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The Making of Kony 2012

Former Invisible Children exec talks about social media and activism


In what may be the world’s fastest spreading instance of viral media, an activist video aimed at stopping Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony was viewed by more than 70 million people in its first six days on YouTube. The video, Kony 2012, was created by the nonprofit Invisible Children, whose former chief operating officer, Margery Dillenburg (SED’15), is a doctoral student at the School of Education.

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) sat down with Dillenburg to talk about online activism and the commitment to social change by today’s college students, then posed a few questions on his blog.

The 29-minute Invisible Children video documents the atrocities of Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for 20 years of crimes against humanity, such as murder, sexual slavery, and forcing children to slaughter innocent people, including in some cases their parents. The creators of the film claim credit for pressuring President Obama to deploy 100 American military advisors to Africa in October, with the goal of removing Kony.

The film, and the astonishing speed with which it is spreading, has become the subject of much discussion by media experts, with some claiming that it misleads viewers about the LRA’s location and the magnitude of its current threat. Kony is no longer operating in Uganda, and his army is now believed to number fewer than 500. A United Nations report issued last fall put the number of people displaced by the LRA at 440,000.

Art Jahnke

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

14 Comments on The Making of Kony 2012

  • BN on 03.12.2012 at 7:44 am


    Just some food for thought…

  • Robin B. on 03.12.2012 at 8:27 am

    Great work on the Kony 2012 campaign, Margery.

  • GregoryM on 03.12.2012 at 10:30 am

    Who says that the video misleads viewers?? It was pretty clear about Kony not operating in Uganda anymore. And as far as having fewer than 500 members in his army? I’m fairly certain the main point of the video was that NO child should have to suffer Kony’s hell. It seems that their goal is to bring that number to less than one.

  • To self reflection on 03.12.2012 at 11:09 am

    Well, the intellectuals from Uganda says so, GregoryM.

    It is another film about “Africans are so f’d up, only we civilized can rescue them.” As if such a Hollywood logic of drawing a line between the heroic elf and the evil other is so applicable in reality.

    Why is it so easy to make us believe that some African monsters (alongside with Muslim monsters, of course) are just so simple-minded and can enslave women and children for no good reason? Really? Why don’t you listen to how local people think what the issue really is, not just about the issue you have defined?

    Let alone this whole Kony thing is NOT framed as “Christian terrorism, so please, all the Christians on earth, why can’t you control your fellows, coz there must be something wrong with your religion.”

    How about we bring the number of children suffering in Palestine, living in the consequences of Iraq War and Afghanistan War?

  • Anonymous on 03.12.2012 at 11:41 am

    Last year Invisible Children only used 32% of its donations to actually help children. The rest went into their own salaries. As we’ve already seen, Kony has been on the run for the past decade, nor is our government ignoring the issue. Invisible Children seems like a scam to me.

    • JM on 03.12.2012 at 12:46 pm

      What is wrong with some of your donations going to their salaries? People who work at not for profits need to make money and have food on their table too. I expect that when I donate to any organization some of the money is going to support the people who work for the organization. Also not all 68% goes to the salaries. Some of it goes to the other expenses that go along with running a business – electricity, plumbing, heating, rent, office supplies, plane tickets, etc. You can’t expect people to work for nothing or to work with nothing.

      • Anonymous on 03.12.2012 at 4:52 pm

        I expect any legitimate charity to give a reasonable percentage of its contributions to the cause it supports. 32% is completely unacceptable. I would consider 80% to be a baseline, and over 90% is ideal. Anything less is not worth donating to.

        • k on 03.15.2012 at 9:10 am

          This is an interesting point. If the sole purpose of an organization is to raise money, then you would expect more of the donations to go towards that goal. However, if an organization exists to do more, such as “educate” the public, then I would expect that the percentage of donations given to the goal of raising money to be less. And 80-90%? Come on… that is not feasible. Think about how hard it is to actually raise any money when running a donation drive through a student group at BU.

          • Anonymous on 03.15.2012 at 12:00 pm

            The Red Cross actually manages over 90% because they are well-managed and keep the overhead low. I think you will find that most reputable charities do indeed keep it above 80%. If Invisible Children wants to be an advocacy group, that’s fine, but people should know that their donations are going to making movies instead of actually helping children.

    • Anonymous on 03.12.2012 at 4:57 pm

      I think it’d be pretty damn cool to live in a world where people could get RICH off of saving children from war and slavery.

      • D on 03.20.2012 at 8:14 pm

        I think you bring up a really important point to the table! I wish there where more people that thought like you and me :)

  • anonymous on 03.12.2012 at 3:38 pm

    then i wonder how non-profits and organizations like charity: water manage to give 100% of their raised funds to the work they do to bring clean water sources to developing countries…

  • anonymous on 03.12.2012 at 7:39 pm

    Does anyone else find it interesting that after 2 billion barrels oil were found in Uganda this “charity” has gained both notoriety and funding? Uganda is among the most corrupt governments in Africa, if not the world. The Ugandan Peoples Defense force, the recipient of charity from Invisible children, is also responsible for heinous crimes against humanity; including murder, rape, abduction, and child soldiering. Invisible Children is not contributing in any sort of way to the betterment of Uganda, Kony has been out of Uganda for ten years, his arrest would not do anything for the country. Instead of directing valuable resources and attention to one man who is at the moment powerless, we should think about what other things would help the country itself. Invisible Children is a product of social media ignorance, I hope no BU alum or student would blindly accept the video or charity as legitimate without researching it.

  • MPH candidate on 03.15.2012 at 10:16 pm

    I’ve worked in Northern Uganda, and have cried with men and women who have survived either being a child soldier, or who have been directly brutalized by the LRA. And while yes, there may be certain things I do not necessarily agree with when it comes to IC and their recent film, fundamentally, I think what they are doing is amazing, because at least they’re doing something…

    Here is an amazing article wonderfully written by a woman who I find inspiring and enlightening, and who poignantly encapsulates the issue – regardless if your for it or against it.


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