Monday, March 12, 2012

Invisible Children/Kony 2012 campaign's far-right Christianist ties (and they aren't trivial)

The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian on 03/09/2012 gave a somewhat critical but nevertheless, too-credulous report on the Kony 2012 campaign by the Invisible Children group that advocates for continued US military involvement with the Ugandan military. Too credulous, despite its title of #Kony2012 oversimplifies.

Bruce Wilson of Talk to Action has been checking out the Invisible Children group who are pushing for prolonged US military involvement in central Africa in the name of going after Joseph Kony, leader of the notorious guerrilla cult, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). In Tax Forms Show Invisible Children Funded By Antigay, Creationist Christian Right 05/11/2012, he explains that the funding for this group comes from Christian Right extremists who admire the Ugandan government not for their opposition to the nearly-decimated LRA that apparently isn't even operating in Uganda any more, but because the Ugandan government is run by gay-hating theocrats with ties to US Christian Right extremists:

What does Invisible Children share in common with the Discovery Institute, the leading organization promoting "Intelligent Design", a pseudo-scientific theory created to insinuate creationist ideas into public schools -- or with The Call, whose leader Lou Engle claims homosexuals are possessed by demons, calls God an "avenger of blood" and a "terrorist", and in May 2010 staged a rally in Kampala, Uganda, at which Engle warned of a gay menace to society and shared a stage with one of the authors of Uganda's notorious Anti Homosexuality Bill?

990 IRS tax forms and yearly reports from Invisible Children, and 990s from its major donors, tell a story that's jarringly at odds with the secular, airbrushed, feelgood image the nonprofit has cultivated. ...

... Invisible Children's first yearly report, from 2006, gives "special thanks" to the "Caster Family Foundation" and IC's 2007 report is more specific, thanking Terry and Barbara Caster. In the lead up to the 2008 election, the California-based Caster family was identified as one of the biggest financial backers of the push for California's anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8.

Capping the pro-Prop 8 push was a November 1, 2008 San Diego stadium rally held by The Call, whose leader Lou Engle warned that same sex marriage could unleash a "sexual insanity" that would be "more demonic than Islam" and suggested believers should carry out acts of martyrdom to stop gay marriage and legal abortion, which Engle predicts will lead to a second American civil war.

The answer? -- all of these ministries - the Discovery Institute, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, The Fellowship Foundation, The Call, Ed Silvoso's Harvest Evangelism, and Invisible Children - received at least $100,000 in 2008 from what has emerged in the last decade as the biggest funder of the hard, antigay, creationist Christian right: the National Christian Foundation. [my emphasis]
Do American fundis advocating violence against gays and abortion providers give a flying flip about black kids in Uganda who were abused by Kony and the LRA? Not very likely.

Bruce Wilson's research indicates that part of the success of the Invisible Children campaign were to persuade many Facebook and Twitter users to give good publicity to their group, which encourages extended US military involvement with the unsavory Ugandan regime and which is backed with big $$$ by hardcore Christian Rightists. I'm not sure how far this kind of stealth promotion of a Christian Right cause offers lessons for honest progressive causes.

Eliza Dushku, one of my favorite actresses, also seems to have solid progressive instincts, and I mean progressive, not just Democratic-partisan. Her mother is . She writes about the Kony 2012 campaign in Kony 2012, Awareness, and THARCEGulu Huffington Post 03/09/2012 from the perspective of her involvement with the THARCEGulu NGO headed by her mother, Judy Dushku, professor of African politics and a prominent Mormon feminist (Rich Barlow,A feminist look at the Mormon faith Boston Globe 06/17/2012). Eliza explains what her mother's NGO does:

You see, for the last three years, all of those subjects have been on my mind daily, as I have worked with my mother and our start-up team of our NGO,, or Trauma, Healing and Reflection Center for former child soldiers and victims of Joseph Kony and his rebel group the LRA or Lords Resistance Army in Gulu, Northern Uganda. ...

This is what matters most to me: 30,000 child mothers and fathers, now raising children that came from rape in the bush, make northern Uganda one of the most traumatized places on earth. There is crushing poverty, terrible PTSD, and unbelievably high suicide rates. Traditions, the bonds of family and community, were all compromised by years of captivity and then IDP camps enforced by the Museveni government. The issues are not simple. There are many additional good NGOs working to help the people of Uganda recover.

The Trauma Healing and Reflection Center in Gulu, or THARCE-Gulu is one such NGO. Gulu was the epicenter of Kony's war in Uganda. THARCE-Gulu includes on its staff two former child soldiers who have risen from "victim" to "survivor" then "thriver." They are assisting others to rebuild their lives. Programs to assist with earning a living, developing everyday coping skills, building strong families, and finding ways to creatively express their experiences and take from them their terror, are all part of what THARCE does.
This sounds to me like a constructive thing, unlike Invisible Children's advocacy for US military involvement supporting the Ugandan government.

As with any charity or NGO, people should check it out before they donate and consult sites that rate charities independently. Charity Navigator, for instance, gives Invisible Children an overall rating of 52%, with a transparency rating of 45%, with accompanying notes, "The charity's audited financials were prepared by an independent accountant, but it did not have an audit oversight committee," also noting that it fails their standard for independent board members. I was unable to locate a rating for THARCE-Gulu there.

Raven Brooks of Netroots Nation (The anatomy of Kony 2012 03/09/2012) praised the marketing of the Kony 2012 campaign, and it is difficult to argue that it was successful. I'm more doubtful than Brooks than it can be easily duplicated for honest progressive causes. Adam Branch honed in on one of its most successful aspects when he asked, "how often does the U.S. government find millions of young Americans pleading for it to intervene militarily in a place rich in oil and other resources?" (Kony 2012 Won't Change the Lives of Ugandans Dissent Online 03/09/2012) Right now, it seems to be all to easy to get people to encourage military intervention somewhere, even though a majority of Americans soured on both the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War long ago. They also seemed to have been successful in passing off a Christian Right political cause as some general humanitarian concern. Those Christianist funding operatings aren't give Invisible Children big bucks without expecting them to further some theocratic goal.

I'll re-link here to some of the other articles I've linked on this in recent days:

Kate Cronin-Furman & Amanda Taub, Solving War Crimes With Wristbands: The Arrogance of 'Kony 2012' The Atlantic Online 03/08/2012

Michael Wilkerson, Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things) Foreign Policy 03/07/2012: "Unfortunately, it looks like meddlesome details like where Kony actually is aren't important enough for Invisible Children to make sure its audience understands."

Bruce Wilson, "Invisible Children" Co-founder (KONY 2012) Hints It's About Jesus, and Evangelizing Talk to Action 03/08/2012

Geoffrey York, Obama sends U.S. troops to capture Lord’s Resistance Army chief Globe and Mail 11/14/2011

Geoffrey York, Invisible Children's Kony campaign goes viral just as Lord's Resistance Army is dying Globe and Mail 03/09/2012

Christopher Goffard, Video on Ugandan militia leader Joseph Kony sparks an uproar Los Angeles Times 03/09/2012: "Next month, Invisible Children plans a "cover the night" event to dispense T-shirts, bracelets, bumper stickers and buttons in major cities, in part to pressure Washington to maintain its limited troop presence." (my emphasis)

Facebook page collecting news on the Kony 2012 campaign: Stop Kony 2012 - Get The Facts

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