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There is a diary on the rec list right now saying that the charity behind the viral (26 million views in three days) KONY 2012 campaign is "shady" and a "scam."

In under five minutes I found this substantive response to much of the critique, which even one of the accusers says is "solidly done on financials." But many of the commenters in the diary had already written the charity off as bogus.

If all it takes is some questions and accusations for people to cry "fraud," our hopes for larger social change are fucked.

Hope and cynicism can both go viral. Do you want people asking "how can I fight this evil charity scam," or "how can we stop a criminal warlord?"

The answers -- and the way we deal with skeptical critics -- go far beyond one charity, and they explain why Rethugs continue to beat us in elections when most people actually agree with progressives.

[Note: I have literally run out of time to properly finish this post, but I wanted to put up what I have for now.]

Just to be clear, I only heard about this organization and campaign yesterday. I'm not a donor or a volunteer, the whole thing is new to me.

A friend had linked to the video yesterday, and I thought "there's no way I'm spending 29 minutes watching this thing, but I'll check it out."

By the end of the video, I was crying. And I had learned some things. I had also seen a lot of people getting involved in a social justice cause that until yesterday I didn't know existed.

Apparently, about 15 26 million people have seen the video in three days.

Then tonight on the rec list I saw the "Do NOT donate" diary.

I clicked the links and read the criticisms. Some of them seemed substantive, but other points reminded me of charges we heard leveled against Obama in '08 and Dean before him. ("Too slick," "just a lot of empty enthusiasm," "just shallow internet activism, therefore it's meaningless.")

Within a few minutes I saw that there was an extensive response to the criticisms, and even one of the original skeptics felt satisfied about the financial questions.  (Links in my intro section.)

But reading the diary comments I was amazed at how many kossacks seemed to write off the whole campaign, or become more energized to "fight the scam" than do anything about Joseph Kony.

I'm not going to address all of the criticisms of the campaign for two reasons:

1) I think others are already doing a better job of both raising valid questions and answering them. Just google, it's a treasure trove. My favorite post so far, written by a man whose mother is from Northern Uganda.

But more importantly,

2) I think there is a much bigger prize here than one campaign or charity. As of right now, the video is showing 26 million views between youtube and Vimeo, almost all in the last three days.

Regardless of whether you agree with the campaign's content, do you think there might be something to learn from their methods? Would you like to have another 26 million people turn out to vote Democratic in November?

Interestingly, some of the exact methods that have made this so viral are also the subject of some of the criticisms. I think we face a choice in how we respond, and that choice determines our ability to win elections.

KONY 2012 Campaign Methods -or- How to get 26 million views in three days

I. Simplify (and let them accuse you of over-simplifying)

The KONY 2012 campaign has boiled a world full of injustice down to a hunt for one criminal. (While some critics raise the concern that this tactic could devolve into "mob justice," he was ranked #1 by the International Criminal Court, and the campaign is for his arrest, not a vigilante killing.)

But many critics of the campaign are crying "oversimplification!"

Undoubtedly, Kony's capture will not solve all problems. But it is impossible to mobilize people by crying "fix the systemic and interrelated issues of corruption, public health, unemployment, racism, sexism, education, the destructive legacy of colonialism, etc, etc, etc." That leads to blank stares and apathy.

Simplification is something progressives need to do more of, not less of. It's part of why "the 99%" resonates so strongly. Simplification is one of the methods that wingnuts use to great effect to mobilize people to the polls.

Of course the world is complex, but you can only eat the (free-range, vegan, Fair Trade, cruelty-free) elephant of social change one bite at a time.

Takeaway point - unless someone is accusing us of oversimplying, we're not reaching everyone we could.

II. Tell people what to do - make it concrete and easy.

The KONY 2012 campaign gives people some simple options for taking action - contacting a cultural or political influencer, sharing the video, and yes, donating.

I heard great success stories about the Obama campaign's strategy of asking for small, simple actions to begin with, and then asking for bigger actions as people's engagement progressed.

Sign up on

Give $10.

Email friends about Obama.

Make three voter calls.

Come to a training.

Be a neighborhood captain, etc.

Some people criticized this as "slacktivism." "You can't make a difference just by emailing or watching a video!!" True, but you also can't make a difference by paralyzing people with vague calls to "follow their conscience," nor with overwhelming admonitions to change their whole lives to fight imperialism.

III. Embrace the dark art of marketing - and be ready to be criticized for it.

I cannot remember the last political or social-justice video I watched that lasted 29 minutes. When I saw that the KONY 2012 video was going to be that long, I literally was like "yeah, I doubt I'll be watching this whole thing."

But it hooked me, and kept hooking me, all the way through until the end.

But...but...but...E-vil!! Manipulative!! Superficial!! Too glossy!! Marketing, ew, bad!!

If you think, as I used to, that marketing is a bad thing, tell me this - who do you think influences more people right now: Coca-cola, or Bernie Saunders? Are more people talking about the new iPad or about Sandra Fluke?


Marketing something worthwhile is an accomplishment to be proud of when we succeed. Condescension and revulsion at the mere word "marketing" are self-indulgent luxuries that cede the field to our enemies and abandon those we would help.

[Note to the reader: this is where I ran out of time to polish and properly finish the post.  Beware all who read on - below lie sentence fragments, half-developed thoughts, and other casualties of the approximately 6 hours it's taken me to wrestle with this thing tonight.]

Some final words on skepticism versus doubt and cynicism.

The dynamic of people throwing baseless of very thinly sourced doubts on KONY 2012 reminded me of the effect of climate deniers - if you can sow doubt, you can create paralysis. I'm not saying all criticisms fall in this category, far from it. But when you just say "seems shady, I'll tell everyone I know it's a scam," I'm sorry but that's not good enough.

In the same way, Republicans paralyze political engagement by repeating "gubmint doesn't work" ad nauseum for decades.

Strong negative claims create cynicism and doubt, and in the resulting paralysis, injustice always wins.

Before we jump on the bandwagon that this whole thing is a scam and a fraud, maybe it's worth asking what progressives can learn from the project.

Some of the criticisms remind me of the whining about Obama in 2008 being "just an inspirational speech-giver." The organization is accused of "over-simplifying" and putting "too much emphasis on marketing."

Well guess what?

Most people need their political engagement over-simplified!

And more importantly, the KONY 2012 campaign falls directly in the netroots, slacktivist lineage that runs from Howard Dean to small-donor donations for Obama.

Would you rather have viral hope, however imperfect, or viral cynicism, with all of our busy, low-information friends simply repeating "Oh I heard that was a scam, forget it."

But for many of the commenters in the rec-listed diary, the accusations are proof enough that the Kony campaign is a fraud, to be denigrated and dismissed. Oh yeah, and warn all your friends about the scam!

And the willingness to so easily buy into the criticisms remind me of how the Merchants of Doubt create paralysis and apathy by saying "well I heard this one person disagreed or said it was bogus."

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Comment Preferences

  •  I was one of the early recommenders (8+ / 0-)

    of the diary... but I came back hours later and had to Un-Rec the diary.

    There is no evidence of scam. That I saw anyway.

    The diarist (who I respect around these parts) did not prove his case. Actually on my first read I got the impression that the money was being funneled back to Kony.

    "Converts are the worst bigots." -- Max Headroom

    by jethrock on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 01:20:40 AM PST

  •  p.s. Great diary. It's not just meta, you actually (12+ / 0-)

    made a ton of constructive points.

    Tipped and Rec'd and I won't be un-recing this diary.

    "Converts are the worst bigots." -- Max Headroom

    by jethrock on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 01:32:38 AM PST

  •  It's not about the money (7+ / 0-)

    I find the organization abhorrent. How can Americans not see imperialism and white man's burden when it is right in front of their face?

    The entire video literally sets up a ridiculous dichotomy of good versus evil, whitewashing the fact that the current Ugandan military, which Invisible Children SUPPORTS financially, does the same thing Kony did. Not only that, it is designed to have (largely white) middle class American students come to the rescue of...something.

    First of all, Kony fled years ago. Most of the children are now adults. But this film isn't about them, it is about finding Kony. Yet the US and other countries are already involved in this.

    And what do Africans think of this?

    They don't seem impressed.

    Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

    by moviemeister76 on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 01:34:07 AM PST

    •  I can agree with a bunch of what you said (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jethrock, mconvente, martini

      but what do you think the next step is?

      I expect we'd disagree but for my part I think the organizers should be given a chance to learn about their imperialist biases (I agree with that charge) and also be given some credit for making an effective effort to start a conversation.

      so few people do one single thing in the world about injustice, let's try to help the organizers wake up and mature while learning from what they've done well.

      what's your proposal?

      •  But is there a conversation? (6+ / 0-)

        If a conversation comes out of this, then I agree it was a good thing. There are some wonderful organizations out there doing great grassroots work, and if the outcome of all of this is that more people learn of groups like the Global Fund for Children, then that's great. If the outcome of all of this is that people begin to question whether or not they are exhibiting imperialistic attitudes, then that is absolutely wonderful.

        But that is not what I am seeing. Across the internet, I am seeing a ton of people who are raising the same objections I am being excoriated. The most common response I and others have gotten is scolding because people assume that just because we are against this organization, we are against doing anything at all. People have a very binary way of looking at this, and it's really weird.

        Ironically, I think the White House has actually done more, quietly, to promote grassroots work on the issue of helping child soldiers than Invisible Children has because Obama actually brought his interest in community organizing to the White House. He gets next to no media coverage over this, too, which is also really weird.

        Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

        by moviemeister76 on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 02:20:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  you make great points (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          augustin, martini

          I'm sorry people have been unthinking in their response to your points.

          I'm actually surfing a treasure-trove of blog posts and tweets on this at the moment.

          I spent four months in India during college, and was really pissed off when I read stuff from the U.S. about all the "wonderful" and "easy" things that could be done to impact difficult social issues in India.

          I think these issues always have many facets, but the art is to somehow simplify enough to help people get involved, but not OVER-simplify to the point where you're hurting.

          Very tricky indeed, but fascinating.

          I'm still really really impressed by how quickly the KONY 2012 people surfaced this conversation widely.

          •  OMG (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angelino, martini

            India! I was watching a lecture Dr. Gayatri Spivak gave a a year or two ago on Youtube, and in it she was trying to explain how difficult it was to make change. It was so incredibly difficult to grasp how truly different things are there.The part that got me was when she said that many of the children from the lower class (caste?) believed that the Decimal system was just a myth. A myth!

            She talked a lot about how she would attend these seminars organized by the UN to train female Indian teachers how to teach children, watch these women do very well, but as soon as the UN left, they would go right back to teaching in the old ways. And that is the danger with outside involvement. The culture gap is often so vast, that help is often just ignored.

            The same thing is going on in Cairo right now with NGOs. The UN is trying to push this idea of Universal Rights for children in the practice of medicine, but the Egyptian doctors are unable to grasp some of the cultural aspects so they just ignore it when they treat street orphans. It really is very sad.

            Yes, I am impressed with how quickly this video went viral. Amazing thing, the internet.

            Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

            by moviemeister76 on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 03:30:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  yeah, 4 months in India, 8 weeks in Egypt (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              and some business + NGO trips to Brazil and India the last few years.

              and yeah, I think the whole business of supporting social change is difficult and nuanced, but I admire the people who are giving it a go like the Invisible Children people.

              even while I think they have some arrogance and some just plain old blind spots, like everyone does, they've tried to get people engaged. and I think succeeded on a scale I've never seen.

              now the question is can they have the humility and social and emotional intelligence to reach out to some of their critics and ask for mentorship and collaboration.

              that would be teh awesomeness. we'll see. (and yes I emailed the founder suggesting that :)

    •  very informative link (6+ / 0-)

      Good to hear an African perspective and substantive critique.

    •  Lumping "Africans" into one box (0+ / 0-)

      is also imperialistic. I have read positions from multiple angles on this from Africans and particularly, Ugandans. They aren't a monolith. I would want statistics, not anecdotes, because this can all easily be very, very spun.

      I simply have more questions than answers right now.

      You might want to re-think those ties. - Erin Brockovich

      by mahakali overdrive on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 01:28:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Actually it reminded me of Komen. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But even worse on the financials front.  My number one deciding factor on whether or not a given charity I'm considering giving cash is going to get it is what percent goes to 'overhead', and on that front, Kony fails.

    •  Actually, Charity Navigator says 16.2% for admin. (0+ / 0-)

      expenses and 80% for program expenses and gives it 4 stars on finances. It is the accountability and transparency scores that are low due to not having an independent audit.

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 05:33:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I thought it was just cos their Board has 4 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        George, martini

        instead of 5?

        Their response piece (linked in my intro) says they have been independently audited.

        This is part of why I wrote this diary. I think it's verrry easy for a claim to be made and then to propagate or even become exaggerated, without the claim necessarily being true and even without any ill will.

        we are all in a hurry and read and type things quickly, or at least i'm guilty of that. and sometimes people or causes are tarred with lingering negative impressions that just are not true.

        In either case IC should make it much clearer that they have been independently audited so that the claim stops circulating.

        either way thanks for stoppin by and commenting. hope you have a great day.

        •  What Charity Navigator says causes that score (0+ / 0-)
          The charity's audited financials were prepared by an independent accountant, but it did not have an audit oversight committee. In this case, we deduct 7 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score
          On the board issue they say
          If a charity has less than 5 independent voting members of the board or if the independent members do not constitute a voting majority, then 15 points are deducted from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
          That is not a matter of how many board members there are, but whether a significant number of board members are independent of the owners/organizers. For example, it appears that a board consisting of 4 members would be fine, if 3 of those members were independent.

          from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

          by Catte Nappe on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 09:44:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  thanks for sleuthing that down! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe

            The more I learn about this the more I think there is a lot of Rorsach-y, seeing-what-one-is-inclined to see when people react to the organization.

            For example, I have a perception that they are mostly mellow Southern California hipsters, so I look at the Board of Directors thing as more like just under-organization and a low value for structure and formality than anything nefarious.

            Note! I'm not saying this is reality, just that I observe my own prejudice coloring my perception that way.

            I think equally many of the skeptics are take a few allegations at face value and going "bam! scammers, frauds!"

            I hope that they can learn from all this (assuming they are basically ethical) and more importantly that we progressives can learn from what they have done right.

            Any views on that front?

            Thanks for adding facts =)

            •  These are not newbies (0+ / 0-)

              One might forgive lack of organization in a group that enthusiastically plunged into something and found themselves maybe in over their head initially, but could learn and grow from it. These folks have been around a good while now - almost a decade. The criticisms are not new. If they were going to learn and improve they would have by now.

              from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

              by Catte Nappe on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 10:15:48 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not newbies at some things, for sure (0+ / 0-)

                One of my life lessons is that people can be very very competent and wise in some areas (making movies), and yet sloppy, clumsy, or potential even immoral in other areas.

                I don't infer from their having been doing campaigning for several years that they have any fraction of a clue about things like compliance, legal structures, audit committees, and the like.

                They make be bad at that, even know they are bad, or even like some people, PROUD of being bad at it. Kind of like how I idiotically glory in the disaster area that is my desk. It shows I'm all creative and doing the other more important things, right?!?!! Right....oh. Ok, that's bullshit. Got it.

                Again - I think our assumptions are automatic and unproven, but I just plead for us all -- me included -- to make our assumptions public and treat them as such until we have evidence in hand.

                I hope some of the talented skeptics will start some other parallel effort that tries to correct all the shortcomings of this one, and becomes even more viral!

                •  I do (0+ / 0-)
                  I don't infer from their having been doing campaigning for several years that they have any fraction of a clue about things like compliance, legal structures, audit committees, and the like.
                  They aren't just hearing this for the first time this week. They have heard it before, and have chosen to ignore it for whatever reasons.

                  Maybe they think it wasn't important, but if so they have fully earned the criticisms from those who do think it's important in any non-profit they choose to support. Maybe they don't want the controls because that would prevent them from excessively and personally profiting from their efforts - which is why groups like Charity Navigator score down on the lack of appropriate controls - it's both a reflection of lack of responsibility and a means to misuse donations. In either case, donors need to be aware of the problem.

                  from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

                  by Catte Nappe on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 11:07:17 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary. I believe "Stop Kony" is legit (7+ / 0-)

    If you hadn't, I would have. And much better than I'd have done. I really like how you parse out the strategy and connect it to our cause here on Kos.

    Here is an article in yesterday's Washington Post by Elizabeth Flock, their "blog watcher", where she interviews Jedediah Jenkins, one of the directors of Invisible Children, about the criticisms.

    The Internet response has been interesting to watch from perspectives of media crit and social justice disciplines. It engages political and moralistic judgement. There is a phenomenon behind the backlash we could call "politics of suspicion."

    I'm going to quote a comment from a dear friend in Media Criticism Studies:

    Yes, and I am not too keen on exploring the 'politics of suspicion' either!  I am, though, curious to discuss this text as a cultural artifact that mobilizes audiences in a particular manner.  It is interesting that 'scam' becomes invoked, as that fear speaks to the consumer ethos of 'fairness' and equivalence in exchange (the Maussian concept of gift is almost too rich to ignore).  My point is that if, as this student attests, fears of fraud are mobilized, it confirms a dimension to politics that is more sharply defined by consumption, making politics a simple matter of preference and fairness in exchange.  All other problems are elided….

    The other point to make, from a media crit perspective, is the ways in which politics and care avoid any of the structural conditions that produce the problem.  An issue such as child-soldiers is so universally reviled, it calls for immediate action, without any consideration of the structural conditions which would give rise to the possibility of such things.  As such, racist and cultural discourses are mobilized as explanatory diagnoses, eliding the structural problem.  It's like Bill and Melinda Gates working on illness -- who will stand against that?  It leaves the very political economic structure which produces such inequitable distributions of health and medicine intact to occur in the first place….

    Not to be a negative nancy, but these openings are sometimes pungent opportunities that reveal the structural logics of global capital, masquerading as 'cultural' social problems.

    My take is that the Stop Kony project is still the necessary and right approach.

    Our cause: a More Perfect Union

    by Roby NJ on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 04:32:22 AM PST

    •  I think Stop Kony is a great _start_, but they (6+ / 0-)

      really need to be humble and partner with local organizations I think.

      It really does carry too much of the Team America, White World Saviors To The Rescueeeee vibe for me at the moment.
      Or at a minimum, leaves itself perilously vulnerable to that charge, even if they have much more local partnership than was shown in the vid.

      And to the extent that I understand what your friend said, I agree.

      But again, I think that's where the art comes in.

      Like when Al Franken couldn't get the bill passed that would exclude rape charges excluded from binding arbitration agreements that Halliburton/KBR employees have to sign (if I have my facts right).

      However in the fuck we could not mobilize public opinion to shame the Repubs enough to make it politically impossible for them to go against that bill, we failed.

      So I think the challenge is to find these simple, concrete, actionable issues that are "must win" in terms of impact and "can't lose" in terms of moral appeal, and make fucking awesome video and social media campaigns out of them.

      thanks for you comment dude.

  •  Here's the reason people rec'd it (5+ / 0-)

    It's a weatherdude diary.  Yeah, I said it.  It would have happened if a handful of other well-known Daily Kos writers published that diary.  People see the name, read the post quickly, and click "Recommend".  Some probably don't even read the damn diary.

    I initially tipped and rec'd as well, but after reading comments, I withdrew both.

    Seriously, comparing Invisible Children to the Koch Brothers(as weatherdude did).

    It's totally to advocate for people to be cautious when donating their money to any organization (make sure they research it fully, etc.), but to outright call for people to "NOT" donate to KONY 2012 is ridiculous.

    I don't know where weatherdude went, but other than responding to my comments, he basically disappeared in the diary.  Let's hope he addresses the increasing number of comments in his diary today.

    "Give me a lever long enough... and I shall move the world." - Archimedes

    by mconvente on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 05:20:40 AM PST

  •  Well reasoned diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelino, martini


    First, I don't understand why people don't know about the LRA already.

    Second, if Invisible Children should be supported as an "awareness raising" organization, then shouldn't they be using the video itself to make people aware of the "assistance delivering" organizations, like Doctors without Borders?

    Third, there is NO mention of Museveni's atrocities or the fact that the actions of his UPDF are what SPAWNED Kony to begin with.  I understand the point of "simplifying", but it was a goddamned 30 minute video.  If somebody was hooked enough to get through the first 5 minutes, they were hooked enough to get a more complex picture than the acontextual one painted by Invisible Children.

    Honestly, the "awareness" the video raises is more awareness of Invisible Children than actual awareness of what besets the people of Uganda.

    Thank you for creating a balanced diary.

    The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

    by chipmo on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 06:05:21 AM PST

    •  Agreed on several points (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chipmo, martini

      I'd really like to see Invisible Children add some links to other local organizations on their website. I like how you put it - raise awareness of who else is working on this.

      Hopefully this is something they will do in follow up. I'll recommend it if I hear back from the note I sent to the founder.

      As to the more complex issues, I think they need to find a way to educate people beyond the over-simple picture they presented.

      Simplicity is powerful, but that power must be used wisely and balanced with humility and with ways to continue educating people beyond the initial click/view/tweet/'like.'

      •  Exactly. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Simplicity is a tool.  It is not good or bad on its own.

        I look at this whole Invisible Children campaign and see nothing but:

        1. Raise awareness
        2. ???
        3. World peace!

        It's just not thought through.  At all.

        The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

        by chipmo on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 07:01:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think they have more of a plan than that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I think they see it as

          1. raise awareness

          2. create pressure on decision makers.

          3. decision makers take action that leads to arresting kony

          4. celebrate

          (and i hope) 5. continue to engage people

          I think the legitimate questions are, do the local people of northern uganda want kony caught and tried, or would they rather have a kind of amnesty-and-peace approach, as one critic seemed to imply.

          this is why i think they need to either SHOW a lot more of their local partnership, or starting doing more of that and show that they are.

          as to #5, i think it's cynical that a lot of critics are assuming these people are just going to do nothing after kony. My assumption, wrong or right, is that they are trying to learn activism by doing it, and would seek to impact other issued afterward.

          I hope that's the case, but even if not, I plan to appropriate the shit out of some of their methods because I think the speed and scale of the video launch are just historic in itself.

  •  Thanks for this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mconvente, martini

    We need even more diaries with more info. I hate the knee-jerk reaction to Kony when what I want to see is discussion and information. Thanks for providing more of both.

  •  Here's another "helpful skeptic" (0+ / 0-)

    This article exemplifies what I think is the helpful, positive strain of critics.

    Here is a key truth from this article that I worry will get lost even by the best-informed of the critics:

    Our humility about the ability to bring about change cannot justify inaction.
    This is why I think the best way forward is collaborations between Invisible Children and some of their leading critics - the situation needs more than one kind of wisdom, and the American organizers are neither superheros, idiots, nor con artists.
  •  I'm a real dope when it comes to matters of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, angelino, Catte Nappe

    marketing, so I usually hesitate to offer any opinions on messaging. So If I may offer this observation very humbly, I can't help noticing that the video allowed the observer to feel good about him or herself. I suspect this feel-good, "we have the power to fight evil" tone is part of why some people on the left are bothered by it.

    Sometimes it seems to me that people on the left, including myself, find nothing so alluring as a hair shirt and, after donning one ourselves, we graciously offer one to every person we meet.

    So that's another lesson I think we can take away. Try to give people a reason to feel good about joining with you.

    I read the Foreign Affairs article to which several of the articles linked. After I was done reading it I was left with the impression that the situation in central Africa is very complicated and I shouldn't hope to understand it without spending a couple of years studying it and visiting the countries in question several times, that Joseph Kony is just one of many dangerous people in the region, his tactics are no worse than any others, it's so complicated Obama can't figure it out and we should all just mind our own business and leave it to the experts.

    Truthfully, I don't have an opinion about what, if anything, should be done about Kony, but that does agree with what you said about complicated explanations leaving a person paralyzed.

    •  Thanks for this. (0+ / 0-)

      Your comment felt like it came from the heart.  I admire you for being self-aware enough to look at the "noble suffering" hair-shirt thing. I agree that it's one of our habits and doesn't help us broaden the movement.

      And ditto on the complexity leading (often) to paralysis.

      That's why my dream would be collaboration - let the video wunderkinds become more humble and educated by the locals, and let the locals take advantage of 20+ million viewers in three days to put out the information and calls to action they feel will help most.

      Hope you have a good one, Fourth.

  •  I'm fence sitting on this one (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelino, weatherdude

    Didn't see the previous diary, but when this viral storm began erupting a few days ago, the Google told me there have been quite a few concerns about how this group operates - going back several years, not just in the past week or so. Unfortunately, the substantive response you link early in your diary is from the organization being criticized so it's not exactly unbiased either.

    Some of the concerns I've seen raised are relative to money management, but more have been in how the money is used. Not only what some find to be excessive pay and perks to the organizers themselves, but what their proposed "solutions" to the problem entail. Some  seem to suggest they are naive at best, others that the group is actively financing interests that are almost as bad on human rights (a sort of enemy of my enemy is my friend approach). I think we've seen the outcomes when governments provide financial aid to one mad man in the attempt to enlist his help in ridding us of another mad man.

    Kony is a really bad dude, but we all probably need to learn a good deal more about the current situation before falling under the thrall of a viral marketing video. For just a taste of what that might look like:

    There is growing outrage in Uganda over a viral internet film viewed by more than 32 million people in four days that suggests Africa’s longest-running conflict is still raging in the country’s north.
    “There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.”

    I recommend reading the whole article - it's not terribly long or in depth, but it touches on most of the issues of concern.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 09:36:45 AM PST

  •  Thanks, gonna check that out (0+ / 0-)

    I think it's all too easy for people to instantly decide the organizers are scammers or heroes, when as you say, I think it takes a bunch more info.

    At the same time, regardless of their real or imagined shortcomings, I also think they can be a very instructive case study around mobilizing people.  

    What do you think of that part of it?

    Thanks again.

    •  As to mobilizing (0+ / 0-)

      What they are doing has obviously had an effect, and it certainly is worthwhile to consider how they have achieved that. It's a far different matter than whether that effect is a positive one, or should be supported. Don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but I'm finding more and more "substantive" evaluations that what they are doing is not good.

      To get the story behind the photograph, we turned to Glenna Gordon. who captured the moment at the Sudan-Congo border during the 2008 Juba Peace Talks while she was on assignment for the Associated Press.
      I can’t bring myself to watch the video. I found all of their previous efforts to be emotionally manipulative, and all the things I try as a journalist not to be. After the peace talks in 2008, they put out another video, and I saw the footage used in these videos blending archival footage with LRA and SPLA and videos of them goofing off. It was the most irresponsible act of image-making that I’d seen in a long time.
      "One consequence, whether it's [Invisible Children] or Save Darfur, is a lot of dangerously ill-prepared young people embarking on missions to save the children of this or that war zone," said Chris Blattman, professor of political science and economics at Yale University. "At best it's hubris and egocentric. More often, though, it leads to bad programs, misallocated resources, or ill-conceived military adventures."

      from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

      by Catte Nappe on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 10:11:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with a lot of concerns about bad (0+ / 0-)

        policy, but I wonder if the alternative isn't usually just neglect and stagnation.

        To be clear - I've spent between months and years of my life around NGO projects in the U.S., India, Egypt, and Brazil. And I agree heartily that the All-Knowing White Savior number is dangerous and destructive.

        But I guess I feel like a lot of the people who (rightly) make that critique often don't seem to offer any model of what helpful engagement might look like. Not universally, but often.

        My vision is that we could have the intelligence of local grassroots folks backed by influencing and fundraising on the scale of KONY 2012 to get G8 leaders on board around international debt relief, jailing Monsanto, or other actually helpful actions.

        As to the "emotionally manipulative" image-making, I take this one with a grain of intercultural salt. I grew up in Canada, did college and the last 15 years in the U.S., with 5 years in the UK and a year in Brazil in between.

        In my experiences with those different cultures, and shorter times in India and Egypt, I have seen monumental miscommunications and serious emotional reactions, including disgust and revulsion, as a result of being thinking they are being "normal" in their own culture's terms.

        In the UK, skepticism and almost zero personal/emotional disclosure are the hallmarks of all "serious" people. So while I personally wasn't a fan of some of the video's more personal moments, I can understand that to an American from Southern California (my current home), it would seem to make sense.

        I can equally understand that in more formal and indirect cultures, esp the UK and I'd say France and Germany, the whole thing could play very, very badly.

    •  More on the mobilizing lessons (0+ / 0-)

      When you have time it might be worthwhile for you to do a diary focused on just that. You've kind of buried the lede under the Kony video controversy, and taking a stand on that (and essentially calling out weatherdude).  

      When the dust settles over this issue you've still got your legitimate three points on marketing, with this viral video being perhaps only one example of how such a thing is done successfully.

      Of course, nobody has yet nailed the magic formula for what makes something go viral either. There's some alchemy that includes a good video, good marketing, effective use of social media; but there's also timing and whatever is going on in the zeitgeist that makes one thing take fire, and another bomb. I mean, you haven't heard of these people before apparently, and they've been out there doing their thing for years. What changed three days ago?

      from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

      by Catte Nappe on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 10:24:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I asked Jeff Sharlet a question on Twitter (0+ / 0-)

    today after viewing a video of IC's Founder at Liberty University. His response is in this chirp story

    •  I think you made a really important connection (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mahakali overdrive

      the chirp story link didn't work for me but I'm looking at his tweets right now. I think you found something really significant here.

      and FWIW it's making me look at my own preconceptions and predudices about Christians.

      I think this is another nuanced area, now among many raised by the campaign.

      If I hear that someone is a Christian or an evangelical, in my mind those can be fairly negative things. But does that mean that I couldn't respect and connect with them beyond my stereotypes?

      Thanks for finding that link, am off to research more.

  •  Thank you... I would write a diary (0+ / 0-)

    on how I see this if I had time. It's not perfectly articulated here, but it's closer to it. I particularly think that the piece written by the Independent is very good:

    I encourage people to question the degree of pushback which this has received. It's peculiar, IMHO.

    You might want to re-think those ties. - Erin Brockovich

    by mahakali overdrive on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 01:23:32 PM PST

  •  Remember this.. (0+ / 0-)

    We must use every  way on multiple fronts we can  be it marketing, music etc  to solve the problems of the world.. Be it a simple music video a speech to congress,  a sermon at church or just asking a family member to ask congress  to help put pressure on the governments of this region to bring this guy and his cohorts to justice and help his victims.


    "Obama, the change that leads to indefinite detention and the abrogation of the Constitution! Yes He Can!"

    by hangingchad on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 09:28:45 AM PST

    •  Agreed. I think Invis Children can do better (0+ / 0-)

      but I agree they really started a conversation.

      I give them credit for that and hope they can be less ego-centric and more factual going forward.

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