Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hate To Be a Drag

Via The Daily What

On Kony 2012: I honestly wanted to stay as far away as possible from KONY 2012, the latest fauxtivist fad sweeping the web (remember “change your Facebook profile pic to stop child abuse”?), but you clearly won’t stop sending me that damn video until I say something about it, so here goes:

Stop sending me that video.

The organization behind Kony 2012 — Invisible Children Inc. — is an extremely shady nonprofit that has been called ”misleading,” “naive,” and “dangerous” by a Yale political science professor, and has been accused by Foreign Affairs of “manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes.” They have also been criticized by the Better Business Bureau for refusing to provide information necessary to determine if IC meets the Bureau’s standards.

Additionally, IC has a low two-star rating in accountability from Charity Navigator because they won’t let their financials be independently audited. That’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s a very bad thing, and should make you immediately pause and reflect on where the money you’re sending them is going.

By IC’s own admission, only 31% of all the funds they receive go toward actually helping anyone [pdf]. The rest go to line the pockets of the three people in charge of the organization, to pay for their travel expenses (over $1 million in the last year alone) and to fund their filmmaking business (also over a million) — which is quite an effective way to make more money, as clearly illustrated by the fact that so many can’t seem to stop forwarding their well-engineered emotional blackmail to everyone they’ve ever known.

And as far as what they do with that money:

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. 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arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Let’s not get our lines crossed: The Lord’s Resistance Army is bad news. And Joseph Kony is a very bad man, and needs to be stopped. But propping up Uganda’s decades-old dictatorship and its military arm, which has been accused by the UN of committing unspeakable atrocities and itself facilitated the recruitment of child soldiers, is not the way to go about it.

The United States is already plenty involved in helping rout Kony and his band of psycho sycophants. Kony is on the run, having been pushed out of Uganda, and it’s likely he will soon be caught, if he isn’t already dead. But killing Kony won’t fix anything, just as killing Osama bin Laden didn’t end terrorism. The LRA might collapse, but, as Foreign Affairs points out, it is “a relatively small player in all of this — as much a symptom as a cause of the endemic violence.”

Myopically placing the blame for all of central Africa’s woes on Kony — even as a starting point — will only imperil many more people than are already in danger.

Sending money to a nonprofit that wants to muck things up by dousing the flames with fuel is not helping. Want to help? Really want to help? Send your money to nonprofits that are putting more than 31% toward rebuilding the region’s medical and educational infrastructure, so that former child soldiers have something worth coming home to.

Here are just a few of those charities. They all have a sparkling four-star rating from Charity Navigator, and, more importantly, no interest in airdropping American troops armed to the teeth into the middle of a multi-nation tribal war to help one madman catch another.

The bottom line is, research your causes thoroughly. Don’t just forward a random video to a stranger because a mass murderer makes a five-year-old “sad.” Learn a little bit about the complexities of the region’s ongoing strife before advocating for direct military intervention.

There is no black and white in the world. And going about solving important problems like there is just serves to make all those equally troubling shades of gray invisible.



Care said...

I love a good debate and while I was trying to sleep last night I actually did some research on the Invisible Children by reading up on the Visible Children. It does seem like a shady operation, however, how does wanting to help a cause that definitely did need MORE exposure bad? I all about getting the word out as well as educating the masses even if it is by Facebook or a video. Fact is, many people world wide had no idea that there is this sort of genocide happening in Africa. I have read plenty of books on it, attending lectures from escaped child soldiers and HAVE done some research. While I did give the organization $35.00 of my money and maybe only $10.00 is going towards their cause, I don't feel badly about it. So, to all the "YOU NEVER CARED BEFORE, SO WHY CARE NOW" bullshit that's being thrown around. Instead, I am thankful to be reminded that the world DOES have a heart and that people DO care. I think its a right step in the right direction. Invisible Children, Kony2012 or something else. If it gets people talking about helping stop the way children are treated in Africa, I'm in.

Care said...

and, in response to, "The bottom line is, research your causes thoroughly. Don’t just forward a random video to a stranger because a mass murderer makes a five-year-old “sad.” Learn a little bit about the complexities of the region’s ongoing strife before advocating for direct military intervention."

I'm not for military intervention. I don't like that our homegrowns have to go over there and risk their lives because of this man. But, reread you sentence, "Don’t just forward a random video to a stranger because a mass murderer makes a five-year-old “sad.”" Because he didn't make a 5 year old sad. He makes 5 year olds into vicious killers who are made to do terrible awful things. If it were just "sad" I'm not sure it would evoke so much outrage.

Scottie said...

IC response to all your questions.

Eman Yalpsid said...

I think the point of this response was to spur debate and conversation. I also agree that if nothing else this video and everything behind it made more people than ever aware of a truly terrible situation. That alone is incredibly important.

With that being said, it frustrates me when "charities," are used to make the people running them wealthy. Call it a business. Say, "we are movie makers and world travelers who do our best to shed light on problems around the world you might not be aware of. We need money to do this, please help us continue our work. Oh, and we'll give exactly this much X directly to to the cause in this form X."

I feel weird every year around the holidays because I don't give money to the people ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. But the Salvation Army has a staunch anti-gay stance that I do not support and as such I can't support them. Does that mean the Salvation Army doesn't do a lot of incredibly good work to help a lot of people? NO. But I have a choice and my choice is to support a charity that does it the right way.

Anyway, this is an interesting debate. I'll read the link Scottie posted now. I'm interested to hear their response.