Invisible Children and Joseph Kony

I had first heard about Invisible Children and Joseph Kony when I was a high school student and saw the Invisible Children staff making an appearance on Oprah (yes, I was coming home from school at 16 and watching Oprah). The non-profit Invisible Children was established by three college students traveling through Uganda who saw first hand the experiences of children in Uganda who were afraid of being turned into child soldiers by Joseph Kony and the LRA and would walk miles to try to find places of refuge at night. After seeing this, the students filmed a documentary about what they saw and have then created the non-profit Invisible Children Inc. They have been utilizing social media campaigns along with advocacy events to raise funds to build schools in Uganda and draw attention to the actions of Joseph Kony and the LRA. I remember reading all about them on their website, watching all their documentaries and being completely inspired by their work. Since I have entered college though, life has gotten in the way and I have not thought about Invisible Children and their work much recently.

However, tonight Invisible Children has come front and center into my life again. Facebook and Twitter blew up tonight with #Kony2012 and a link to a YouTube video made by Invisible Children. As of right now, the YouTube video has had over 100,000 hits and celebrities like Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Nicole Richie, Kristin Bell and Sophia Bush are posting links to it on Twitter. The video is a call to action for America’s youth, asking them to stand up and speak for the child soldiers in Uganda who cannot speak for themselves. The response is overwhelming to see, and as I write this I feel an incredible optimism and hope deep inside myself that real change can possible occur as a result of social media. Invisible Children is utilizing social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook in an amazing way, gaining attention from youth and having then gain the attention of the celebrities they follow on Twitter. In turn, the celebrities along with the masses speak out about the issue, garnering media attention and hopefully the attention of U.S. policy makers. The reason no one has hear much about Joseph Kony is that the United States has no economic interests in the region, therefore the only benefit to interfering in the region is humanitarian. The hope is that this massive social media campaign will show policy makers that this is important to their constituents and spur action and hopefully the capture of Joseph Kony.

I have seen many online tonight question the motives of the youth tweeting and talking on Facebook about #Kony2012, saying they are only jumping on the bandwagon and paying attention to the issue because it is what is cool at the moment. And to them I say, who cares? If what is cool right now is speaking out about the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and creating a youth reaction to a global issue, then I say fantastic, jump on the band wagon. Do what is cool right now and become informed about an issue that you may have never heard of before, watch #Kony2012.

Genevieve Wickizer

  • Cleo Shazaam Andersen-Tarnell

    while the overall sentiment of wiping out the person who committed these atrocities, joseph kony, is certainly noble, and the fact that the movement has been travelling so quickly across the internet (i myself posted about kony 2012 earlier today)it’s important to recognize that invisble children might not be as pristine of an organization as they seem. i am not totally condemning them as an organization, just suggesting that everyone does their research on them before praising them as a super amazing group of people who are only doing right. check out the following before you make up your mind completely:

    • Nikki Lourdes Alfonso

      Totally. If it’s “cool” to help someone, then I really, really want to be cool!

    • Megan Lauren Wilkes

      I love that people are quoting a sociology student’s opinions… read his latest post in which the IC responds to all of the accusations… maybe we should ALL do our research?

  • M Sunny Iracheta

    Agreed, this Kony 2012 video is everywhere. And while I appreciate the efforts of Invisible Children trying to shed spotlight on Kony, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with their means to the end. Kony is obviously an atrocious human being, responsible for the capture, enslavement and death of tens of thousands of children over the last thirty years. He and his followers should be brought to justice. That I can most definitely agree on. I’m just not sure I like the methods with which IC plans to do that.

    Basically, Invisible Children fought to legitimized AFRICOM, which is basically a command set up in Uganda to protect American Interests in Uganda’s natural resources.

    Another aim of Invisible Children is to militarize the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Ugandan People’s Defense Force, who, themselves are accused of raping and coercing young girls into prostitution.

    Invisible Children likes to sweep these facts under the rug, it would seem.

    And looking at IC’s financial liabilities, and their track record of how and why they spend their money? That alone is enough to be worried.

    Don’t get me wrong. It makes me sick to think that these horrific crimes are being committed against children. I agree that something should be done. What? I have no idea. And maybe I shouldn’t fault IC for doing what they have to do. But I cannot say I agree with their methods. They, as an organization, are making me very uncomfortable.

    So I guess all I’m saying is, if the Kony 2012 video was the first you’ve heard about the Children of Uganda, I’m glad you’re at least paying attention. But please don’t blindly follow an organization without knowing exactly who and what you’ll be supporting behind them. Skepticism is healthy, always know your facts, never be afraid to question something, even if it seems like its the Right Thing to Do.


    • Brittany White

      @M Sunny Iracheta- you articulated everything I was thinking!!!!!

  • Colleen Sweeney

    I went to school with one of the founding members of Invisible Children. He’s no longer mentioned as part of the foundation, but he filmed the original. I have seen so many articles about this in the last day. What a horrible thing.

  • Colleen Sweeney

    Okay, I just want to retract the statement about the founding member I went to school with not being an active member. I just found a photo of him posing with the LRA holding rifles. That right there is an eye-opener.

    • Cassie Lynn Myers

      It’s actually a picture of them with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (skip to “the photo of the founders with the guns”)

  • Meagan Shorey

    i worked for Invisible Children for 1.5 years. The visible children tumblr uses information out of context to support their cause. A huge aspect of Invisible Children is advocacy work alongside International Development. The representatives go across North America to share films and have Ugandans who have been personally affected by the war come to speak about what we can do as citizens who care about justice. Invisible Children is clear that Kony has moved to Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. The LRA crisis tracker shows real time results of where Kony and the LRA have attacked, abducted, and/or looted places in these areas. Invisible Children is a media non-profit so yes it does use money to make films and share it with the world. All of the films are geared towards giving attention to the conflict and constantly updating people on the most recent news regarding this war. The hugest aspect of Invisible Children is empowering people in Central Africa – NOT giving handouts or being a corrupt and short term attempt fix to a huge problem. Almost all of the people on staff in Central Africa are either Ugandan or Congolese with only few westerners. Almost all of the people in North America working for IC are working for free and are full time volunteers. A huge ideology of Invisible Children is to ask what we can do to help and if it’s not beneficial to the cause we’re fighting then change it immediately for the better.

    I share all of this because I want truth, too. And if I have personally worked with Invisible Children then why wouldn’t I share what I have learned to you, as well?

    Please go to for up to date info about what the LRA is doing.

    • Brittany Woodell

      Thanks for the inside knowledge, Meagan. As someone who used to work for a pro-choice organization, I know that the opposition can be really good at twisting things around to make you look bad (and without looking very extreme themselves – throwing off those who are just looking for information). It’s good to have several points of view to check both sides of the situation.

  • Jenny Griffith
  • Charlotte Charlesworth

    In regards to Invisible Children, I think it was set up with the best of intentions but it seems to be a group of film makers raising awareness primarily, and a “charity” secondly. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re getting involved you should be aware of all the facts, like how they spend their profits and exactly what they are proposing, like the military involvement. Everything that is presented to you is biased by someone, so question it! However, raising awareness can cost nothing, and we do live in a world where those who shout the loudest get heard. Why not utilise social media sites and expand people’s view of the world? (It beats “lol”… right?)

    Yes, this video is going viral and everyone is going to be jumping on the bandwagon, and yes, there will be plenty of people complaining that after the 20th of April, the whole issue will be forgotten, but people by nature are fickle about a lot of things. The mindless drones posting this in sheer numbers will still get attention, and as the discussion that has been going on for the last few hours shows, there are intelligent, rational people willing to do their research, and this video has bought it to their attention as well. It has started the ball rolling and started people talking about a world issue, something that many of us didn’t have the slightest regard for yesterday. Trends are a part of life, and if people are going to start a trend for charity instead of overpriced trainers or internet humour, I’m not going to complain. Yes the kids may have forgotten this in a week but it’s a taste of trying to make the world a bit better, and maybe next month or next year there will be a cause that they really are passionate about.

    We can truly be powerful in these numbers, you can’t change everyone and you can’t make it everyone’s passion so if you’re getting involved just act for yourself and make it for the right reasons. Do your own research, share it and encourage others to follow, argue intelligently and let the background noise of thousands of people even just posting the video back you up.

  • Meagan Shorey

    This was posted by John Beaton – a developer for the Crisis Tracker and who has worked at Resolve and is currently working for Invisible Children. He answers the questions and statements proposed by the visible children tumblr.

    • Brittany Woodell

      Also, this is great. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Thao Dai Nguyen

    I’m so completely humbled by your response to IC’s new campaign and your stance on people jumping on the bandwagon is what I’ve been saying for the longest time when it comes to good causes. The immediate response to this call-to-action has been incredible and for the first time in the 6 years that I’ve been involved with IC, I’ve never seen so many people get so excited to be a part of a movement like this. My friends and I would so greatly appreciate it if you could help our event in support of Kony 2012 in OC and Santa Barbara by just simply spreading the word about it. The event details are here:

  • Molly Jay

    While the discussions for and against Invisible Children are both necessary and important, it’s pretty great regardless that so many people are now aware of and involved in a dialogue about the atrocities committed by Kony.

  • Amalia Pantazi

    I completely agree with Molly. I have just found out about Kony, I just saw the video, I’ve never heard of that before. Let’s not make this about the “Invisible Childern” org, that is not the point. Supporting this campaign, is not about giving the IC a gold star.
    Personally, I salute anyone who has the courage to fight for a cause. We don’t need to percieve the IC as saints to aknowledge that they have managed to raise AWARENESS. That, I think is the crucial part. That we can use the modern social media reality to do good, to make a difference. Such a campaign would never be possible without the Internet, not without huuuuge financial resources. To the point that J. Kony has commited serious crimes against humanity, to that he need to be stopped and deserves to be punished for them, I think we can all agree. The IC took the iniciative to make this known to the world and provoke some reaction. We have to give them that. And that is all that matters. Today it’s about Kony, tomorrow it can be about something different. I believe this is really inspiring, and even if there are ‘dark spots’ in th IC business, I’m sure that good things will come out of it in any case. The Internet and the social media provide with immense power and the Kony campaign is solid proof that this power can do some good. It already has. Let’s give it a chance, being careful and prudent, using our heads at all times, but reaching out to the world to do good, too.

  • Nikki Lourdes Alfonso

    OH whoops. I just meant that to be a regular comment in response of the article. Not in response to any one in particular.

    Yay for discussions!

  • Michelle Maestas

    I’m against everything Kony has done for sure, but I don’t think I can support an organization like Invisible Children. Their CEO, and the two co-founders/filmmakers all make over $80,000 a year!

  • Gen Wickizer

    Thanks everyone for their responses to my post! Whether or not you agree with the practices of Invisible Children as an organization, I think we can all agree that the way they are spreading information about Joseph Kony is incredible. I think the most important thing to come from #Kony2012 is that they are spreading knowledge about an issue few paid attention to before, allowing for the debate that is now ensuing about how to best handle Joseph Kony and the LRA.

  • Rachael Lees

    I just wanted to say how impressed I am at how this discussion is taking place. I am totally in favour of the KONY 2012 movement and was highly impressed by the response it has had. I do however realise that I have entered into the campaign as a “noobie” and know little or nothing about IC. I realise that people are entitled to their skepticisms and I fully understand them and support their right to have an opinion. I also realise that my support of their (IC’s) works could be revealed to be misplaced – but like most I am taking a leap of faith. I agree that people should know the facts of the organisation. I also agree that regardless of their intentions in terms of funding their campaign to raise awareness is much needed and I hope people continue to follow it. However, my main point is how impressed I am at how respectful each of you are in regards to each others opinions. My facebook has already come across a clear divide between supporters and cynics and I can see accusations bubbling under the surface everywhere. It won’t be long before the name calling and condeming of different views begins, so to see this was refreshing :) I hope that this campaign isn’t just a trend and its work continues for future generations. I also hope to see more people of the same calibre as yourself and that this doesn’t cause more conflict that it does faith.

  • Jess Valandingham

    This organization is shady! They only use 31% of their donations, and they use those funds to support a military that has widespread reports of torture and rape. Check out this article. There are plenty of other good charities to help instead.

    • Stephanie Hanson

      Jess, although I appreciate your skepticism and concern I really wish you would do some more research, especially from a more credible source than an E-News blogger, before condemning Invisible Children. Please see the links that myself and Lauren Marek have placed above, they might help answer some of your questions. I am studying International Development as UCLA and we spend much of our time analyzing why the traditional “white man’s burden” type aid (98% of funds on the ground) is not successful. Invisible Children follows a more modern three-prong approach, one they did not come up with. This approach has proven to be more successful in creating actual change, especially in the political realm, as the organization has shown by having a bill signed into law this past year by President Obama. I have been involved with Invisible Children for six years now, including volunteer time spent at their humble office, and it upsets me to see so much negativity toward their great organization because they successfully exposed tens of millions of people to the atrocities caused by Joseph Kony in Central Africa. I hope that after some research you will reconsider your comments.

    • Stephanie Hanson

      one more thing, I wanted to mention something about the “Yale Political Science Professor” they mention in that article. His name is Chris Blattman and I regularly follow his blog. Although he is a typically pessimistic intellectual, and was in the link they tagged in the article which leads to a post from 2009, his most recent post regarding the matter is more supportive, if not still critical of the way they go about things. he is rightfully worried about simple initiatives coming from simple messages. IC has proven that they do not take this cause lightly. I agree with the original post: let new ears and hearts raise their voices in support of Central Africa

  • Rj Cahill Ayson

    This is not about the IC Business of awareness anymore. It’s about the ACTION. Action of how we can start something to help these children. If some people gets skeptical on IC’s methods and funding issues, it’s not our problem anymore. We can start and do something on our own. We can start making others aware in our community without beiing affected by those issues raised against IC. CAN ANYONE EXPLAINS WHAT WOULD THOSE ARGUMENTS CAN HELPED IN GETTING RID OF LRA AND KONY? ACT NOW AND SAVE THEM!

  • Lauren Marek

    Invisible Children’s response to the attacks they have been receiving:

  • Beth Giddins

    Brilliant post – I myself, like many others, have only just read up about Kony, and I too have seen many comments from people saying we are jumping on the bandwagon and only posting becuase its a trend. It’s ridiculous people are saying that. It’s not a bandwagon, it’s publicity and that’s the whole point of ‘KONY2012″, to raise awareness, and it’s working! Who are we to snipe at each other when sharing and retweeting is a luxury we can so easily make use of in this day and age. If one click of a button means all my followers and friends learnt something new today then it should be supported not poked at by the all knowing cool kids. Knowledge is power people. Keep it going!!

  • Nicole Ross

    I personally shared the video with my own message that people should watch with an open mind and not take for granted the facts they are presented over the internet. This attitude of accountability should apply to all charities and corporations, and people should be aware that it is near impossible to source non bias information on the internet and learn to think for themselves. What really grinds on me is the fact that people are only applying this attitude toward a charity which genuinely believes it is trying to help, and yet people will happily go on buying from morally ambiguous corporations without calling for any accountability. People are awfully quick to criticize but many of them wouldn’t be willing to change their ways.

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