The Invisible Children Are Not So Invisible

In 2004 the nonprofit organization Invisible Children was founded, and released their first documentary. For those of you who don’t know, their goal is to stop the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflicts happening in Uganda by making awareness videos, creating rehabilitation centers and traveling around the country to spread the word. Almost two years ago they created a video, “Kony 2012,” which was a 30-minute documentary about Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony. According to Samantha Grossman from TIME NewsFeed, “This video was viewed more than 100 million times in just under a week, making it the most viral video in history.” Visible Measures is an analytics company that researched the short film and has found that it is now on YouTube translated into multiple languages such as Spanish, Italian, French and Chinese. The Cross-cultural adaption theory explains how people may adjust to new information in an environment, which in this case are the LRA conflicts. By watching and sharing this video on YouTube people have integrated themselves in this culture just by participating.

You may be wondering how one video could become viral so quickly. The answer is that the organization had already been extremely active on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook with thousands of followers. The idea was to share the video and have people pass it onto friends and family until everyone on the internet had seen it. This is an example of grassroots marketing, where you target your efforts to a small group and hope the group will spread your message to a much larger audience. The organization’s efforts were successful since celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Justin Bieber found these videos and posted them on their own profiles, encouraging millions more to view it.

Bieber retweeted an Invisible Children message and then looped the link to the video to his 18 million-plus followers several times, saying, “it is time to make him known. Im calling on ALL MY FANS, FRIENDS, and FAMILY to come together and #STOPKONY.”

Oprah referenced Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, saying, “Thanks tweeps for sending me info about ending #LRAviolence. I am aware. Have supported with $’s and voice and will not stop. #KONY2012.”

 

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Even after all of the positive feedback, there are still many that believe this video was misleading propaganda. Jee from J Student Reporters states, “The Invisible Children have been criticized for over dramatizing and oversimplifying this issue, which is a past problem in Uganda.” The article also goes on to talk about how the Ugandan government believes the LRA is no longer active because of expulsion by the Ugandan Peoples Defense Forces in mid-2006. After reading this information I started to wonder why an organization with so much power would want to bring back an old issue. I do believe that the Invisible Children have stuck with their mission through all the negative comments about what they are fighting for, so there must be a good reason for it.

Another problem people seem to have with the organization is that the money they receive does not all go to Uganda, but to make films just like this one. Cathy Curran from CBS states, “According to their financial statements, 20% is spent on management expenses and overhead. Last year $1.7 million were spent on travel, $3. 8 million were used for the film, advocacy and spreading their message and $3.3 million went to programs in Central Africa.” Even though every cent has not directly gone to Uganda, it is still being spent to help make people more aware of the situations there.

The Kony video was an eye opener for everyone, and encouraged people to care about an issue that was not even heard of before it. Without this video not only would people not know about the problems in Uganda, past or present, but there would be $3.3 million less going towards programs in Africa. They are also using a smart tactic by making their followers their own PR people. This makes them feel more involved in the company and really feel like they’re making a difference.

-Ashley Creps, Rachel Edwards, Chad Darrah, Dylan Fowler, and Ryan Nagy