The Invisible Children Campaign

By Bryce Wilson

The LRA(Lord’s Resistance Army) has forcefully displaced over two million civilians in its quest to establish power in over five major African territories including Uganda and Sudan. The guerrilla warfare group is notorious as a result of its viscous tactics which include rape, murder, and mutilation and child abduction. Among the worst of the known atrocities committed by the LRA is the way in which it recruits soldiers. Over 70,000 children have been within the ranks of the LRA; these children, for the most part, were once victims of the LRA themselves. Whether the families of the children were executed, displaced, starved, or died of diseases from conditions within refugee camps, the LRA’s fingerprints are all over the scars that physically and mentally plight these child soldiers. Joseph Kony is the head of the serpent that is the LRA. A recent philanthropist campaign lead by previously successful film and activist group, Invisible Children, has directed its capacity to bringing fame to Joseph Kony, hopefully, as a result, to draw public outcry and policy to bring Joseph Kony to justice.

Invisible Children employed the counsel of its own previous experience within pop culture charity. They began campaigning for awareness of child soldiers early in 2005; visiting schools and lecture halls, spreading merchandise and messages.  That initial, self titled, Invisible Children campaign was largely successful. Now, seven years later the campaign resurfaces with a clear and recognizable purpose. Joseph Kony is to blame. In a tactfully crafted and emotionally rigorous short film, Invisible Children associates charitable function and awareness seamlessly with direction and justice. The rhetoric of the film is reminiscent of a social outcry. The campaign calls on civilians to spread posters around cities all over the world, on the night of April 20, 2012, and also demands the assistance of culture makers (celebrities), and policy makers (politicians) to inspire military intervention.

Viral sensation is an understatement. One hundred million views in less then a few weeks with only controversy and momentum as a marketing strategy, the KONY 2012 campaign lead itself to the front page of every news organization and Facebook news feed. A certain primal significance is represented in an opportunity to donate the equivalent value of a few meals to the death of the next “Hitler” or a tantamount evil. The success of Invisible Children’s previous and current awareness campaigns speak for themselves, but with success comes controversy. Perhaps the most surprising factor to come from the emergence of Invisible Children’s new philanthropic direction is the strength of popular opposition to their proposition.

The campaign’s tactics have been criticized for oversimplifying the conflict in Africa as well as providing support for only a lesser of two evils(Ugandan Military). Critics see a black and white representation as a deterrent that will stop viewers from wanting to learn about the conflict. Advocacy campaigns like Invisible Children and KONY 2012 are usually paralleled by an alignment with encouragement about awareness but quite the contrary proves evident. Counter-culture moguls, I-told-you-so’s, researchers, politicians, and sophist blowhard’s alike have found countless criticisms of Kony 2012. The momentum of counter-intelligence facing Invisible Children’s foundation may have started as a result of the allure of being the wisecrack on a popular twitter or Facebook topic, but it has certainly become much more. Allegations against Invisible Children as a corporation are reaching news outlets as forcefully as the release of the prior Anti-Kony campaign slogans had. The legitimacy of these challengers vary as extremely as the fronts they attack from. Invisible Children has, as a result, been forced to dedicate most of their time following the release of their new philanthropic attempt, ironically, to justify their own existence.

And American culture perpetuates. As the rest of the story unfolds I cannot tell if the fates of Invisible Children, the invisible children themselves, the Kony 2012 campaign, and Joseph Kony the man himself will be the results of, or the transparent pre-pop symptoms of a new technological bubble. Invisible Children has certainly brought fame and notoriety to at least one corrupt man. Perhaps getting young people to care about an issue that doesn’t affect them because it’s on the other side of the planet, is accomplishing enough, perhaps it’s not. The adverse affect of the film’s criticism shares many tenets with the nature of the film’s success. The founders of the Invisible Children foundation are in the simplest format portrayed in their films as a couple of guys who are just trying to sleep better at night knowing they made a difference. A thirty minute internet phenomenon that sought to spark outrage and action may have uncovered more stones and serpents than intended, but it did uncover THE serpent it intended to. As Joseph Kony’s name has jumped to the tip of every American’s tongue this past month, I wouldnt be surprised if Kony himself turns in his own bed these nights.

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