“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time is now.”
At the time of this writing, over 74 million people have seen these words flash in front of them before watching the 30-minute-long “Kony 2012” video by filmmaker and head of the “Invisible Children” foundation Jason Russell. Last week the video went viral and became easily the most discussed topic on Twitter, Facebook and even major media outlets.
For those of you that aren’t part of the 74 million that watched this video, here’s a brief explanation: Russell narrates the video and tells everyone about a man named Joseph Kony in Uganda, who has made a career out of forcing children to serve him in his own child army.
The video spotlights different points in Russell’s journey, like meeting a young boy (now a young adult) from Uganda named Jacob ten years ago, to telling his young son about Kony now. It also details the actions that have been taken to bring Kony down, both by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the U.S. government. The U.S. action was spurred on by a protest walk by Invisible Children on Washington where the members informed members of Congress of the acts by Kony.
Now, Russell is asking people to help by doing three things, and I quote: “1. Sign the pledge to show your support. 2. Get the bracelet and action kit” and “3. Sign up for TRI to donate a few dollars a month.”
I have a huge problem with that last part.
First, let me just say that I realize that this is a real problem. This guy is obviously not making up the whole Kony thing. However, Russell is trying to make people think that they need to do more than they do to stop it.
One of Russell’s claims is that he needs your money to make sure that the U.S. stays in Uganda trying to find Kony. He implies that the U.S. will get bored and decide it’s not worth the time anymore and pull out. However, he makes all of these claims without a single reliable source to confirm it and parades it as fact.
Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way about how he did this is that he targeted college and high school kids. He specifically said that that demographic has to be the one to help him, by watching his video and giving “a few dollars a month” to his cause. Oh, and to buy his $30 action kit, which contains a T-shirt, two bracelets (individually numbered no less!) and some posters and stickers. Thirty dollars is a fair amount of money for most people without a college degree (and to some with one), and he not only wants that but also monthly contributions.
This would maybe be acceptable if Kony was still not being tracked, but to demand money from people so that a nonprofit can play vigilante in Africa is just awful.
Which brings me to the nonprofit part. Russell pays himself and two of his higher-ups over $90,000 per year. That is a lot of money. The more ridiculous part of that is that they likely aren’t even paying for travel expenses, food, etc. That can all be paid for by Invisible Children and written off as a business expense. So really this guy is pocketing almost $100,000 a year.
In addition, they’re currently sitting on a LOT of money. In 2011 alone, Invisible Children took in almost $14 million according to charitynavigator.com, and spent just over $7 million. That means that last year alone they kept almost $7 million in the bank.
Now, all of my accusations could wind up being baseless and this guy could be totally legit. However, my point is that there is a good chance this could be a scam, and we need to all stop flocking to the hot thing on Twitter or Facebook.
We laugh at the people who bought into “Miracle Medicines” in the 1800s from traveling salesmen, and yet really this could end up being no different. So, I urge you all, do some research. Make sure these things are legit before you go dumping your time and money into them. I don’t think any of us want to be remembered as that idiot generation that bought into everything they saw on Facebook.