A quick background is that I joined a guys’ small group through my college Wesley Foundation when I was a junior, and it turned out to be one of the most significant times in my spiritual life to that point (and ever). There were only five of us. Through Scripture, accountability, baring our hearts, and Papa Johns’ $5 Large-One-Topping Tuesdays, we became brothers known as the “GNB” (an acronym I am not at liberty to explain). I can’t describe how solid it was, or how righteous these guys are.
A few years later, I’ll call it Spring 2006 (?), one member of the group, David, has us over for a special chat. We hadn’t met as a group regularly in awhile, but ran across each other when we could, and he asked us to join him for an undisclosed reason. When we got to his apartment, David showed us part of (or all of) the first Invisible Children film. It was a relatively unknown deal at the time; I don’t think Oprah or others had covered it yet. But David, who was set to graduate soon, was going to join their first round of bus tours. IC would select teams of 3-4 young adults out of a pool of applicants, and throw their funding into 15-passenger vans carrying equipment to screen the IC film, and put the teams in the vans with the mission of canvassing the US with what they had witnessed in Uganda.
It caught on fast. The film became very well known. My sister and I are ministers, so we had the chance to facilitate having David’s team screen the film to students/adults in our area. These van-teams were busting their hindparts to setup any kind of face-to-face with groups who were willing to listen, especially involving young people. It was ridiculously well done.
IC kept pursuing advocacy, and US congressional intervention, and on-the-ground relief for people in Uganda. I specifically remember being very pleased with IC’s strong desire to not rush in and try to serve as “white saviors” but to work through locals, particularly the locals they knew firsthand from their time in-country. From the very first, they were always extremely transparent with their financials.
I say all that because for the critics who have just popped up because of the #Kony2012 media rage, well, you’ve had some eight years or so to pipe up already. Some of the very ways you critique them (IC’s use of funding, some of IC’s funders, IC’s over-focus on Kony and Uganda, and/or IC’s methods in-country) are so under-informed they get close to false. Most critics/commentators and even supporters lately seem only to be regurgitating info they’ve gleaned from other critics/commentators, repackaging it, and calling it newfound wisdom.
I’ve personally seen IC do a pretty fair job. I personally understand them as a part of a young people’s movement that has been evolving. From the start it has been primarily about advocacy with teens/students. That hasn’t changed. I’ve heard a ton of bitching from different corners about how Kony is in DRC and Uganda is golden now. The second half of that is a joke, and the first half is something IC has been in touch with for some time now. My same friend David, as a matter of fact, after his time with IC moved on to help in the genesis of a program focusing specifically on child soldiers in DRC called “Falling Whistles.”
So, critics/commentators, go in search of better facts. Take one of your critiques of IC and apply it to self: do a better job of getting “on the ground” and practically/personally informed. Look at IC’s nearly-a-decade of existence. Realize that however (in)effective you think the #Kony2012 campaign is, and even though some of their personnel are indeed white “Westerners,” Invisible Children has had powerful and lasting effects on the US and other nations. The primary world agency that stands to gain from #Kony2012, the International Criminal Court, seems satisfied with the campaign, so take note. To the entire media, particularly the negative media on this…it should be massively humbling to you that a few college travelers came across and publicized the story of Ugandan child soldiers in a way that you seem unable to, or unwilling to.
Overall, if you disagree with IC’s methods or goals, then by all means be sure to include practical changes in your commentary; set forth your own ideas on the situation or specific ways IC can do better. In my experience they are intensely dedicated to DIALOGUE. As I see it, commentary alone is noise right now, or it’s jumping on the bandwagon, or it’s an attempt to steal a shaft of limelight. Even to my good brothers and sisters who just want to do their moral duty by standing up to say things like, “The issue is more complicated than just right and wrong, guys” — join the dialogue with some substance and some concrete input, or feel free to hold your tongue, pen, and keyboard.