“Kony 2012” was released online on March 5th, 2012 by Invisible Children, Inc., a non-profit organization that was founded in 2004 to shed light on the activities of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. Immediately after the film’s release, the video went viral, reaching an astronomic view count of 50 million in just one day.
The LRA, a Ugandan rebel force claiming Christian roots led by Joseph Kony, is believed to have recruited/kidnapped 50,000 to 100,000 children for use as soldiers in his army since 1987, and the film leads its audience to believe the numbers of child fighters in the army are still in that order. In fact, the size of the entire LRA is now well below several hundred fighters after Kony and his forces were driven from Ugandan territory in the mid 2000’s.
This may not seem like a serious point of contention when we can all agree that Kony is an altogether despicable man. He killed tens of thousands of innocent people throughout Central Africa, to be sure. And while the Kony 2012 campaign might be trying to do some good by shedding light on the activities of LRA, not giving the audience all the facts, or even the wrong ones, amounts to making an expensive, spectacular fiction film.
The only thing that is black and white in this world are those half-black-and-half-white cookies; the events of the LRA and Africa are much more complex than what is shown in this movie. I understand the intention to want to spread the word of an important cause, but is it really benefiting that cause if it is hidden behind a series of half-truths? Invisible Children spent over $1 million on production for Kony 2012, and even Jedidiah Jenkins, Invisible Children’s Director of Ideology, admits that, “the truth about Invisible Children is that we are not an aid organization, and we don’t intend to be. I think people think we’re over there delivering shoes or food. But we are an advocacy and awareness organization.”
For an organization raising tens of millions of dollars in donations, the fact that less than 40% of that revenue is used for actual non-profit purposes is troubling. I wrote this article because everyone on my Facebook page all of a sudden seemed to be Kony activists. I truly hope Invisible Children’s $1 million budget for travel, and the resulting pictures of kids with AK-47s and RPGs, helped the children that suffered under Kony. I’m more convinced, though, that $1 million in aid would go much further than lavishing donations on making videos that are only partly true. Imagine the food, housing, and water that can be gotten with even half that money.