Photo of Invisible Children founders holding guns raises questions and confusion

The organization who wanted to Make Joseph Kony Famous 2012 are famous themselves due to criticism. Invisible Children answered critics on their website. The most striking answer was to the group’s banner photo showing the founders of I C — Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell holding guns.

banner photo showing the founders of I C — Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell holding guns. Permission to use photo granted by Glenna Gordon, March 13, 2012.

The IC website answers the gun photo question. Jason Russell, one of the young men in the photo says, “The photo of Bobby, Laren and I with the guns was taken in an LRA camp in DRC during the 2008 Juba Peace Talks. We were there to see Joseph Kony come to the table to sign the Final Peace Agreement. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was surrounding our camp for protection since Sudan was mediating the peace talks. We wanted to talk to them and film them and get their perspective. And because Bobby, Laren and I are friends and had been doing this for 5 years, we thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, “Haha – they have bazookas in their hands but they’re actually fighting for peace.” The ironic thing about this photo is that I HATE guns. I always have.”

The Washington Post interviewed the photographer who took the photo, Glenna Gordon, and described her discomfort in the moments when IC leaders held the guns.
Gordon stated in the interview, “I think I felt a lot of discomfort, but I didn’t say to stop it.”
Gordon continued to discuss why she can’t watch the Kony 2012 video.
“I can’t bring myself to watch the video. I found all of their  previous efforts to be emotionally manipulative, and all the things I  try  as a journalist not to be. After the peace talks in 2008, they put  out another video, and I saw the footage used in these videos blending  archival footage with LRA and SPLA and videos of them goofing off. It  was the most irresponsible act of image-making that I’d seen in a long  time. They conflated the SPLA with the LRA. The SPLA is a government  army, holding weapons given by the government, and yet they did not  create any division between them and LRA. That’s terrible.”

Critics on Facebook and twitter continue to show how public distrust and confusion in Invisible Children is growing.

“Almost immediately after the viral explosion of the Kony video, the inevitable critiques started coming in. Is the situation really still the way it was portrayed in the video? Is Invisible Children the right organization to invest in?” Facebook user comment.
“A little unsure about the credibility of @Invisible Children? Read their official response here… #Kony2012″ Twitter user comment.
On Youtube, Jolly Graceokot,  a former sex slave of Joseph Kony says that the company’s efforts are genuine and that Ugandans needed and wanted this support “because we can recover from a war.”
Graceokot “Joseph Kony is not a story, he is real. He has to be apprehended and taken to justice.” The Youtube video is uploaded to Graceokot’s own Youtube channel. This video alone has received almost 217,000 hits today.
In response to it there are almost 800 comments ranging from “admit it, she’s being paid,”  to, “It’s a great cause but a terrible organization.”
One commentator, sabih93, who claims to have met Jolly Graceokot said, “Invisible children came to our high school for 3 years and had  introduced Jolly a while back. She was able to detail what went on with  the children better due to her own similar experiences.”
Another commentator, ItsMury,  captures what the majority of people now feel due to hearing of badly managed finances from critics and further counter arguments from Invisible Children. “I am terribly confused. So much different information that argue with each other and people from Uganda with different views. I don’t get it  anymore.”

For now the organization Invisible Children is answering critics, the most important voice being of Glenna Jackson who took the photo. In her own blog she provides context to the photo.

“Sudan-Congo border, April 2008. We’re all bored out of our minds waiting for endlessly stalled peace talks to resume. Invisible Children dudes have some fun by posing with SPLA soldiers. I uncomfortably photograph them having said amount of fun. Later, I worked with a colleague to try and publish a story about what we saw as their questionable practices, but we couldn’t get a publication to bite. Now, perhaps that’d be different, and at the end of the day, I do hope that all of this can make us look at Invisible Children with a more critical stance.”

The controversy has also provided the public with a new word to add to their already expanding social media vocabulary; slactivist; those who think that the click of a computer key  actually counts as activism.

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One thought on “Photo of Invisible Children founders holding guns raises questions and confusion

  1. Honestly, I don’t trust I’m nor do I believe him he is just manipulating the public into taking our hard earned money. I don’t appreciate how he trys to make it seem like Uganda is such a hell hole and it’s not, Joesph Kony isn’t even in Uganda anymore he’s in Sudan and same with the lra, and he is such a liar he claims he is a pacifist but he’s not there is a picture of him and his team holding up guns waiting for much for a pacifist. Don’t get me wrong though I really do feel so sorry for those poor children having to be sex slaves and murders but there are far more worse criminals and problems in this world like the Syrian war that’s going. I don’t get it My father is stressed out because e has a a lot of responsibility but he never gets drunk and takes he clothes off and goes on a rampage..I think he went on this rampage because we are starting to know he is full of you know what:)

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