I really did not want to join this conversation,
but… it’s still raging on, and some parts of the dialogue are really bothering me-
First, a quote:
“Don’t let a real, complex issue become a meme. Do your own homework on this. Understand it on a level that a charity like Invisible Children doesn’t get into. Remember: Activism can become an easy salve to serious problems, but what happens in a week, and then after April 20, when Invisible Children’s campaign fades into the ether? It’s easy to focus on something when it’s right in front of you.”
I support this statement 100%. The fact that IC has gained such a large number of followers and supporters over the past few days may not actually be a good thing. It could be dangerous if these new supporters embark on their activist journeys with an incomplete view of the situation in central africa, and more generally, an incomplete view of what human rights activism, conflict resolution, and peace-building really entails. People typically do a lot of research and seek exposure to many people, projects, and ideas centered around these topics before they have a real grasp of what it means to be a part of IC and similar organizations, and what the implications of their actions with those groups are. So, hopefully, learning about how often human rights violations and mass-atrocities are committed in the world today will be a starting point for these new followers; hopefully it will be the impetus for them to actually become educated advocates for peace, justice, and human rights.
That being said, I want to make it clear: IC, with all of its flashy campaigns targeted at young people, does do valuable work in some respects. I think it’s rash to completely discredit the organization, which is what I’m seeing many, including more experienced activists, doing. While much of the criticism is well-grounded, we have to remember that IC does a whole lot to support affected communities, whether it be by providing funds/markets for small businesses or providing educational opportunities (ie college) to children who would never have had them otherwise. The radio tower system that they helped to implement is something Ugandans operate largely by themselves, for themselves. Whether or not these programs are completely sustainable, I do not know—but from what i have seen, they have been for the past few years, and consequently have impacted the affected communities positively. Credit should be given where it’s due.
IC’s approach to advocacy and human rights activism absolutely has its glitches. It can make the crises in central africa, as well as the ideas of conflict resolution and peace-building, seem one-dimensional. It can be very irritating, and it has been my biggest issue with IC for a few years now. It is questionable to depend on groups that have committed atrocities of their own to go against the LRA. And there are many other parts of the KONY 2012 campaign that are iffy, I totally agree. Therefore, I do think it’s important to be critical of their rhetoric, and to remind those in the organization who many not necessarily have much experience that they need to understand that the fields of human rights activism, humanitarian assistance, international law, and international development that IC tries to work in all at once are extremely complex.
However—and this is my main point—it’s saddening to see fellow human rights activists (and empathizers/other informed citizens of the world) disparaging IC’s mission, slandering it, and discrediting it without acknowledging that it has indeed done some good for the people in Uganda. It seems to me that most of them are basing their ideas and criticisms off of the original tumblr post, or off other people’s rants. It does no good when people who are supposedly standing for freedom and justice in this world make it their purpose to bash another group that aspires to do the very same thing—there needs to be some balance in their arguments, and their arguments should be constructive. If you’re serious about being an advocate for humanity, you should know that we’re in this together—don’t simply try to chase people away from supporting the group and the cause. (btw, you can see IC’s recent response to the criticisms here)
Hopefully this whole angry dialogue will blow over ASAP, and IC will keep all of these criticisms in mind as they proceed with their work. I really hope they will take them to heart and use them to check their goals, their rhetoric, and their actions. They’re a relatively young organization, worked mostly by young people, so it may take a lot of a time, a lot of reassessment, maybe a newly hired team of well-educated policy analysts dedicated specifically to advising IC campaigns, and the list could go on…but basically, I would like to see that something constructive comes out of this, and all critics (and supporters too) of the organization or the campaign should have that goal as well.
Once again, a level-headed, insightful, beautifully written post. Thank you.
Everyone read this (including the link of IC’s response in it)…read and be informed.