It doesn’t take much for something to go viral. Remember “Numa Numa,” that video of Hitler discovering that the University of Kansas had lost to the University of Northern Iowa in the 2010 NCAA Tournament or Ecokat? All it takes is a single clever, humorous or novel idea and boom – people are jumping on the bandwagon, posting it on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.
Within a day’s time, a viral idea can make its way into all the nooks and crannies of the Internet. Before long, people everywhere are talking about this single idea – the good, bad and indifferent. Last week, a 30-minute video produced by the nonprofit Invisible Children began enjoying this kind of attention.
The KONY 2012 documentary is a call to action aimed at raising awareness about Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, with the ultimate goal of capturing him so he can be tried in the International Criminal Court, according to Invisible Children’s website.
The KONY 2012 campaign has been erupting on my Twitter and Facebook feeds since last Wednesday. As the video points out, we live in a day and age where everything is instantaneous and information can spread widely in a matter of minutes.
When I first saw it, honestly, I ignored it. Looking at the link didn’t tell me anything about what it was promoting and I didn’t feel like delving in. It wasn’t until both of my younger sisters tweeted about it that I felt the need to check it out for myself. I watched the video and thought it had an interesting concept, but I still needed to do some research on my own before solidifying an opinion.
What I discovered is Invisible Children has been called to the carpet by critics for only using between 30-40 percent of their income to fund direct services in Africa, with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel costs and other various organizational operations.
This is highly atypical for a nonprofit agency. Additionally, according to the Better Business Bureau’s website, Invisible Children has not provided the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance information to determine if the charity meets its seal of approval.
Invisible Children responded with a blog post containing an infographic that breaks down their finances. They also provide a link to their financial statements from the last five years.
“We are committed, and always have been, to be 100 percent financially transparent and to communicate in plain language the mission of the organization so that everyone can make an informed decision about whether they want to support our strategy,” the group claims in the blog post.
If that’s the case, why not provide the BBB with the documents they request? It can only help their case.
Finances aside, there is a huge discussion taking place on reddit.com about the documentary and its legitimacy, ranging from the topic of bandwagons to critiques of the charity and Ugandan politics, and some interesting points are being raised on both sides of the coin.
In doing my research I found a well-done piece about KONY 2012 on mashable.com, a site dedicated to social media and Internet news. The March 8 article by Zoe Fox neutrally presents information about Invisible Children’s campaign and its critics and allowed me to come to my own conclusion.
I posted the piece to my Facebook page because it seemed to be a good collection of information about the campaign and I wanted my friends to be well-informed. Within an hour, a friend of mine posted Invisible Children’s blog post addressing the critics; this very blog post happened to be mentioned and linked in the article I posted. It made me wonder if he even read mine.
I see people on both sides of this argument being downright mean to each other. Those supporting Invisible Children really care about their cause and feel the need to defend it. I get it, but I hope they have done their homework and truly agree with their cause.
I’m not saying do or do not support the KONY 2012 campaign. However, blindly jumping on a bandwagon is dangerous. This applies to more than just KONY 2012. Look into where your money goes when you buy a “Save the boobies” T-shirt, and ask questions when someone wants you to donate to a charity. Know exactly what you are supporting and where your money is going before donating. Keep in mind that raising awareness is only the first step and not the solution.
We have a saying in Kedzie Hall that I’d like to share: “If your mother says she loves you, you better check it out.”
Tim Schrag is a senior in journalism and digital media. Send comments to email@example.com.