Invisible Children responds to critics
The chief executive of Invisible Children, the group behind a viral documentary on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, released a subsequent video on Monday to address criticisms of the campaign strategy and its spending.
- Speaking in an eight-minute video, Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, said hearing criticisms of the campaign has been "difficult."
He defended the NGO, insisting that the organization is operating a "really deep, thoughtful, very intentional and strategic campaign."
Keesey presented Invisible Children as a three-fold campaign — media, advocacy and development.
- He said the organization's film connected with a new demographic, who were previously unaware of Kony's terrorizing reign on African villages, as the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).Using the response from the film, the organization encouraged viewers to get involved and push their governments to action.
Lastly, because "mobilizing the international community takes time," he said, they coordinated with leaders in African communities.
The video featured a short appearance from Jolly Okot, one of those leaders and the country director in Uganda for Invisible Children.
- Keesey added that he understood the origin of the skepticism by some viewers who only learned of Kony's crimes against humanity in the 29-minute film released on YouTube last week.
"I understand why a lot of people are wondering 'Is this just some slick, kind of fly-by-night, slacktivist thing?' when actually it's not at all," he said.
Since its YouTube launch last week, the Kony 2012 video has garnered nearly 76 million views on YouTube alone and flooded Facebook and Twitter streams. Its response video counterpart, uploaded on Sunday, has been watched about 158,000 times on Vimeo — a far cry from the wildly shared film.
- According to the second video, program expenses, which directly fund the mission, accounted for 80.5 per cent of total annual spending in 2011. Expenses following the video will be on the 2012 financial statement, he said.
Keesey also broke down the group's travel and transportation expenses, the cost of production and paraphernalia as well as its operating expenses.
- The video response is the second effort to combat criticism of the campaign. The organization added a "critique" page to its website last week, responding to major criticisms point for point.
In the video, Keesey did not respond to criticism that the documentary oversimplifies a conflict fraught with complexities or overtly condemn the Ugandan government.
- But in its website statement, the organization makes an acknowledgement of this shortcoming.
"In our quest to garner wide public support of nuanced policy, Invisible Children has sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format," said the statement. "In a 30-minute film, however, many nuances of the 26-year conflict are admittedly lost or overlooked."
It emphasized its condemnation of human rights abuses at the hands of the Ugandan government and its military, adding that no money raised through the organization is given to the government.
- Yet the hard line questions raised following the viral video were dwindling on the hashtag, many focusing on the sold out merchandise.
- Still, there were a few burning questions about the organization's spending practices and where its allegiance lies. A particular hot topic was their salaries.
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