By Ashley Mentzer
College students and young people are often targeted to support advocacy and awareness campaigns. So, it's no surprise that Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign was an instant trending topic on Twitter and other social networking websites like Facebook and Tumblr. For a 30 minute video, people seem to be paying a lot of attention.
Unfortunately, this campaign isn't about hot dogs like it sounds, but about a military leader named Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. He's become a war criminal after kidnapping children and using them as soldiers in central Africa's current civil war. The war that began among the Acholi people of Uganda and Kony's army has since expanded into South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.
Obviously, this guy is up to no good -- he and his army are responsible for murders, rapes, kidnappings and the destruction of entire villages.
So, Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children, decided to capitalize on social media and conduct an "experiment" to recruit for his cause. The mini-documentary that emerged is emotion-laden and appeals to the kind hearts of donators. Russell begins the movie with video clips of his young son, suggesting that by stopping Kony, we can safely provide for the people we wish to protect. Does this sound like a hot steaming pile of rhetoric to anyone else? The appeal concludes with a request to donate to Invisible Children or to purchase an "Action Pack," which is full of posters and leaflets.
It appears, though, that Invisible Children's support is only fighting fire with fire: They monetarily support soldiers and the Ugandan government in their attempts to defeat the LRA. Kony hasn't even been in Uganda for about six years.
Bloggers and other Internet users have done some investigative work, and revealed that Charity Navigator gave Invisible Children a two out of four stars rating in accountability because the group refuses to have its finances audited by a committee.
A troubling aspect of this campaign is the underlying hint of colonialism that many critics are calling attention to. As Americans, we feel some responsibility in solving this problem that doesn't occur within our borders. Are we feeling remorseful for the economic inequity that we solidified for Africa? President Obama sent 100 soldiers to central Africa, so this isn't a conflict totally removed from American spectrum.
Many people clicking the "donate" button for this campaign couldn't even locate Uganda on a map before a few days ago. If you're invested in a cause, do your research about where your money goes and whom it benefits.