Revisiting Kony: Social media failed to bring change

A few weeks ago I wrote on the effect the Internet has on popular culture and politics. Looking back at what has transpired over the past two weeks regarding the Invisible Children/Joseph Kony social media campaign I can’t help but say, “I told you so.”

Just as I predicted, it turns out Invisible Children is nothing more than a collection of charlatans who would like to appear as a force for good, but in actuality don’t really serve the best interests of many of the people who blindly click “like” buttons.

Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell is an especially interesting character.

On March 15, Yahoo News reported that Russell was held by the San Diego police for vandalizing cars and public masturbation, as well as other bizarre acts. Clever Internet bloggers have gone on to say that Russell, in effect, spilled millions of his “visible children” on the sidewalks of San Diego.

All joking aside, the official report is that Russell was suffering from some kind of breakdown brought on by all the media attention the Kony 2012 campaign caused.

I don’t buy it, but it sure is a convenient cop-out. The last time I was heavily stressed, I didn’t take to the streets naked and act as if I were Cro-Magnon.

Why isn’t there more media attention given to the fact that the religious right funds Invisible Children heavily?

I’m sure all of the people who have donated money to Invisible Children and supported their ludicrous campaign on social media sites would like to know how much praise people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have given the charity.

Faced with this knowledge, they may or may not continue to support it, but the point is that at least they would be a little more informed than from simply watching a single viral video, which, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, is designed solely to play on emotions and evoke a knee-jerk response.

Or what about the fact that Jedidiah Jenkins, one of Invisible Children’s directors, has openly admitted that the organization was forced to partner with “corrupt” parties out of some sort of necessity?

When asked by The Washington Post whether the organization has “strengthened the hand of the Ugandan president, whose security forces have a human rights abuse record of their own, “Jenkins replied, “If we had the purity to say we will not partner with anyone corrupt, we couldn’t partner with anyone.”

Step back for a second and read that again. Here is one of the directors of a charity admitting that they may have to make strange bedfellows with some not-so-scrupulous people, in some perverted utilitarian version of choosing the lesser of two evils.

I think this fact alone deserves to be pointed out by every media organization covering Invisible Children and Kony 2012 as it is a rather slimy practice in-and-of-itself. But alas, it has received little coverage.

Couple these factors with the recent release of a video which shows the same Jedidiah Jenkins joking that he should pocket $900,000 of a $1 million prize the charity won in 2010, as well as the fact, as ABC News reported, that only “32 percent” of the $8.6 million raised by Invisible Children actually went to helping Uganda, and you begin to see that maybe Invisible Children isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

You can also add the poor ratings bestowed upon the organization in the areas of “accountability and transparency” by Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog group, as icing on the cake.

Yup, I told you so.

Gerry Wachovsky is a graduate student and columnist for the Daily 49er.

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