There’s three groups of people talking about something called “Kony” right now: self-righteous liberals who you don’t even pay attention to because they have a different OMFG THE WORLD IS FUCKED cause every week, your Tumblr friends and the mainstream media which means this might be something you might want to actually learn about, and the people on your feeds who are like ‘who da fuck is Kony, I don’t care.’
Here are 3 things to know in order to not be a complete dumbass this week:
1) Joseph Kony is a bad dude from Uganda. He is some kind of crazy conservative Christian who leads a military group called The Lord’s Resistance Army which people will refer to as the LRA without telling you what it stands for. I saw an episode of Law and Order SVU about the LRA once so I think it’s been a pretty big deal for a long time. Kony forces children to be in his dumbass army, rapes women, kills people, and is probably one of the worst people you could imagine. I don’t mean to make light of the atrocities he’s committed by calling him a dumbass here, but everything I’ve read about this has been approx ~5000 word count and I don’t think that’s necessary in order to form our baseline understanding that this is a bad, probably evil man.
2) Kony is currently in the news because of a new film. His crimes have been going on since the mid 80’s and its estimated that in that time something like 65,000 children have been forced into his army. Earlier this week a non-profit organization, Invisible Children, released a 30 minute marketing film to bring awareness to Kony’s atrocities. The video went viral and now everyone is talking about it.
3) There is backlash against Invisible Children, the group that circulated the documentary. From what I’ve read, Invisible Children seems like kind of the PETA of this cause. Their intentions are in the right place, they want evil to end, but they aren’t necessarily committed to the most integrity-filled vehicle for this to happen. The criticisms against them are about Invisible Children exaggerating the facts and figures about Kony’s wrongdoings and the scale of Kony and the LRA in relation to other evils in the world. For example, The other criticism is that Invisible Children does not make their audited financial reports available and they only have four board members. As someone very familiar with the non-profit sector, these things seems incomprehensible to me as to why they were not remedied by Invisible Children like, the year after it started. It’s the industry standard to be as transparent as possible, or its assumed you are hiding something or don’t know how to run a business- both serious concerns to consider before supporting an organization- but not a reason to discard the issue of Kony.
Is this another buzz political meme? Or will Invisible Children’s film generate lasting support?
I can tell you that I generally think its a better investment to focus your NPO’s money on cultivating a smaller but more dedicated group of people to support your cause. Canvassing, rallies, and buzz awareness campaigns like this leave a bad taste in my mouth because its inevitable that when you work a bunch of people up into a frenzy like this that after a month their interest will flatline again and the money you’ve spent gaining their support is gone. You have to keep putting on a show in order to raise money for your cause verses the decidedly less sexy but more reliable model of building relationships with people slowly so that they have a lasting commitment to your cause. I’m happy that people are taking notice of something bad and doing something about it, but when people’s finite ability to care and give money is concerned I have an urge to guard it against a pan flash outcry and instead steer it towards a realistic level of support that can be sustained long after the meme has stopped being viral.