Invisible Children: ‘Rich White Kids Paying Rich White Kids To Go On Vacation’

Commentary
By Gary Kopycinski

Updated March 9, 2012, 7:45 p.m.

After I published this, I was told by several friends on Facebook that Invisible Children has issues.

And, boy, do they ever.

As Cait Phipps, a friend and college student put it, “It’s rich white kids paying other rich white kids to go on vacation.” I believe she is correct. Yes, the vacation may be to Africa, but the villain in the story, Joseph Kony, a true, real-live villain, may not even be alive any more. If he is alive, he has not been heard from in over a year, and has not been in Uganda since 2006.

Another friend, Jess Valandingham, pointed me to this post by Wil Wheaton (Star Trek and sharp blogger). Wil wrote a rather comprehensive tumblr post on the controversy surrounding Invisible Children:

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.

Elizabeth Flock has more in today’s Washington Post:

Kony is undeniably brutal, and the World Bank estimates that under his leadership the LRA has abducted and forced around 66,000 children to fight with them during the past two decades. In October, President Obama committed 100 U.S. troops to help the Ugandan army remove Kony.

But in November, a Foreign Affairs article pointedly challenged the tactics used by Invisible Children and other nonprofits working in the region to raise awareness. “Such organizations have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil,” the magazine wrote.

Next, there’s this from The Telegraph regarding growing outrage in Uganda over the film:

“What that video says is totally wrong, and it can cause us more problems than help us,” said Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation in Gulu, a town that was once the centre of the rebels’ activities.

“There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.”

And this as well from the same source:

“Have they thought of the consequences? Making Kony ‘famous’ could make him stronger. Arguing for more US troops could make him scared, and make him abduct more children, or go on the offensive.”

Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting, said: “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.

I fell for the emotional tugs in the video:

So I retracted my earlier commentary and emailed Invisible Children, asking for my $37 back. They can keep the kit.

For more reliable charities serving African nations and more, see CharityWatch.org and Charity Navigator.