentioned.
Staff salaries and transportation are also a big chunk, but keep these two points in mind: 1) the group’s activities are centered around Africa, which is far away, and 2) 8.7 million dollars is not a huge budget for an American charity doing international awareness work.
The professor who Gaiman reposts here seems to disagree that film-making and slacktivism can be effective drivers of change, but then seems to say the opposite by discouraging people that military intervention is a good idea, as if KONY2012 can be successful.
As I say, I haven’t done enough research yet to know whether direct military intervention is needed, but the fact that Kony has been able to do what he does for more than two decades offends my sense of justice. I’m not thrilled about the Ugandan military’s record either, but sometimes our decisions are between "bad" and "the worst", and the real question is: will waiting for the best solution allow the worst to continue while we waffle?
And one final thing: I wonder about the professor’s motives. I clicked the link to Charity Navigator in the article, and the rating of Invisible Children is actually 3 out of four stars.
Since then, I’ve found this article in the Independent, which I think is more balanced and has less of an axe to grind: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/03/07/stop-kony-yes-but-dont-stop-asking-questions/
JusticeInConflict also offers an opinion: http://justiceinconflict.org/2012/03/07/taking-kony-2012-down-a-notch/ One of the main points of this article is that Kony is already famous enough. I think the writer is living in a bubble. Ask someone on the street today who Kony is, or even who the Lord’s Resistance Army is, and chances are they will have no idea. The goal. it seems to me, is to make Kony as famous as Osama bin Laden.
And finally, I think the best writing about Kony2012 is here: http://securingrights.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/lets-talk-about-kony/
I really like the idea of Kony2012 mobilizing people to do something about the issue, and it’s not professor Oyston’s rather dubious criticism that deters me, but the idea that Invisible Children, in order to make the issue, shall we say “actionable”, have perhaps removed the nuance from it.
If you’re learned nothing else from reading my blog, you have learned that I like facts, and I don’t like when facts are obfuscated for a storytelling goal (see http://jpquake.info). It would be one thing if the video contained a link to more information on the issue and actually discussed the nuance, but it doesn’t. The website simply lets you sign their petition or buy merchandise/donate. Despite the fact that I want to get involved and strongly feel that Kony needs to be stopped (and I don’t mean that as a euphemism, I mean captured or killed, preferably the former so he can be brought to justice in front of the world), I would call on Invisible Children to make public their analysis so that people can actually know what exactly they are supporting.
Invisible Children: you’ve almost got me. Give me more info and I may be able to move from the role of cautious friend to an endorser.