Invisible Children: 'Kony 2012' Campaign Isn't Just 'Passing Fad'
Invisible Children, the movement behind the viral campaign sensation "Kony 2012" insists its mission is more than just a "passing fad."
After making its Internet debut Monday, "Kony 2012" -- a 30-minute documentary about indicted war criminal Joseph Kony -- garnered more than 57 million views. The film illuminates how the leader of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army brutally forces Ugandan children into both sex slavery and war.
While reception toward the video itself has been positive, Invisible Children has encountered a subsequent barrage of criticism.
Experts say that Invisible Children is wasting its budget dollars on narrowly-focused filmmaking and marketing while failing to address the more pressing medical issues Ugandans face. Others suggest that the initial social media frenzy is merely a passing "craze" that the organization won't be able to sustain, CBS reports.
"The issue with social media is really highlighted by Invisible Children," writes Siene Anstis, a McGill law student who has worked with Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach in Northern Uganda. "The number of 'likes' on your Facebook page is not necessarily related to the quality of information you share. Social media allows making anything viral, quickly. People often do not look into the substance of the message, or even watch the video you are sending.”
But Invisible Children disagrees, saying that accruing millions of views is all the proof they need to show that people care about capturing Joseph Kony.
"Our dream for this movie was to get 500,000 views in the year 2013," Jedidiah Jenkins, director of ideology for Invisible Children, told CBS Friday. "So the fact that it took off like it did only shows that young people specifically are so hungry for someone to voice their world view, which is, 'We're all equal, we're all human beings and there's no excuse that a kid on the other side of the world could be tortured and kidnapped and not us.'"
Even if the film's number of views correlates to the movement's chances of sticking around, some humanitarian workers find the goal inherently flawed. TMS Ruge, founder of Project Diaspora -- an organization that mobilizes the African Diaspora to help empower the continent's development -- is one such thinker
He noted in a blog post Thursday that finding Kony "is not a priority of immediate concern." Ruge pointed out that millions of children could be saved daily from malaria if only they had bed nets. He also stated that more Ugandans died in road accidents last year than at the hands of LRA attacks in Central Africa in the past three years combined.
The organization's spending practices have also come under fire.
According to CBS, Invisible Children spent $8.9 million, of which only $3.3 million funded programs in Central Africa. The rest was spent on marketing, management, general expenses, media and "awareness products."
Invisible Children, however, continues to defend its budget, saying that getting the word out is key to activating citizens, who will then be inspired to make effective change.
"We've never pretended all the money goes to the ground, because we don't believe that's the best use," Jenkins told CBS. "The best use is spreading the word and then doing the highest-impact programs possible on the ground."
But even as the number of "Kony 2012" views climbs, skeptics remain unconvinced that this movement is doing much more than just self-aggrandizing its founders and temporarily riling up new supporters.
"I am afraid everyone is missing the true aim of [Invisible Children's] brilliant marketing strategy," Ruge writes. "They are not selling justice, democracy or restoration of anyone's dignity. This is a self-aware machine that must continually find a reason to be relevant."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article described the goal of Project Diaspora as helping to empower the "country's development," rather than the continent's development.
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