From the Ivory Tower

I’m Not Buying It

I first heard of Kony 2012 when my 21-year-old sister came to me with her laptop. “You need to watch this,” she said. Invisible Children and the child-soldiers of Uganda was not an entirely new concept to me, but the video was powerful. It was powerful enough to get my sister, who is apathetic in the face of most social issues, to get involved.


“I’m going to buy the action kit,” she said. “You get two bracelets.”

Kony 2012 is a brilliant campaign. It is uplifting and inspiring, and it encourages young adults to participate in something larger than themselves.

The video is noteworthy, yes because of its content, but also for its execution. It is the first major movement that has been initiated via social media for social change — by an organization.

Invisible Children markets itself as a grassroots movement, when, in fact, it’s a special interest group.

The upside down pyramid used in the logo is meant to represent the masses, or the public, influencing those figures who once stood at the top of the pyramid. “Things are changing,” the video claims.

I should interject here to say that I do believe Invisible Children is working for a humanitarian cause.

But here’s the bottom line: They not only want your money. They want your voice.

They want you to wear their bracelets.

They want you to put up posters.

They want you to tweet celebrities.

They want you to write politicians.

And they use the tried-and-true methods of marketing to sell their agenda, treating us like consumers, even referencing us as consumers —  in hopes that by pinpointing corporations as something different, we won’t notice that they still want us to purchase their kit and become their foot soldiers for change.

Now, would it be so bad? To be recruited to change the world? To donate time and money to this organization that is helping people in Africa?

Yes, in this situation, it would be a bad decision.

(Sorry, lil’ sis.)

Social media is the platform of the masses, and for an organization to appeal to our humanity and our emotions under the guise of a grassroots movement is simply disingenuous — and if this movement is successful, it opens the door for even larger campaigns to be spawned. Future campaigns could have more funding and a more covert initiative, designed to make us feel as though we are part of something, but not revealing the entire picture of what that “something” is.

Invisible Children donates 37 percent of its proceeds to Africa. The rest goes to the staff, media, marketing and fundraising. That means 60 percent of your money goes to perpetuating their activism through building the Invisible Children brand — the film, snazzy bracelets, hip posters, a cool website. They spend more money trying to sell you products than what actually goes to Africa.

In order for Invisible Children to continue, they must keep their market engaged.

And if Joseph Kony is caught, they will say, “That was us. We did that. Now, you can completely trust us. Buy into this NEW atrocity that we must defend.”

I’m not buying into it.

No thanks.


Categories: Commentary