Since the Kony 2012 video exploded last week, a the side-story of criticism for the video’s creators, the non-profit group Invisible Children, has grown in parallel. While succeeding in their goal of making the head of Uganda’s brutal Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, a household name, Invisible Children has also inadvertently done the same for themselves—controversy over their methods and motives has become a competing narrative along with the attention brought to Kony. CNN reports that the group will release a follow-up video today to address all the negative attention.
Much of the bitter internet debate about the group has been misguided, such as attention on the salaries drawn by the group’s founders: In the grand scheme of things, assuming they’re significantly aiding the fight against a brutal evil, does it really matter whether the group’s founders draw a salary of $90,000 or $60,000? Even the transparency around larger spending habits seems trivial compared to the incalculable good of ridding Uganda and central Africa of its evil.
Except that many seem to think Invisible Children’s work won’t do anything of the sort.
Last year the U.S. sent 100 combat troops to Africa to aid in the capture or killing of Kony. With a covert mission already underway, Peter Phlam, whom CNN describes as “a civilian adviser to the military command that sent the U.S. troops,” said of the “Kony 2012″ video, “All I can say is, it couldn’t have happened at a more unhelpful moment when you look at it strategically and operationally.” CNN notes “The attention could prompt Kony to go on the move again and seriously set back African and U.S. efforts to catch Kony once and for all.”
Celebrities have praised “Kony 2012″ for bringing the situation in Uganda to the attention of the rest of the world, but the question remains whether western media scrutiny and social media debate will help change anything in Africa—or whether, as Phlam suggests, it could actually hurt.
And many have criticized Invisible Children for choosing to directly fund military operations with the Ugandan government, who is itself accused of committing genocide in Northern Uganda.
“We’re an unorthodox organization,” said “Kony 2012″ director Jason Russel. “We work outside of the traditional box of what you think about charity and nonprofit.”
Whether the group’s new video coming out today will change any minds remains to be seen. But they do seem aware of the criticism against them. To those who argue “Kony 2012″ was reckless and will put more Africans in harm’s way, the group said their campaign “needs to do everything possible to protect those innocent women and children,” and that this is “absolutely the mission and the point of this campaign.”