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Invisible Children: A Cause without an Effect

So, I know this topic is starting to become dated seeing as the hype about Invisible Children ended around May this year. But, while finishing up a presentation for my Oral Communication class that was about this subject, I began to think more about the issue. So, here it goes: 
      Invisible Children, Inc. is an organization founded in 2004 to bring awareness to the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa, and its leader, Joseph Kony. Specifically, the group seeks to put an end to the practices of the LRA which include abductions and abuse of children, and forcing them to serve as soldiers. However, Invisible Children fails to contribute to any effective actions that could lead to the arrest of Joseph Kony and the dissimulation of the LRA due to the following reasons: 
A.     The Invisible Children Foundation portrays themselves as a direct relief organization, yet fails to sponsor effective direct relief efforts.
B.     The Invisible Children Foundation spends the bulk of their finances in awareness media, and not on direct relief efforts.
C.     Invisible Children supports U.S. military action in Uganda as well as the Ugandan government.
     Whether intentional or not, Invisible Children is typically portrayed as a direct relief organization. Yet, they fail to sponsor effective direct relief efforts.  Contrary to what they portray themselves as, the Invisible Children Foundation is largely an awareness organization, rather than a direct relief organization. The majority of money, effort, and time is spent on making posters, shirts, bracelets, and viral videos such as the “KONY 2012”, “Cover the Night” and “Move”. In all of these videos and other advertisements, the issue they claim to address is oversimplified. In all of the videos, Invisible Children simply asks “activists” to hang up provided posters and donate some money if possible. 

    By oversimplifying the complex social standings, history, and politics behind the conflict in Uganda and other North African countries, Invisible Children demonizes Joseph Kony and the LRA without considering other factors that have contributed to this conflict. Invisible Children also plays on stereotypes of African nations as undeveloped and in desperate need of help that only “civilized” Westerners can provide.Invisible Children’s awareness campaigns are the epitome of modern “slacktivism”.

    These campaigns only ask activists to hang posters, share viral videos, and buy shirts. They falsely empower the audience to make them feel as though they are actually making a difference, when they are not. By doing this, these campaigns only succeed in creating a false sense of self-accomplishment in the viewers, and commeralizes the issue into a “fad”. There is no meaningful discussion within these campaigns, nor do they stimulate any productive public discourse about the issue. This is counter-intuitive because this prevents actual progress in Uganda and surrounding countries. 

    Invisible Children funds these ineffective awareness campaigns with a large portion of their finances. The Invisible Children Foundation is registered as not for profit, so its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent eight million six hundred seventy six thousand six hundred fourteen dollars.  Out of this money that was spent only thirty two percent of it went to direct services with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel, transport, and film production.

   The sum of their finances tend to go towards military support. The Invisible Children tend to support the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation. Even though these armies have been criticized with accusations of a rape and looting, the Invisible Children Foundation still stands behind them.Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers,” and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.

   He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest. Since a majority of Invisible Children’s finances go toward awareness campaigns, they lack the ability to aid in direct relief efforts.

   Instead, Invisible Children supports direct military intervention. Invisible Children supports political stances and efforts that could be counter-intuitive to effective direct relief efforts. Invisible Children is in favor of direct military intervention by both the American and Ugandan militaries. This would cause the inevitable outcome of trained military personnel getting into gun fights with armed children.  


   Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”.Invisible Children still focuses many of their efforts in Uganda even though the LRA is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006, by their own admission.  Many Ugandan diplomats and public figures have had peace negotiations with Joseph Kony and the LRA. They claim that these negotiations have led to progress without violence and destruction caused by military action.

   Invisible Children fails to effectively address issues caused by Kony and the LRA through oversimplified and ineffective awareness campaigns, the large amount of money put into these campaigns rather than direct aid efforts, as well as supporting political actions that could ultimately lead to as much violence and social upheaval as they are trying to put an end to. Invisible Children fails to address the issues they claim to due to their emphasis on awareness efforts, lack of financial aid to direct relief efforts, and poor, oversimplified political stances.

    If you have seen any of Invisible Children’s awareness advertisements and feel as though you need to help, please remember that there are many other organizations that contribute to productive direct relief efforts. True activism is not easy, and requires sacrifice, rather than just hanging up a posters. 


   Once  you are more informed about the conflicts in Uganda and surrounding countries, as well as Invisible Children, please help in creating a productive and effective public discourse about this issue. The people affected by the atrocities of Joseph Kony and the LRA deserve to be considered in an intelligent and effective way.

Activism, not slacktivism guys.

Activism, not slacktivism guys. 

{P Y F H }{ Y H G},


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