People are logging-onto YouTube across the world to watch the mini-movie on Joseph Kony that became an online phenomenon overnight. Facing heavy criticism, however, the filmmakers are answering questions today — through video, of course.
Ben Keesey, the chief executive officer of Invisible Children, Inc. narrates an 8-minute-long video released on Monday that "clicks through some of the questions” and address issues that have been raised since the release of their Kony 2012 documentary earlier this month.
[click here to watch the latest video]
On March 5, Invisible Children, Inc. released a video on the Internet that examines Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his role with the Lord's Resistance Army and alleged crimes against humanity. In only a week, the video garnered more than 74-million views on YouTube alone, but as the film quickly achieved notoriety, it also raised questions from countless skeptics over rumors of wrongdoing from within the non-profit. In just days, the group managed to raise massive awareness of the Lord’s Resistance Army, but at the same time spawned skepticism over how the organization divvies up its donations and handles its other endeavors. Many have been left wanting to know more about Invisible Children, and following an interview over the weekend, the group is now discussing the damaging rumors that have surfaced in the week since the Kony 2012 film was first uploaded to the Web.
Speaking to CNN over the weekend, Keesey was adamant in defending Invisible Children. "There's nothing to hide. Invisible Children has been transparent since 2004, when we started," Keesey tells CNN. "That's our intention, and we want to show that this campaign is part of a strategy that's comprehensive." Others have been skeptic, though, and have gone as far as to label the organization as the brains of an elaborate cash-grab scheme with questionable motives. In the aftermath of the Kony 2012 video going live, a student blog called “Visible Children” produced a photograph of the non-profit’s founders posing with heavy weaponry alongside a LRA opposition military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army,
“The group is in favor of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces,” the blog’s author claims. “Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them.”
Jason Russell, an Invisible Children co-founder photographed alongside the SPLA equipped with firearms, adds to CNN, “I didn’t know there was that much tension.”
“We’re an unorthodox organization,” Russell explains. “We work outside of the traditional box of what you think about charity and nonprofit.”
Addressing concerns that the group only spends one-third of its donations on the advocacy it calls for, Russell defends it as part of their business model. “That’s who we are. We’re not World Vision. We are not these other organizations that do amazing work on the ground. If you want to fund a cow or you want to help someone in a village in that component, you can do that. That’s a third of what we do,” he says.
In 2011, Invisible Children spent around $8.7 million, with less than one-third going to direct services. Just under $3 million, on the other hand, went to staff compensation and travel expenses. Speaking on behalf of the group, Keesey discusses the group's finances in a video uploaded to the Web on Monday afternoon. In it, the executive denies that the Kony 2012 campaign is "some slick, fly-by-night, slacktivist thing."
"Actually, it's not at all. It's connected to a really deep, thoughtful, very intentional and strategic campaign," says Keesey.