Beware Throwing Your Support Behind Invisible Children and Their Kony Bandwagon


Absolutely a must read. Please educate yourselves before allowing yourself to support a charity with questionable mechanisms of achieving their goals and inefficient use of your precious charity dollars. Stopping human trafficking is a very noble cause. Supporting the methods of Invisible Children, which involves even more bloodshed and allying yourself with a different group of unscrupulous “liberators”, and their opaque use of your money is not as noble. If you’re going to donate, at least read the articles out there and make sure your money is going to the right place. If you think that’s Invisible Children after reading all this, that’s your decision. Just make sure it’s an informed one.



EDIT/P.S.- Invisible Children has released a response to critiques and I have had the post of an IC employee brought to my attention that tries to address some of the concerns as well. I will have a new post on Friday trying to give both sides a fair shake on this issue and breaking down my problems with Invisible Children as a charity as well. I apologize for the delay on this, as much as I would like to give you a good comprehensive post on the rest of the issue today I just can’t do it that fast with the obligations I have today. Please check back on Friday for the follow-up to this post.


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 itselffacilitated 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.


Source: thedailywhat



Filed under Politics

24 responses to “Beware Throwing Your Support Behind Invisible Children and Their Kony Bandwagon

  1. kellygallagher.

    wow, that’s unrefreshingly condescending. thanks for opening up the minds of us little old idiots who can’t formulate a coherent opinion ourselves…go donate your money to a charity that gives more than 31%? that’s just hunky, but i didn’t see any of them coming forward throwing light on this particular savagery…..

    • What I said was in no way intended to be condescending. The more people know about where their money goes when donated, the more responsibly they donate. I’m sure almost everyone can form their own opinion, but if they form it off half the truth then it’s in their best interests to know the other half too, since their opinion may change. I don’t think thedailywhat’s post was condescending either, and they offered suggestions for charities in that region that combat similar issues and use the money more responsibly for the issue at hand. Don’t get me wrong, Invisible Children does a damn good job at making emotional films and drawing attention to big issues. But is that enough? Is that what you want your money to go to? What about the portion of their funds that actually make it over there? The organization is not directly tied to the other liberation armies that have apparently ended up with money from them in the past, but that doesn’t change the fact that the money went to fund what can merely be described as the lesser of two evils. That’s not enough for me, and that’s why I wanted to bring attention to this.

      As always, I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts and I look forward to hearing more about your opinions on this.

    • rena

      The BBB is no longer a credible source. they gave a white racist organization and an Islamic terrorist group “A” ratings after posting the $400 accreditation fee yet a small business owner received one complaint from a 2 year old and refused to pay the fee and received an “F”. Mind you the small business owner runs a company that provides clowns to parties. Thanks for the insight however I will still support the movement

  2. Reblogged this on Gonzo Journeylism and commented:
    I think this phenomenon highlights what is totally awesome and terrifyingly wrong with our society. People all over the world banding together to topple a war criminal… Awesome! People throwing their unquestioning support behind a movement they know almost nothing about, except for what they were fed by a 30 minute video… Kinda scary! How many of you watched the video and were like, “Let’s get this f***er!”? I think that speaks to the power of the film; it’s a pretty powerful piece of filmmaking…

  3. HROB

    Honestly even after reading this I still support the movement. I don’t have to donate to be in support. They do give you the information to contact gov. officials regarding this. You don’t need to put money into the company to support. By spreading the video it’s raising awareness about Joseph Kony and opening the publics eyes to the world around them. When shit goes down on Facebook the local news and government pay attention. Facebook and google pay attention to our every move. Every time I look for a pair of shoes 2 seconds later an add for Zappos appears on my FB page. You think millions of Americans reposting this video won’t shake the government. It worked with SOPA.

    • This is great, I’m glad you read it, and I definitely respect your viewpoint. Invisible Children’s main mission financially is spreading awareness but a lot of people don’t realize that when they donate. I know millions of Americans sharing it will have an impact, and I was thrilled (and posted about it a while back) when the internet successfully mobilized millions of one-week lobbyists to kill SOPA/PIPA, I just want to make sure those considering financial support have both sides of the story. Like I said- I’m not trying to downplay the significance of the problem or the need for a solution, just trying to make sure people are as educated as possible about the organization they’re advertising for. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Nikki

      Well said – and awareness is worth more than the money it’s generating. None of this criticism is taking away from my support of this cause (non-monetary).

  4. heimdal

    I just want say thank you for this article . People are to eager to jump on to bandwagon causes because they think it’s the cool thing to do. Then turning around spreading misinformation and twisted views on things since can’t be bothered to truly research what is actually going on often making it worst then was to begin with.

  5. Ned

    I wouldn’t put much stock in Charity Navigator’s rating as a litmus test for a nonprofit’s efficacy. Anyone who’s worked in international development knows that ensuring accountability and doing proper monitoring and evaluation of projects is not cheap, yet both are absolutely necessary for a project’s success. Yet Charity Navigator’s rating scheme penalizes expenditures of this kind, lumping them together as examples of negative “overhead” costs. I can’t speak to any of the accusations concerning Invisible Children, but as a rule of thumb I would never use a Charity Navigator rating as a strong basis for any argument–for or against an organization–it’s intrinsically flawed and far too superficial.

  6. Pingback: Invisible Children Campaign: Revisited « shootfirstaimlater

  7. Eric Cioe

    I think that unfortunately your blog post also asks people to rush to judgement of a non-profit, citing very little data and making accusations about the integrity of a non-profit using sources that are other peoples opinions. The quote from the Yale professor is misquoted and as a former founder of a non-profit myself, there is no such this as lack of transparency of a 501(c)3. I’m including a link for the form 990 that ALL US non-profits have to fill out, which includes salaries, expenses and where every dollar was sent. Its not as sexy as your post and is 41 pages of rather boring tax filings, but it is transparent and more importantly accurate. (Form 990, reposted from

    No matter what people believe about how best to spend money when running a charity, I think that the exposure that this movement is attempting, in an election year to deliver a pretty clear and tangible result, the apprehension of a war criminal is admirable. Try not to rush to judgement, neither on 30 min video, nor a 10 minute read on a blog.

    Eric Cioe

  8. Meg

    I support IC. I have for years. But with the criticisms emerging now, it’s clear that IC needs to make it known with perfect clarity what their goal is and where money is going. It seems that any donation goes into a general pool unless you’re donating for Schools for Schools or the Legacy Program. Without a clear and concise breakdown of where the money goes people will assume that it’s for on the ground programs. Their goal, as I’ve always explained to others (and apparently that’s how Jason Russell explains it: is to bring awareness to the conflict and educate. IC is essentially a non-profit documentary organization funded by the public and left-over funds go to ground efforts. I’m just happy that Kony’s name is a talking poing now.

  9. I want to once again thank everyone for stopping by and reading my thoughts, and thedailywhat’s thoughts, on the issue. This post is receiving a LOT more attention than I could have ever anticipated, and with that attention comes some very good points and scrutiny. I am trying to approve all relevant comments as quickly as possible and will try to give both sides of the Invisible Children/Kony 2012 situation a fair shake in a post later this week, particularly since most of this post is a reblog with just a quick snippet from myself. Unfortunately it’s an exam week for me so I will not be able to respond to all the points being raised right now, but I do appreciate your comments and I do read them all.

  10. Fill

    This is my opinion: You brought out very good points. Everything you said made me feel more “aware” when donating. When you talked about how only 31% goes to helping the people affected, I thought that was a little unfair. But as you stated; The donations pay for there flights and pays them, it seems to level out. What they do is ALL they do. And if their flights came straight out of their pocket: they would be screwed. Although they can be putting in more money to help: it seems sufficient. but all in all, thank you for the article, I feel enlightened.

  11. Susie Bee

    I think it’s great that you support people knowing both sides of the story, and while there are questions being raised about IC it is important to think of the impact they are having on the whole issue at hand. You mention the amount of traffic and feedback your blog is getting so just imagine how many people out there are doing more then just re-posting the IC video, but instead are making an effort to find out more about IC and Kony, that in itself is a feat and will hopefully lead to people being informed on the whole story. I have a few concerns with your blog, you state “Additionally, IC has a low two-star rating in accountability from Charity Navigator because they won’t let their financials be independently audited” when actually it is that “The charity’s audited financials were prepared by an independent accountant, but it did not have an audit oversight committee. In this case, we deduct 7 points from the charity’s Accountability and Transparency score” that comes directly from the Charity Navigator’s scoring on IC’s audited financials, so it’s not that they don’t have an independent audit per say but most likely that they didn’t have a committee who approved the external auditor and/or financial reports. Also you mention that “The United States is already plenty involved in helping rout Kony and his band of psycho sycophants”, it is true they are plenty involved so much so that they already aided a failed plan called Operation Lightening Thunder. I’m not knocking what you are saying I just think that so many people are preaching “see both sides, know the facts” but not everyone is providing both sides. While I don’t believe that capturing Kony will suddenly turn Uganda or Sudan (OR any number of other countries) into an over night democratic success with rainbows and unicorns alike, all while solving all the worlds problems, I think the general idea behind it is one the comes from a heart felt place and is a hopeful step in a positive direction.

  12. Heather O'Neill

    Do you have some kind of oppositional defiance disorder? IC is creating global awareness of a very real world issue. How they spend their money towards their cause is none of your business you cheap fuck.

    Please do go back to studying for your exams (first world problem), shut your mouth and still your fingers so that IC can do what it needs to in order to achieve one of the greatest victories the world will ever see.

    • How they spend “their” money (note: money that has been donated towards righting a global wrong) is the business of anyone who donates to charity or supports a cause. IC’s victory for this will be increased awareness, but awareness without appropriate action isn’t helpful to the people whose misery they’re “profiting” off of. I have major concerns with how IC has promoted this cause and the way they use their money, and I’ll get into that in more depth. I will try to address your comment in my response to what is going on with IC and Kony tomorrow.

  13. Heather O'Neill

    P.S. Moderation? You really are a coward!

    • Heather,
      There have been issues with spam messages not being caught by the filter wordpress uses, and I figure most people reading my posts aren’t interested in cheap erectile dysfunction medications. 🙂 I also have no interest in any of my posts turning into an angry chatroom like most online news article comment sections do these days, and as such I will not approve any comments that are irrelevant, excessively personal/attacking another comment author, or inappropriate. I’m sorry you somehow find that cowardly, but I want everyone to be able to enjoy the posts, conversations, and debates. If a comment hurts that, it’s not going to be approved.


  14. The business of caritas is a treacherous one.

  15. Also, I’m concerned about how this will effect human trafficking awareness efforts negatively. If the general public associates HT with Kony, then when he’s dead – they’ll think that the problem is over. I feel like this movement might actually breed a new form of ignorance.

    I wish we’d just give attention to the fact that there are thousands of Konys out there. There are probably some in your own town. Most pimps are human traffickers – it’s not a distant problem and we need to make sure it’s not an isolated awareness.

  16. Vincent

    Have you flown to Africa? Have you traveled through the deserts and jungles? Ran into men with guns, unaware if they were friendly or hostile? Do you sleep well every night without the realization that tomorrow you may never see your parents again? That your father might be murdered and your mother and sisters gang-raped repeatedly? These guys spent almost a whole day flying and traveling to get to Uganda to raise support. And here you are worrying about 30 cents for your dollar. What have you done? At least now the world can focus on one issue at a time and take it out. For once the world can unite on something and make a real change, not in the future… in the present. And there are other ways to support than giving money. It’s people like you that keep the rest of the world from making changes with your far-leaning doubts. Don’t give money if you’re afraid. Instead, write a letter to your officials if you believe in our cause. IC isn’t perfect but they are doing something. There’s a generation that is willing to stand up for freedom of all people. You can be cautious your whole life and never make any changes or for once be bold and make a difference today.

  17. xatkins

    I live in Nairobi, Kenya and its great to see that theres so much support for this movement and its fantastic to see people binding together but its a shame how the Kony 2012 campaign has become so widespread when something like Malaria, which is a much worse enemy, cannot seem to get the support that the Kony campaign recieves and it’s been trying for years. All the points you make are very important and its good to know the other side of the story.

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