Invisible Children


LRA suffers blow with recent defection | 

Eight of the nine recent adult male defectors.
Eight of the nine recent adult male defectors.
Invisible Children

The highest number of members to defect from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) since 2008 is a promising sign to the campaigners who hope to bring an end to the group’s violent reign.

A total of nineteen Ugandan LRA members, nine men, four women and six children, surrendered to Ugandan military (UPDF), in the Central African Republic.  The loss is a notable one because of the reliance on Ugandan males to form the leadership within the LRA.

“A defection of this size represents a significant portion of the LRA’s remaining fighting force,” said Adam Finck, Invisible Children’s Director of International Programs.

Campaigners say the news validates the work they have been doing to use communication tools to encourage LRA members to put down their weapons and return home.
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Invisible Children was a fiasco. Is Expedition Kony the real deal? | 

Robert Young Pelton
Robert Young Pelton

This week we covered Expedition Kony, a crowdsourced project by swashbuckling adventurer/author/journalist Robert Young Pelton to find warlord Joseph Kony in northern Uganda. “This is a project that seeks to shine a light on this hunt, on the hunters as well as the hunted,” we concluded.

But there are still questions to be answered – who is Pelton and why does he think he’s qualified to find Kony? What will he do if he meets him? And what about critics who say this belongs in the “#Bullsh*t Files,” like Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 project, which ended with Jason Russell, the founder of the organization, naked in the streets of San Diego?

Well, we had an extended chat with the guy so you can judge for yourself. Despite his bravado, Pelton doesn’t seem as cartoonish as Russell or evoke the same sort of messianic zeal. In a similar vein, his analysis complicates reductive, simplistic portraits of Kony himself. This “media event” he’s trying to put together seeks to uncover the governments, wealthy actors, and nonprofits (he calls Africa’s NGO sector a “self-licking lollipop”) implicated in why a two-bit rebel leader like Kony, of all people, is a household name.

Before all that, Tom and I discuss the top Humanosphere headlines this week: why one major charity head is calling for a shift in focus from disasters to politics, and the less savory side of “the golden age of philanthropy.”

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Kony 2: Shining a light on hunt for the notorious African warlord | 

Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony

Remember Joseph Kony?

He’s that infamous, murderous African rebel leader who, for a while anyway, was world public enemy number one because of his long and bloody history of indiscriminant murder, child kidnapping, sex slavery and other atrocities committed across central Africa.

There are plenty of other murderous people out there, in all parts of the world, with similar resumes. But Kony went to the top of the list of global bad guys in 2012 thanks to a powerful video produced by an evangelical Christian organization in California called Invisible Children that aimed to spur public outrage and a new push to capture or kill him.

Outrage was spurred and all sorts of things got set in motion, including the deployment of US special forces to the region and a somewhat bizarre paramilitary adventure funded by Howard Buffett and a Texas philanthropist named Shannon Sedgwick Davis – whose faith led her to support an unsuccessful private military action against the Kony abominations.

But Kony remains at large, frustratingly so.

Robert Young Pelton
Robert Young Pelton

Enter Robert Young Pelton, author of the “World’s Most Dangerous Places,” adventurer, businessman and (very) independent journalist. Pelton, along with Seattle-based documentary film-maker Ross Fenter and his colleague Rob Swain, have launched a crowd-funding campaign to go find Kony themselves.

This new hunt for Joseph Kony is called Expedition Kony, is something of a new media experiment and you can contribute to it (or even join it) via Indiegogo. Not surprisingly, given Invisible Children’s stunning rise and fall, Pelton’s new adventure is already drawing criticism, if not ridicule. Continue reading

Samantha Power affirms atrocity prevention vision at Invisible Children event | 

Newly minted US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power delivered her first address in her new position at an event for Invisible Children. The advocacy organization best known for its viral Kony 2012 video, Invisible Children brought together 1,400 youth for its Fourth Estate Leadership Summit.

World leaders spoke about issues of human rights and atrocity prevention as part of a sort of pep rally for creating global change. Speakers ranged from actress Sophia Bush to activist and chair of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition Jay Naidoo.

Power used her time to praise her audience. In her points, she argued that what matters most is reducing atrocities.
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Five reasons why Kony campaign’s street action mostly flopped | 

Given the fast-paced nature of news combined with our peculiarly American brand of cultural ADHD (attention-deficit-hyperisolationist-disorder), perhaps nobody should be too surprised that the call for actual action by the Kony 2012 campaign largely flopped.

That doesn’t mean the actual hunt in east-central Africa for the now world-infamous African warlord Joseph Kony isn’t on. Oh, it’s on.

But Friday was supposed to be a day of global call to action — in which the anti-Kony organization Invisible Children had called for people worldwide to put up posters and graffiti calling for the end to Kony’s reign of terror.

Didn’t really catch fire this time. Here are five possible explanations floating out there:

  1. Slacktivism or Clicktivism — the modern tendency for people to “engage” in a social action that involves clicking on a web page but then doing nothing more.
  2.  Collapse of the heroic narrative. One thing the Kony 2012 bunch did amazingly well is create a ‘heroic narrative’ in which a bad guy is targeted by a good guy. But then the good guy, Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, confused people with weird behavior.
  3. Apathy.
  4. The counterpoint prevails. The Kony 2012 video exploded in popularity and just as quickly was attacked by many aid and development experts as a dangerous Hollywood-ization of a complex problem.
  5. We cared then, but this is now. We’ve all just moved on to other things.

Here are some stories that examine the reported failure of the Cover the Night campaign, variously suggesting any or all of these reasons.

As The Guardian noted Kony 2012 fails to move from the internet to the streets:

The Kony 2012 Cover the Night campaign woke up to awkward questions on Saturday after activists failed to blanket cities with posters of the wanted Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony. The movement’s phenomenal success in mobilising young people online, following last month’s launch of a 29-minute documentary which went viral, flopped in trying to turn that into real world actions.

Locally, Seattle Globalist reported on the diehard supporters:

After a record breaking viral video and over 1400 likes on the local Facebook event page, the youth mobilized by the Kony 2012 campaign were supposed to come out in force to “Cover the Night”. They were to blanket Seattle, and the rest of the country, “demanding justice on every street corner” as the viral call-to-arms video proposed.

So did they? At least here in Seattle, the answer seems to be a resounding “kinda”….

Devin Erickson, a 20 year-old University of Washington (UW) sociology student and leader of the college’s KONY 2012 club, met with fellow club members Amethyst Williams, 18, and Alison Guajardo, 20, at UW’s Red Square before heading downtown to put up posters.

“[After the video went viral] we had 100 new members for our chapter but we have not seen any of them at the meetings,” Erickson said, referring to the difficulty of taking an online campaign offline.

Invisible Children claims otherwise, that thousands of photos they received indicate that their “Cover the Night” event was such a rousing success it “blew our minds.”  Hmmm, not sure that’s the best phrase to use given co-founder Jason Russell’s bizarre reaction to their initial success with the video.

Here’s what they have planned next:

The sequel to Kony 2012 takes on critics, appeals less to emotion | 

This time, the video by Invisible Children is not so much a repeat of their first call to action as a defense of their action.

It’s kind of like when the Star Wars franchise put out a sequel that actually went back in time to explain how everything got started.

Conspicuously absent from this new video subtitled “Beyond Famous” is the star of the first Stop Kony video, the organization’s co-founder Jason Russell, who was hospitalized after engaging in bizarre behavior.

This video is less emotive, more factual  but still pretty self-referential — and perhaps less effective. The organization’s call for worldwide demonstrations on April 20 could be another barometer of the success of this social media campaign, though there is little question this initiative has succeeded at raising awareness of the atrocities of African warlord Joseph Kony.

Actually capturing Kony, or otherwise stopping his terror, will of course be the primary determinant of whether the public judges this campaign as mere “slacktivisim” or “clicktivisim”  — or as an example of how social media can launch major movements.

Some of the news stories:

LA Times Kony sequel tries to tackle the criticism

Guardian Does new Kony video answer the questions?

CNN Kony sequel is out and firing back at critics

ABC Kony sequel video has less emotion, more details

AllAfrica A cornered Kony lashes out with more attacks

Massive viral video campaign against African warlord hits and misses | 

Over the last few days, a video posted on YouTube that aims to raise the profile — and potential for arrest — of the infamous African warlord Joseph Kony has been hugely popular and, in the eyes of many, so simplistic and inaccurate it is likely to do much more harm than good.

Some even go so far as to contend the organization behind the video, Invisible Children, is more interested in promoting itself than its cause:

The non-profit organization has been accused of spending the vast majority of its donations on film production, staff salaries and transport.

You can judge for yourself. Here’s the video, a powerful and well-done short (half hour) film calling for a groundswell, grassroots movement to push for the arrest of Kony and stop the decades of terror fomented by his Lord’s Resistance Army in east and central Africa:

It’s very compelling, but it has also prompted a major backlash from many experts on Africa, conflict resolution, development and foreign policy. Continue reading