“Invisible Children has been condemned time & time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel & transport, and film production. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.
“The group is in favour of direct military intervention, & their money supports the Ugandan government’s army & various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons & personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army & Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape & looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is ‘better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries’, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda & hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape & sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.
“Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness & filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) ‘manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions & murders & emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, & portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.’ He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration & manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional & dishonest.
“As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, ‘There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, & it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.’ ”Tweet