COLUMN: Clarifying Kony
Editor’s note: Caitlin Cheevers is president of Central Michigan University’s Invisible Children registered student organization.
Invisible Children’s newest documentary, Kony 2012, was viewed more than 70 million times in just five days. For those who haven’t seen it, the video can be viewed at www.kony2012.com.
With this sudden fame came a flood of criticisms of the organization, namely the clarity (or lack thereof) of the movie and the financials of the nonprofit. I would like to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the campaign.
First of all, the LRA is no longer in Uganda. While it is mentioned in the movie, many believe the rebels’ movement into DR Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic is not obvious enough. It may have been a quick point made in the movie, but it is important to remember the movie’s intention: to bring awareness of Joseph Kony to American youth.
To keep the attention of young people, simplicity is essential. If the documentary were simply a narration of facts of the complicated history of the war, it would not have been nearly as viral. People would get bored and stop watching.
Invisible Children has made 10 other documentaries with a more thorough explanation of the war. None of them went viral.
Many people do not realize the mission of Invisible Children. It is not an aid organization; it is an awareness organization.
The nonprofit started as a documentary to bring awareness to a war in Central East Africa. After an outcry from the American public who wanted to donate, the organization began rebuilding schools, setting up a radio network and employing Ugandans.
The aid provided is not the main goal, so only one-third of donations are used toward these projects. If you are not comfortable funding movies that bring awareness to child soldiers in Africa, by all means donate to other organizations like UNICEF who provide more aid to the affected community. Invisible Children encourages such donations.
For an organization whose main goal is to bring awareness to Kony, I would say they have been successful.
The salaries of some of the senior staff members have also been widely publicized and critiqued. Most make between $80,000 and $90,000 a year. While this may seem like a lot, it is important to remember they live in San Diego. An $80,000 salary in San Diego only goes as far as a $54,000 salary in Grand Rapids. For a family of four, the money does not go very far.
One of the main points to remember about Kony 2012 is that you do not have to support Invisible Children to want to bring Joseph Kony to justice. This is not about three guys from San Diego who decided to tell a story. This is about children being forced to kill their parents and fight in a war older than they are.
To anyone who criticizes the movement to stop Joseph Kony, I wish you luck in telling these children you actively helped turn people away from ending the war that is ruining their lives.
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