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.
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.
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.