Kony 2012 Exposed: Facts, Fiction, and What You Should Do About It

Last week I came home from work and my wife asks me, “Have you seen this Kony video?!

I’m like, “What coney video?” I’m thinking Coney Island.

She answers, “Remember the two-hour special they had for 24 before season seven, where Dubaku from Sengala is kidnapping kids to make them into child soldiers and Jack Bauer is caught in the middle of it?

“Yea, I remember that.” I tell her.

She responds, “Well, it’s a documentary about that, except this time it’s Uganda and it’s for real. Go on online and search k-o-n-y-2012.

I started up my Xbox and watched the full video.

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Being a marketing professional, I could totally appreciate the marketing and creative brilliance behind this video.

Immediately I wanted to get involved and was ready to purchase an action kit, but then I started seeing critics online talking about how this whole thing is a hoax. Some were calling it the new Nigerian prince scam, except this time it was in Uganda.

I decided to turn to those I trust and here’s what I found out.

The Truth About Invisible Children and Kony 2012

First is Kevin Sites, an embedded war journalist who worked for CNN and Yahoo!

If there’s anyone that knows about foreign wars, it’s this man. Sites did “Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone” with Yahoo, where he visited and reported on all of the world’s conflict zones in one year.

Here’s what Sites had to say on his Facebook:

No disrespect to Invisible Children–but Joseph Kony hasn’t been in Uganda for at least six years. His group is splintered and nothing more than ragtag bandits. It’s great to have a rallying point for a cause, but let’s be honest and help people because we do have responsibility to each other–not to warm our hands in the flames of outrage fanned by the twitter feeds of dozens of ill-informed celebrities happy to expand their brand to include Coca Cola, Nike and Compassion.


We have to stop adding to our collection of colored bracelets and think that’s the answer to every problem from AIDS and cancer to global conflict. Solidarity is great, so’s real caring and concern, but that takes removing our loving gaze from our own navels and seeing a little bit more of the world–even if it’s just online. But we also need to be skeptical–while awareness for an issue is good, awareness of something that isn’t completely true is still ignorance. Be informed, but also skeptical.


Sites also shared a link to an article on BoingBoing: African voices respond to hyper-popular Kony 2012 viral campaign – The overall sentiment of the article seems to say that the video overs implied the problem and also misrepresented the African people and how they’re not all helpless.

Although I can understand the sentiment, I’d like to say that the African people aren’t the intended audience for the video, therefor the way Jason Russell and Invisible Childred approached it was smart in my humble opinion. I wasn’t convinced that this isn’t something we shouldn’t support.

Then I saw this video about Invisible Children finances from a former volunteer and supporter.

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Okay, so just over one third of the money they raise goes to helping the Central African people. I understand that’s not a lot compared to other NGOs. However, they spend close 40% of the money they raised toward awareness and media.

If you take a look at Invisible Children’s response to critics page you’ll see they’ve stated,

Invisible Children’s mission is to stop LRA violence and support the war-affected communities in East and Central Africa. These are the three ways we achieve this mission; each is essential:

  1. Make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring them around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people.
  2. Channel energy from viewers of IC films into large-scale advocacy campaigns to stop the LRA and protect civilians.
  3. Operate programs on the ground in LRA-affected areas that provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.

Most of their active focus is on awareness and advocacy. Essentially, they’re operating like a marketing company, which is why I believe they’ve been so successful.

That 40% of their budget that they’ve spent on awareness has brought to light an issue that wasn’t even in the mind of people before this campaign. More awareness means that the national potential to give is greater. No other news organization or NGO has been able to bring to attention an issue like Invisible Children has.

In my opinion, they’ve spent close to 80% of their money toward the overall cause which not only benefits the work of Invisible Children, but all NGOs in that space.

However, what really got me thinking were comments from Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR Michigan.

I am disturbed by “Stop Kony 2012” because the main push of the project is not amplifying the voices of those who want true socio-political change in the region but is pushing for military intervention into the region. This seems counterintuitive for a humanitarian organization.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni began using child soldiers prior to Kony’s insurgency. Museveni, himself, should be tried for crimes against humanity, not to mention his brutal crackdowns against Ugandans, who have peacefully protested against his regime…

Hence, we have the issue of a humanitarian organization calling for military intervention in coordination with a brutal dictator, who should be tried as a criminal in order to catch another criminal.

Source: ‘Stop Kony 2012?: Flawed Framing Leads to Flawed Results

Is it inappropriate for a humanitarian organization to call for military action?


Here’s what Invisible Children said regarding the capture of Joseph Kony,

Back in 2008 I wanted this war to end, like we all did, peacefully, through peace talks. But Kony was not interested in that; he kept killing. And we still don’t want war. We don’t want him killed and we don’t want bombs dropped. We want him alive and captured and brought to justice.

Is Invisible Children a humanitarian organization?

Is there a legal classification of a “humanitarian organization?” If there is, then is Invisible Children classified as that?

Personally, I don’t see Invisible Children as a humanitarian organization. I see them as a marketing and advocacy organization that has humanitarian efforts happening on the side.

Their mission is to drive awareness and through that bring Kony to justice. I don’t see that happening without military intervention.

What You Should Do

Share and Support Kony 2012 if you support bringing international criminals to justice

This includes not just Joseph Kony, but also Yoweri Museveni (if what Dawud Walid mentioned is true), Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong-un, and others.

I find it interesting how people are saying things along the lines of “It be great if someone will make a video for [enter oppressed region of the world].”

People, The tools are within your grasp! YOU can do it. This man focused on telling a story, showcasing a bad guy and good guy, showcasing the humanity of the victim and closing with a clear call to action.

Don’t wait for someone else to do it. YOU go and do it.

Support Islamic Relief if you want to help the African people with Humanitarian Aid

Islamic Relief is a 4-star charity and is offering humanitarian aid in several African countries. Over 90% of the money they raise goes toward helping the people directly.

Currently they’re operating nine different African nations.

Note: The map is not upside down. There is no up or down in outer-space. This is how majority of the world viewed the earth before European colonialism.

Click here or the picture for more info on where Islamic Relief operates and what they do.

Up Next: Marketing Insights and Lessons from the Kony 2012 Campaign

There are many lessons to learn. I’ll be sharing with you what industry professionals have said as well as what lessons I’ve extracted from it.

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