Most days, I read through my twitter feed, clicking every article that looks interesting. I go through the tabs and read all of them. Some days, it’s compelling research and insightful thoughts on current events. It’s edifying, and I enjoy it.
Today wasn’t really one of those days. It’s discouraging. Every article shared by those I follow was about some atrocity or injustice… and if not that, criticisms of the Stop Kony campaign.
(If you haven’t seen it yet, stop here. Watch it.)
Let’s be real, Americans: most of us would have no idea what was going on in central Africa were it not for the efforts of Invisible Children. We may have found out about the issue from other sources, but it never would be on our controversy radar at the level it is now. It would probably be on a lower, ambient-awareness level like clean water, the Japan tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, uprisings in the Arab world, or malaria: maybe a $10 donation via the cell phone bill once, but we haven’t seen much on it since.
Whether or not you are in favor of Invisible Children’s latest effort to draw your attention to Kony and the LRA, a few things are true:
-It is highly likely that your first exposure to the issue was through an IC documentary. There are ten. You have probably seen at least one.
–IC is not an aid organization, nor do they claim to be. They are an advocacy and awareness organization. And since we’re now very aware of the issue they advocate, how have they not fulfilled their exact mission?
-Questions about how IC spends its money are good questions to ask. But before you cry out that they spent $x doing ____, compare them to other large, international nonprofits. You won’t see much difference. There is a standard, and IC meets it.
-The video does primarily feature a 5-year-old American boy. There are plenty of other non-profit promo documentaries (including IC’s earlier work) that feature only locals and their stories. Let’s be real again: they’re hard for us to relate to. “Kony 2012” targets us and what we can do to connect with the issue. So for this specific story, they picked a main character who is like us: learning about Africa, and being inspired to do something.
I’m stopping there. A few more bullet points come to mind to push back at some of the criticism, but I want to get to something else.
I work for a small, international non-profit. I have been to Uganda. I have friends who have survived genocides. The LRA and similar global atrocities are on my mind a lot. And even with all of the wonderful, well-intentioned efforts to restore and empower the affected people & communities, these things are still happening. The problems are immensely complicated, helping is even more complicated. Smart help sometimes seems impossible.
Here is my only request here: stop the hate. If you care about central Africa, join the movement and help them do it better rather than shooting down a well-made, far-reaching documentary. Keep asking questions. And read more. Read everything.
Yes, there are things IC has not done perfectly. But if you call the world’s attention to those things, I hope it’s because your time, money, and intellect are going to better organizations you can tell us about.
IC does not claim that the Stop Kony campaign is the absolute solution to violence in central Africa. But they’ve got us talking, asking, and looking for more information. And for that, I applaud them.
What other issues are on your radar right now? What international efforts do you support?