Supporters respond to KONY 2012 criticisms

The KONY 2012 campaign video had gone viral within 24 hours of its world premiere on March 5th, and within 48 hours, the non-profit organization Invisible Children (IC) was hit with a wave of criticisms.

(KONY 2012 website photo)

By Christine Bennett

The KONY 2012 campaign video had gone viral within 24 hours of its world premiere on March 5th, and within 48 hours, the non-profit organization Invisible Children (IC) was hit with a wave of criticisms.

The 30-minute video calls for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony is best known for kidnapping children and forcing them to fight for him.

Numerous skeptics began posting critiques of IC’s new video on blogs and websites like Visible Children, accusing the organization of oversimplifying the issues at hand. IC agrees that this is what it did.

IC’s official response to criticisms explains that the video “sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format, focusing on the core attributes of LRA leadership that infringe upon the most basic of human rights,” and admits that many nuances of the conflict were “lost or overlooked”.

A screening of KONY 2012 at Dalhousie on March 7 was put on by Rachael Capone, team leader of IC team Northern Exposure, who witnessed the largest university turnout she has seen in her two years as a roadie.

While she agrees that the video was oversimplified, she believes it’s a good starting point.

“For a lot of people, this was their introduction to the issue,” she says. “I think it gives them a solid foundation on the topic, and now it is up to them to look into the history and details of the conflict.”

Related Resources
IC video response
Director answers critics
Criticism in Uganda

IC openly encourages healthy skepticism.

“Criticisms are necessary in any movement,” Capone says. “The video shouldn’t just be accepted at face value.”

Another issue raised concerned the organization’s finances. IC was accused of spending too much on salaries and too little on programs.

“(Film director) Jason’s (Russell) salary is $90,000. It’s not that much when you think about it. This organization is his life. He has a wife and two kids, and his wife doesn’t work,” Capone said. “Almost 84 per cent of our funding goes to programs, which includes anything from ground programs in Africa to programs here.”

Monique Kalthoff has been a member of Dalhousie’s Invisible Children Society for two years, and is no stranger to the criticisms of the organization.

“The primary site that was most quoted in opposition to Invisible Children and their objectives was Visible Children” Kalthoff says. “What it did was attack their budget and the amount that actually goes to help people at a grassroots level.”

However, Kalthoff says that if the analysis was broken down, it would have shown that IC does a lot more at a local level than one would think.

“The (organization’s) merchandise, certain things like the bags, are made by women. It empowers women. It’s economic liberation, but none of that was really talked about.”

The organization has also received criticisms of travel costs, an aspect of the organization that Capone admits is quite costly.

“We’re advocates of meeting face-to-face, though it’s very expensive,” Capone said.

Kalthoff believes that the travel costs are necessary.

“So much of their transportation costs go towards putting roadies on the road so they can give presentations like this at Dal and get an entire student body inspired and engaged,” she says. “That’s not a waste of money in any way. That is activism and awareness.”

Related audio
Monique Kalthoff shares her opinions
on the criticisms of KONY 2012.

Charity Navigator’s rating of IC’s accountability was 2/4, which also made people skeptical of the organization. Capone said, “We did have a 4/4, but someone stepped down from the board of advisors. The 2/4 is because we now have one empty seat we’re looking to fill.”

The KONY 2012 video failed to highlight IC’s involvement with the Ugandan army. That has a reputation of raping and looting, which caused some to question whether this involvement meant that IC condoned the army’s practices.

“It’s a blatant misunderstanding of Invisible Children’s core values. We stand for peace, so we wouldn’t fund militaries in other countries. I wouldn’t be here if the organization supported military actions. It supports advisory armies,” says Capone.

Capone is hopeful for the future of the movement.

“There will always be criticism, but I don’t see it hindering the organization.”