Monday, March 12, 2012
According to Jason Russell’s appearance on the Today show several days ago, over 500,000 action kits have been ordered at $30 a piece, meaning this campaign has brought in a minimum of $15M in revenue this week. This is great news: at least 500,000 people are “advocate[s] of awesome” according to the group’s webstore! So where’s that money going? I’ll leave it to Jedidiah Jenkins, Invisible Children’s Director of Ideology:
“Thirty-seven percent of our budget goes directly to central African-related programs, about 20 percent goes to salaries and overhead, and the remaining 43 percent goes to our awareness programs. […] But aside from that, the truth about Invisible Children is that we are not an aid organization, and we don’t intend to be. I think people think we’re over there delivering shoes or food. But we are an advocacy and awareness organization.”
Yes, you heard it from Invisible Children: more money goes to awareness than to Africa.
“Invisible Children’s accounts show it is a cash rich operation, which more than tripled its income to $9m (£5.68m) in 2011, mainly from personal donations. Of this, nearly 25% was spent on travel and film-making. Most of the money raised has been spent in the US. The accounts show $1.7m went on US employee salaries, $850,000 in film production costs, $244,000 in “professional services” – thought to be Washington lobbyists – and $1.07m in travel expenses. Nearly $400,000 was spent on offices in San Diego.”
Information about how they intend to spend their windfall 2012 revenue of a bare minimum of $15M has not been released, but as I wrote earlier, at least $3000 would’ve gone to flying me to both San Diego and Africa had I allowed them to do so. (Story behind that at the bottom of this post.) If I were Invisible Children, I’d start talking about where this new money’s going. I’m emailing Jason and Ben a link to this post to see if they’re willing to post a financial plan for the year ahead – is there yet another film in store?
Kony 2012 Group Supports Uganda’s Brutal Military Dictatorship
The Daily What
Monday, March 12, 2012
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 ofcommitting 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.”
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.