‘Kony 2012’ misled people with film

Brian Westrick

It happened suddenly, late at night. Before we knew it, lots of us were on the frontlines of a fight we didn’t fully understand.

Many of us were too young to even have a rudimentary understanding of what was going on. It was the Kony 2012 campaign, and it is an incredibly dangerous viral sensation.

“Kony 2012” was a high-budget propaganda film created by the dangerous charity, Invisible Children, to raise awareness about their cause. The “charity” (to use the term loosely) raises money and awareness about child soldiers in portions of Africa. With “Kony 2012,” Invisible Children chooses to center their efforts around one Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord who has kidnapped and militarized child soldiers for years.

The idea is to convince American citizens to put pressure on politicians to do something about Joseph Kony. This smacks so strongly of a poem by Rudyard Kipling: “The White Man’s Burden.” The basic idea of the poem is it is our duty, as Caucasians, to help out all the savages of other races in other countries, regardless of whether or not they actually want it. The theme of the poem has made “White Man’s Burden” almost a political phenomenon.

It has become a characterization of Eurocentric exceptionalism, the need for colonization and domination of the developing world. Considering how amazingly disastrous the results of American imperialism has been in the past, it’s no surprise that people such as Max Fisher of “The Atlantic” are publishing articles referring to the “soft bigotry” of “Kony 2012.”

While many prefer to say that “doing something is better than doing nothing,” that is not entirely true. If Invisible Children, their high-budget film and expensive “action kit,” pulls so much as a single cent away from a legitimate charity, Invisible Children has done more harm than doing nothing.

“Campaigns that focus on bracelets and social media absorb resources that could go toward more effective advocacy, and take up rhetorical space that could be used to develop more effective advocacy,” said lawyers Amanda Taub and Kate Cronin-Furman.

In spite of claims by Invisible Children CEO Ben Kessey, a majority of funding to his organization does not actually find its way to help any real campaign to stop people like Joseph Kony. He inflates the numbers on his video by claiming that expenditures on traveling, shooting and equipment used for projects like the Kony video are, in some real sense, helping the Ugandan children. They aren’t.

In fact, many people who have studied Invisible Children’s books, such as Laura Rozen, estimate that only 30 percent of donations received by Invisible Children actually go to help Ugandans. Well, sort of.

Invisible Children helps fund the Uganda People’s Defence Force, better known as the Ugandan army. This force not only has an enlistment age of 13 (therefore making them a force who employs child soldiers), but has also been known to free the children that Kony had kidnapped, and in lieu of providing them with counseling and care, instead brainwash them to fight for their side. This makes them no better than Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

However, they now have something that Kony’s LRA doesn’t: American funding and American support. And even worse, many Americans have no idea.

The Ugandan army’s transgressions absolutely do not end with the shockingly familiar sounding brainwashing of child soldiers, they are persistently wrought with accusations of rape and looting nearly everywhere they go.

What Invisible Children is doing, and by proxy, what everyone supporting the “Kony 2012” campaign is doing, is essentially letting loose one man-eating predator in a society to catch another.

This is why doing something can be worse than doing nothing, and Invisible Children is the personification of that entire idea.

The Western world has meddled in Africa’s affairs before. The results have persistently been disastrous.

These are Africa’s problems, and as much as it pains me to say it, we cannot solve them.

They must solve them themselves, lest we perpetuate the painful cycle of western paternalism.

Kony must be stopped, but Invisible Children must be stopped as well.