Chris Blattman

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My thoughts on KONY 2012 (and a defense of Invisible Children?)

As if I could resist.

What you are about to get is a collection of hasty thoughts, and then I am going to return to my last day of vacation in Hanoi (ironically, the only place busier and more stressful than my Manhattan home).

For starters, my faith in humanity and the media has been partly restored today. The big story has shifted from viral video to the oversimplification of complicated issues, the accuracy of advocacy, and the white savior complex in aid. Really. Newspapers are taking a nuanced view of aid and advocacy. This is big.

Most of the discussion has been excellent. See Grant Oyston’s now famous site for a round-up of Western critiques, and (of all places) Boing Boing for African voices. I have said my piece before.

The essence of my critique: successful advocacy often tells a simple story; simple stories usually lead to simple solutions; and simple solutions can do more harm than help. If you want to help, your first duty is to make sure you don’t make things worse.

My discomfort with Invisible Children, as with many advocacy organizations, has been the worry they don’t take this duty seriously enough. There is a long-winded explanation behind this statement, with caveats and provisos and elaborations required. One day I’ll write that up, but not today.

To give credit where it is due, scratch beneath the surface, and Invisible Children take a more nuanced view than they get credit for (or showcase). Their self-defense is here, and it’s a reasonable one. Also, my (admittedly limited) experience with their programs on the ground is that they are better than the average non-profit in northern Uganda. The bracelets are silly, but you could do worse than to support their field programs.

But let’s suppose for a moment that, on balance, everyone conforms to their worst stereotypes: the badvocacy organization is simplistic, self-aggrandizing, and adolescent; and the academics are so busy being nuanced and obscure that they are useless. (These are not hard things to suppose.)

Could, in spite of it all, the KONY 2012 campaign still lead to the right solution? I think the answer might be yes.

Suppose you believe (as I do) that capturing or killing Kony is the best of a bunch of bad options. And suppose you also believe (as I do) that, to capture or kill the man, Central African governments will need advanced military, intelligence, and special forces support.

This viral video, whatever its weaknesses, may get you closer to that objective than any other action I can think of.

You may not share my two premises. Or you may share them but mistrust (as you should) the West’s ability to intervene intelligently and effectively in Central Africa. You may also worry (as you should) that an ineffective military response will result in a rash of LRA raping and killing. Or perhaps you pause (as you ought to) as you realize that getting Kony probably means going through a wall of children, guns a-blazing.

I would feel more comfortable with Invisible Children if I saw them, somewhere, expressing some of these risks and costs and concerns. If I’ve missed it, help me out.

In the end I don’t think it matters. Central African militaries are incapable of bringing Kony in, and the West is unlikely to give serious help. I would like to be wrong on this, but  I fear Seal Team Six is not gearing up to go.

Sadly, Kony will kill again and again, and in 2013 Invisible Children will have yet another over-sensational campaign. When the news organizations came calling this week, I flirted with the idea of just giving them a single quote: The two are like herpes: once you have them, you can never get rid of them.

That’s unduly cynical and trivializing. For all its weaknesses, Invisible Children has been more effective than any of us at raising awareness, and they may get us closest to the least worst action we can take. They can get better, and I hope this time they do.

What’s new and amazing is that, with the direction that coverage has taken, the average high school activist, donor and Congressman might just understand a little better what separates advocacy from badvocacy, and demand better in future. And that makes me hopeful.

57 Responses

  1. This is by far the most fair post I have read on the issue at hand. I feel like Invisible Children makes it all seem so simple and completely forgot to inform its viewer of the risk and cost connected with removing Kony. Sure, it is a great to remove a crazed killer from power but how is it going to happen? I do agree with you that this video has made the everyday citizen more understanding about advocacy and I too have hope we will all demand more in the future.

  2. Hey Chris, The ivory tower needs to yield to experiences by the common man. Yes, every statement has a negative connotation, no matter how passionate/researced the intentions are. Sadly ivory towers thrive off these genuine endeavors. I could care less about the ivory towers judgements. KONY 2012 was not perfect. What is. Spend your time putting KONY 2012 down and discrediting original thought by us little folk. I find you disgusting. God Bless the People of the World. May we All rise up and work together w/o intellectual scum putting us down for daring to be and defend. Black, white, we are All. This is not a “duplicate comment”. If you don’t like my thoughts have the balls to say so publically.

  3. Hey Chris, The ivory tower needs to yield to experiences by the common man. Yes, every statement has a negative connotation, no matter how passionate/researced the intentions are. Sadly ivory towers thrive off these genuine endeavors. I could care less about the ivory towers judgements. KONY 2012 was not perfect. What is. Spend your time putting KONY 2012 down and discrediting original thought by us little folk. I find you disgusting. God Bless the People of the World. May we All rise up and work together w/o intellectual scum putting us down for daring to be and defend. Black, white, we are All.

  4. The United States was already pursuing the filmmaker’s desired policy: to send military advisers and give material support to governments in central Africa to help capture Kony. The manhunt has been underway and is ongoing. Is the filmmaker going to take credit when the governments, who were already supported by the U.S. military advisers, are ultimately successful?

  5. The Kony 2012 video catapulted the internet into a flurry of chaotic backlash, and I find this blog to be both refreshing and fair. I agree with the author wholeheartedly, and I think there are, undoubtedly, many many holes in the Kony 2012 plan, and viewpoint. 1. It does fall under the category of the White Man’s Burden, and a paternalistic savior attitude towards Uganda. 2. Getting rid of Joseph Kony will NOT solve the problem. 3. From some of my research it seems IC supports the army of Uganda, who also has a serious issue with pillaging, senseless violence, and rape. The list could continue of course, and all of those are indeed serious shortcomings of IC. That is why it is vital to view the IC and the Kony 2012 video for what it is: an imperfect and flawed organization with an admirable goal. Perhaps the most important thing the IC can do, they have already done: bring the issue to the surface. Yes, IC over simplifies the issue, and many are passionately against their involvement, but at least people are talking and thinking. Like the author of this blog said, this could be the best of the worst ideas. I think supporting IC is a personal choice, but their foundation and purpose, however effective their methods may be, is to do good and raise awareness. Do i think that the IC is going to change the face of Africa? No. The corruption of the African government and depth of the rebel army is far too deeply rooted for outside help to make lasting change, it would have to come from the heart of Africa itself. I personally view the IC as a vessel of awareness.

  6. Hi Chris,
    In regards to the ultimate outcomes of Kony – being the capturing/killing of Kony himself – I have to ask if this is really the ‘right’ outcome. Meaning, would the removal of Kony remove the practice of recruiting and coercing child soldiers in the region? Or, would it result in another figure to come in and take his place? (I’m asking as someone who understands little about the political situation in Africa)

    If the answer is ‘yes’ to the latter, wouldn’t aid be better spent on rehabilitating past child soldiers and helping build communities to prevent the incidence of child recruitment?

  7. Chris Blattman hasn’t posted in a week, and his initial thoughts were “hasty.” I’m sure his work is important, but I wish he’d come back to his blog already.

  8. Dear Prof. Blattman,

    I steadfastly appreciate your contribution to this debate but I don’t think that anyone is being hard enough on Invisible Children. IC’s problem is that the organization lacks a genuine understanding of the rebel wars in Uganda or in central Africa. The message that it broadcasts regarding Kony, the Lord’s Resistance Army and child soldiers is inept, incomplete, exaggerated and sometimes simply false.

    The practice of militarizing children is rampant all over central Africa. With a depleting supply of young men and no political agenda to help recruit them rebel armies more frequently are focusing on children – and children are in long supply in Africa. They are easy to recruit and/or
    kidnap, indoctrinate, they are fiercely loyal and they are fearless. There are many claims that Yoweri Museveni was the first to use child soldiers in the conflict against the LRA. The LRA’s child army is relatively small right now (yet still killing and terrorizing local communities) compared to the armies of other rebel groups. By some accounts the LRA is dying out and struggling to stay relevant. Kony himself having over 50 child brides is reason enough for everyone to want him brought to justice quickly but the IC’s viral campaign isn’t going to make that happen any faster.

    Is IC a real charity? I don’t know. Charities are supposed to do good. And pretty uniformly, not just “kind of”, “maybe” or “meh”. IC was given two stars out of four by Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator isn’t a particularly scrutinizing agency and it’s not really a good agency for vetting charities. What we do know about IC funding is that they have consistently received large
    donations from two anti-gay Christian groups. One part of these groups
    gave large donations to a Ugandan born anti-homosexuality author who
    actively promotes an anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda. Africa has a
    troubled history as to how they treat homosexuals and commonly
    advocates their execution – particularly in Uganda.

    Well, what is the problem with outing a terrible war criminal in
    Africa? Kony hasn’t been in Uganda since 2006. He’s been driven up
    into the north and is in the borderlands of the Congo, South Sudan and
    the Central African Republic. In 2011, well before the IC video came
    out Obama ordered 100 elite troops into the region to eliminate Kony.
    Kony is at best a thug. And these rebel leaders thrive on this
    negative attention. Before the last conference on Darfur
    rebel leaders would commit horrendous massacres
    in remote villages in order to gain attention and in turn be invited to
    conferences. They don’t have a political program of any sort.
    These conferences are simply press trips for them. IC has simply made Joseph Kony an
    international celebrity. And exactly the opposite of what good charities do, IC is taking sides by aligning themselves with Museveni government and the SPLA. Like most rebel leaders, both
    President Museveni and the SPLA rule by brute force. There are no fewer than 20 unhinged rebel leaders active in Central Africa today. It’s an intractable problem in post-colonial independent Africa that needs a broader understanding and approach.


    Jennifer Sample

  9. chris – i wonder if you could elaborate a bit more on your sentiment that central african armies are incapable of bringing kony in. while i agree that some outside support would be needed, i don’t believe it would need to be in the form of seal team 6 (all jokes aside). incapable is often confused with unwilling, and i think there is just as much (perhaps an exaggeration) a lack of political will at the regional level as from the united states.

    we have the tendency to underestimate the capacity of african armies. remember that the uganda military was responsible for arming and training a ragtag bunch of refugees that tore through rwanda against all odds to take down a highly sophisticated (all things considered) extremist army supported by the french military. years have passed, things have changed – but who better to take down a fragmented, elusive rebel movement than a former rebel army? central africa is full of ’em.

    this, of course, might not be the most effective or least violent approach. but i raise it because your response essentially argued the same thing that most often gets criticized about us-based advocacy efforts – that only the west can solve this problem.

    also, i have to disagree regarding the media response. oversimplification and accuracy of advocacy and the “saving” of africa have been the typical media responses to these types of things since railing on save darfur became cool (see the new york times circa 2007 and of course, mamdani). i would have been much happier with a response that was actually productive in attempts to address a more effective way forward, rather than spending so much time trashing advocacy.

    thanks for your thoughts.

  10. I guess there is a college kid who really wanted to make a difference rather than just reposting videos and pictures about kony. He wen’t ahead and contacted some organizations and asked them to donate to the cause for every lead he generated. He just made a simple blog with very little information but it was painless to make a money free donation. I doubt it generates much, but every penny counts.­­m

  11. “Could, in spite of it all, the KONY 2012 campaign still lead to the right solution? I think the answer might be yes.”

    Stuff like this often reminds me of Taoism’s concept of yin-yang – with the inner unity of opposites (especially in how they inform one another) and the interrelation of the world’s complexities. There’s an old Chinese/Taoistic parable that I think speaks directly to that, and, particularly, your above sentiment:

  12. Jordan – please check the word anecdotal.

    The examples I expressed are first hand opinions gathered from spending prolonged periods in the same locations as IC operations. They won’t be new to many people also working there. But inevitably, they are not documented, hence why I said they were anecdotes.

  13. I’m interested by your assertion that IC’s programs “are better than the average non-profit in northern Uganda”. Who in particular are you comparing them to? I’d have quite a different view, considering the money they spend and what you actually see from that money.

    Here’s a couple of anacedotes; they evacuated their Expat staff during the 2011 elections to Zanzibar for an all-expenses paid jolly (their Ugandan staff were left behind, naturally); their scholarship scheme has been personalised to the point where only those known personally to particular staff are selected, and when they are there are extremely tight informal stipulations on ‘behaviour’ of recipients; their general uniateral behaviour of not attending cluster meetings or generally involving themselves with district and the NGO community, the cost of construction of their capital development work in Secondary Schools; if we are looking at efficient use of tight financial resources, IC are not it.

    As I said, a couple of anedcotes of the realities of IC in Gulu/Uganda. I’d love to hear your views on why you think their programs are good and who you’re comparing them with

  14. Dr. Blattman, I’m glad that you look at Invisible Children’s campaigns with a critical eye. I would say that, warping a well known phrase, you are damning IC with high praise. I’ll take it. I’m a layperson and all the ugliness of the internet; claims of scamming, gold diggers preying on a foolish and sentimental American public, and the worst, fear-based giving based on the white man’s burden to save other cultures, was extremely disheartening. It’s good to look at situations with a critical eye, but it is not good to be deliberately cruel and obtuse. In a comment I posted at a New York Times blog, I said: “I’m Caucasian and have never felt the white man’s burden. I simply follow what’s in my gut and in my heart to help others, particularly children. If that makes me a simplistic fool in others’ eyes, then so be it.” As a member of Equality Now, I thank you for your intelligence and discernment.

  15. Has there been much discussion of how to launch a military campaign against Kony/the LRA without fighting through a wall of armed, abducted children? If so, can anyone direct me to it?

    Glad you took the time to post your thoughts on this. Was looking forward to hearing from you.

  16. I don’t like the idea of calling something okay because its the least worst of a number of bad ideas. I think that thinking stems from the idea that these people don’t have anything, so even if the advocacy is really bad, its better than nothing, right? Surely not. The video perpetuates that What Savior line of thought on a massive scale. That model of development does not work, and is antithetical to ‘progress’. In the case of the IC campaign, sometimes doing nothing is better than doing a really shitty job

  17. Hi! Just back in here to show the link to this blog to a guy who just made a real valid remark about the alleged oil interest of “the Usa”. Tiffany, I also see people, after they spent some time letting it sink in and catch up on their reading, adjust their reactions or even wonder why “we” do not embrace such a positive attitude towards an issue that should be a concern to us all, from humanitarian perspective. There’s so much that can be said about it. And Lore, not sure if you are talking to me? But sure, go ahead? Am now redirecting this guy who said something about oil here, he really has some valid things to say.

  18. Thank you also Gina Vodogel for a thoughtful response. I am continue to learn more about this topic with little hope of competing with those ready access to resources and assistance. It is so easy to press a re-tweet button and enter the polarized debate, as Lore Ferguson as pointed out, but arriving at a balanced view is more challenging.

    I do believe that the wish of many Ugandans to have their voices heard and to achieve a peaceful resolution must be heard. Kony 2012: A View from Northern Uganda (National Geographic Society posted by Dan Morrison

    I am led to believe in Reuters Africa article “Uganda: we’ll catch #Kony dead or alive that ” #Ugandan military othr armies in the region repeatedly proved they lack necessary helicopter logistical intelligence-gathering” required.

    The same article also says “U.S. forces could get the job done, but there would have to be a remarkable shift in the political calculus in Washington for them to consider a kill-or-capture mission.”

    There are no simple answers. The not-so-rhetoric question is who is equipped to take proper charge of this. #InvisibleChildren may not have the #peacebuilding or #conflictresolution skills for this. It is afar larger issue with many political ramifications.

    See In former #childsoldier victim orphan #AnywarRickyRichard thanks #InvisibleChlidren support education abductees #Kony2012 but does not believe they have the skills for peaceful resolution of #conflictresolution. There are fears that an aggressive approach especially if only directed to one person may lead to further intractable violence impacting on civilians. Though #Kony is no longer in Uganda he and his supporters still wander in #Africa. #Kony2012 #LRA

    My understanding is that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over individuals under #crimesagainsthumanity provisions but not over groups.

    More links will follow

    Anyway thanks for providing some balance.

    Madeleine (@skylark100AU1 Twitter)

  19. I just wrote a response to KONY 2012, but I sure wish I’d read yours before I’d completed it, as you definitely offer a reasonable response than the either very strongly pro or very strongly anti responses that I’ve been seeing. Would you mind if I posted a link to this from my blog?

  20. Gina, I cosign your statement 110%
    I also am glad but not surprised to see probably the first truly NUANCED view of this huge debate on Chris Blattman’s blog.

  21. Kurtis’ comment as a father is like the comment I read on the Vimeo video in which Jason Russell takes 1:37 to say thanks. A teacher by the name Joe Costello wrote this, and I have to copy it because I just couldn’t say it better than he did himself: “As a high school social studies teacher it is not everyday that I get a group of students that BEG me to allow them to watch a documentary. . .it’s even rarer for the whole class to sit and watch it with NO ONE putting their heads down and have them actively engage in meaningful discussion over the topic. I was so moved by their compassion that I order a set of 25 posters for them. The thanks should be directed to y’all not us.”

    The message of the video I got, when watching and after watching it for the first time, is portrayed in Costello’s response, and in that of Kurtis as a father. Awareness raised, mission accomplished. It’s up to the teacher, or the students now, to fill in the blanks, or do some more research. Even those who hopped on the bandwagon of criticism don’t realize that whatever valid point they have to make, is now being listened to by many more than before the IC video was launched. And very often, I see criticism based on what the eye of the beholder makes people see, or ignore, or focus on. I am 48, I am about sixteen years older than those American hipsters (as they were described by some, an American professor in Gulu even called them idiots) and I was thrilled to bits and laughing because what these guys did with Rough Cut, their first documentary, and all in between (some of it can be witnessed via 275 videos on YouTube, minus the Kony one), it’s just brilliant. They found a way, the right vibe, to appeal to a generation that otherwise could not be bothered. And according to Kurtis’ comment, even the teacher got educated in the process. Isn’t this what raising awareness is all about? Raising awareness? On whatever level? No matter how academically educated or unexperienced, initially uninterested even?

    And let’s not rule out basic human nature here. Envie, jealousy. I’ve seen quite a few green monsters lurking when they whispered facts and questions and bitterness into some people’s ears… Plus many also want to show how good a brain they have. How about letting their hearts speak out instead? Gut feeling? Has anyone noticed the words of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Crime Court in The Hague… Luis Moreno Ocampo. In the Kony video he says, let’s stop (meaning = get, apprehend) Kony first, and then we’ll deal with the other problems. Something in this nature. I’d have to watch the video again to be able to quote him literally. But my sentiments exactly. Sometimes you just have to go with a certain flow, and trust a motion, or in this case, a movement to somehow activate dynamics that will work, that will have an effect to make change. For a class of highschool students to pay attention for the first time, that too is change already. On another and also interesting note, Luis Moreno Ocampo is serving his last months as chief prosecutor, he will be followed up by a woman. Her name is Fatou Bensouda. She is from Gambia. Africa.

    Here’s an article about her:

    Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are not complaining about the IC video. Just check their websites, and how they were given the opportunity to post all of their gathered facts, evidence and information on Kony, the LRA and anything else involved once again. For all those who are new to what’s been happening there, and who are now eager to learn and be educated.

    I’m not playing down on any of the valid critique uttered against the Kony video, and they themselves invite people to watch things with a healthy dosis of skepticism from which they, in return, can learn again. They learn fast. They move fast. In the past days, I have seen their website undergo changes and updates and fine tuning already. It continues to make me smile. When I was 16 back in 1979, we protested against nuclear energy and the anti-nuclear energy lobby kept going for years, with the unfortunate disaster in Tsjernobyl putting an end to any further development for nuclear energy in the Netherlands. Over the years, I’ve seen less and less youth involved in global matters, from a mass perspective that is. Much of that is now also reflected in reactions from people who say “Kony is not active in Uganda anymore, the video is inaccurate.” The bigger picture fails to sink into their brains, apparently. They get stuck in the mud of some facts, which makes them blind to see others. People yell it is all a scam. They force Jolly Okot, the Ugandan director of IC and former victim of abduction and sex slavery, to create a YouTube account, make a video and post it to explain that Kony is a real person and not just a story, that it is all real and that he needs to be apprehended. And what about all those other Ugandans who work for Invisible Children? The IC staff is 113 people in both USA and Uganda. 39 whites (including an Asian and probably Japanese woman) in the US, 74 people in Uganda, of which 3 Americans and 71 native Ugandans. You don’t need to be a mathematician to realize there’s a whole lot of Ugandans in their staff. For the ground work. In Uganda.

  22. Just wanted you to know that this was the site I knew I could count on for perspective after seeing the Kony 2012 video. Couldn’t believe you were on vacation! Thanks for taking some time to chime in.

  23. Chris,

    I think this analysis is a good start (especially regarding aid/badaid), but what about the implications of supporting the Museveni regime (as IC does)? It seems that IC itself has come under fire, but less has been written about the fact that our enemies’ enemies are not necessarily our friends (or necessarily pillars of good governance, human rights, or proper engagement in conflict).

    While there are lots of reasons to question IC’s aid work, financial statements, motive, and dumbing-down of important issues, the biggest issue I have with them is their unwavering (propaganda and financial) support of the Museveni regime. Their entire Kony campaign rests upon the Museveni regime (with possible US military involvement). It seems a little ridiculous to support Museveni as the solution to a problem (conflict involving child soldiers) that he, too, has engaged in and used to gain power, not to mention Museveni’s role in cross border conflicts in the Congo and Rwanda.

    For all of the propaganda of Kony as the devil incarnate (and undoubtably he is a horrible person who has committed horrible crimes), Museveni’s track record is nothing to brag about, invest in, or trust.

  24. Chris, I think what most people want to see from you is a short post saying “I agree with IC. This is a difficult problem without hard evidence to show the best course of action. The least worst outcome is probably, based largely on a hunch and my political ideology, to hunt down Kony and spend a reasonable large sum rebuilding the wartorn areas.” That post, without you repeating that you are “nuanced” over and over to pretend your are important or smart (you aren’t–I can be mean for no reason too!), would be nice. Yes, you did say nuanced three times.

  25. Professor Blattman

    This was posted by Jim Murphy Senior online editor at Human Rights Watch @hrw on Twitter. I have retweeted it.

    “In this moving 2010 video, victims of the LRA call upon President Obama for urgent and decisive action Uganda

    Naturally I recognize that the issues are complex. Perhaps combined and committed efforts will achieve better results that many cynics predict. What do you think?

  26. Professor Blattman

    I agree with Kurtis above and with you that this is a “complex issue wrapped within other complex issues in a very problematic region”

    Accuracy or not, this Channel 4 World News Item recognizes that spreading the message is what the #Kony2012 did get right

    Kony2012 Inaccuracies aside this is how to spred message

    The article ends with:

    “The “Invisible Children” campaign could learn a little from those of us who care about accuracy and context. But I think we could learn something from them about how to get a message across, and how to talk to a generation that has stopped bothering to read newspaper and watch TV news.”

  27. Thanks for the well balanced viewpoint. I have been following the IC crew on and off for the last few years and I do still believe their heart is in the right place. My concerns remain around the end game. Do we give training and weapons to a corrupt and oppressive regime (Uganda…or CAR…or DRC) in order to trek into the jungle to hunt down this elusive warlord? I am also concerned with the people living in these countries and the view they will have of “The West”. Are we doing this out of colonial guilt or are there really people in this world who just care about things like this and have no hidden agenda. Is that possible in such a capitalistic society in 2012? On the other hand, I was in awe of the incredible marketing campaign by IC to at least raise awareness. My daughter is 17 and told me in her high school, one of the teachers had not heard of Kony. The students then asked her to play the video in class and took a vote on whether they would like to learn more on the subject, and/or get some of the “kits” and participate. My daughter was moved by the video and actually went online to find more information. She did not know where Uganda was located, she had no idea so many countries were involved, and the best part…she chose not to watch American Idol that night to do this research. I hope in the future, the wise use of social media over main stream media (who are too busy discussing important issues like Whitney Houston and the Apple IPad 3) will also involve a clear message regarding what their goal is and including more precise facts. This is a complex issue wrapped within other complex issues in a very problematic region.
    What amazes me is the conversation that is happening. No longer can someone just push an agenda without people having immediate access to facts and opinions from experts, historical teachings, and groups directly involved. Like it or not, we are now all connected (electonically at least).

  28. Professor Blattman

    Are you accepting #RightofReply material? I proffer in good faith in view of unrelenting criticism #InvisibleChildren’s #Kony2012 Campaign. RTs and such offerings do not necessarily mean endorsement.

    Only because of so much imbalance in the critique @invisible #InvisibleChildren – their official response #Kony2012 #StopKony #LRA #STOPLRA #Uganda #Africa unstemmed #abuse

  29. Professor Blattman

    I hope you will view the video blog of @rosebellk #RosebellKagumire, a Ugandan blogger and journalist. She speaks of cultural sensitivity in portraying the story #LRA #Kony2012 #StopKony

    “Kony2012; My response to Invisible Children’s campaign” video alludes patronizing Western attitudes from her perspective.

    #RosebellKagumire @rosebellk refers to a wide range of unaddressed issues that a short video symbolizing the #Kony2012 Campaign could not have been expected to address given length, #targetmarket, budget. Nevertheless those issues need to be addressed, bearing in mind that many of the goals may be no more than aspirational.

    There are some 97 responses to her blog which can be viewed here
    As to the #powerlessness of the #UN, the #UNHCR as an agency under its auspices that is another matter of serious concern regarding effective #protection of the #abused in any context.

  30. Somehow you’ve gotten mentally and culturally soft Chris. A great defense of Invisible Children though, please join their PR team.

    Please also check up on Invisible Children’s work in Uganda. You have the resources and contacts to do so and are not painting an accurate portrayal here, but way to bolster their campaign.

  31. Lots more links. Many of these found on my Twitter Topsy profile on first few pages. Others to follow. This is a serious and ongoing issue. The criticism of #InvisibleChildren may have some validity, but I defy the majority of NGOs to fire up public response as has the #Kony2012 #StopKony Campaign ongoing.

    I hope the underlying issues and challenges will be addressed in time with due regard for cultural sensitivity. There are no simple answers. I accept also there is little room for exaggeration simplification or undue bias.

    Madeleine Kingston (@skylark100AU1 Twitter) Australia

  32. Professor Blatt,

    Both bemused and confused by your articulate and cynical piece but it deserves an airing as are responses. #Kony2012 a successful marketing campaign in raising awareness and provoking thought. You ain’t seen badvocacy yet. Could say more

  33. Chris,

    Firstly, I’m pleased to read an altogether more balanced analysis of this subject, rather than a simplistic binary right/wrong argument. I have one question: the LRA has been a destabilising force in the region for sure, but supposing as you do that capturing or killing Kony is the solution, the US would have to enable the four affected Central African countries to acquire some very sophisticated military hardware. Do you agree that, once Kony has been caught, the longer term ramifications of supplying the UPDF or Sudanese army with such technology may be far worse than the atrocities committed by the LRA? Put simply, what do you think the long-term consequences for regional stability might be if the US opts to further militarise some very unsavoury groups?

    E.B – on the Falklands, I fear you may be confusing coincidence with causation.

  34. As the average high school student and having been made aware by your blog and other of badvocacy, I can sincerely say that IC’s campaign has sparked a lot of debate about advocacy, it’s aims, what it accomplishes, and oversimplification of tremendously difficult issues! A lot of people did research, some just because they wanted to understand, others because they hate bandwagons. The overall result was pretty amazing.

    I was happy too.

  35. @E.B.: Good question. Surprisingly, I’d say the level of US government and military support (or lack thereof) was the same before the oil discovery. I would have predicted an increase in interest because of the oil, but as far as I can tell it hasn’t changed much. Rather, as far as I can tell, the US interest in northern Uganda is rooted in a mixture of humanitarian concern, a desire to see stability in the region, and to minimize the international security risks that come from statelessness in Central Africa.

  36. RE: “For all its weaknesses, Invisible Children has been more effective than any of us at raising awareness, and they may get us closest to the least worst action we can take.”

    I think this is a fair statement and reflects my initial reaction to the film. Sure, there are issues with the narrative. You have to be a pretty keen observer to have noticed in the film that the conflict has moved out of Uganda. And many online reactions to the film suggest that viewers might have concluded, incorrectly, that there are STILL 30,000 young kids in captivity, half of them serving as sex slaves. Hopefully people would not be any less outraged if told that this is past, not present, and that northern Uganda is growing and peaceful today.

    Overall, I’d say IC gets an “A-” for storytelling and marketing. Maybe people will be interested enough in the story to learn more. I think we would be wrong to criticize them for making the issue known, even if we can quibble about the details. Everyone can look at Rwanda and wonder what would have happened if someone in Kigali could have clicked “share this” to catch the eye of an energetic movement waiting to happen.

    KONY2012 is just one angle on the story of the LRA. I hope some Ugandan stories emerge in reaction to the film. I’d love to see a viral video of Gulu and rural areas today to let people know about the great things that are happening.

  37. Hello,

    I appreciate what you’re doing here, even now that this Kony thing has lost its heat and its a fad of the past. I must ask you though if you are aware of the fact that there has been a massive discovery of oil under Uganda’s lake Albert. I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I always find myself questioning what people take as a granted. Does this have anything to do with Americans wanting to get some of the action? I mean, Obama so readily agreeing to sending troops there seems pretty bizarre, regardless of his record. I’ve been recently researching the whole “Argentine-British” tension in the Falkland’s and “astonishingly” it appears its caused by oil contract royalties/taxes etc. It seems that now a days the majority of current events have something to do with oil…

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