As the LGBT rights watchdog group Truth Wins Out reported yesterday, in an April 5th, 2012 press release, the Invisible Children nonprofit behind the viral video hit KONY 2012 and its video sequel "Beyond Famous" appears to have an invisible agenda -- which TWO's Executive Director Wayne Besen calls "stealth evangelism":
In audio TWO discovered from a 2005 Christian conference in San Antonio, Invisible Children's co-founder Jason Russell called his organization a "Trojan Horse" designed to infiltrate secular institutions and surreptitiously promote his group's version of Christian fundamentalism. The audiotape reveals that that his organization is particularly focused on targeting youth in public schools. According to Russell's remarks (0:44):
"Coming in January we are trying to hit as many high schools, churches and colleges as possible with this movie. We are able to be the Trojan Horse in a sense, going into a secular realm and saying, 'Guess what? Life is about orphans, and it's about the widow. It's about the oppressed. That's God's heart.' And to sit in a public high school and tell them about that has been life-changing. Because they get so excited. And it's not driven by guilt, it's driven by an adventure and the adventure is God's."
"This vividly reveals Invisible Children's invisible agenda," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "This group is not simply about exposing LRA leader Joseph Kony, but engaging in stealth evangelism."
Invisible Children and The Family
While most mainstream media continues to uncritically report on the Invisible Children effort -- despite a growing body of reporting tying the KONY 2012 authors to the politicized Christian right -- at least a few mainstream media venues have picked up on my 7,000 word report that investigates extensive institutional and social ties between Invisible Children and the Washington, D.C. based neo-fundamentalist evangelical network called "The Fellowship" (or "The Family"). As I wrote in the executive summary to my report (cited by ForbesUSA Today, and The Guardian):
It is unlikely that many Americans who watched Invisible Children's record-smashing viral video hit KONY 2012 were aware of IC's evangelical nature (12) or of the nonprofit's earlyfinancing from foundations that back the hard Christian right, including one of the biggest funders of the 2008 push for California's anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8.
But Invisible Children, which has branded itself as welcoming cultural, religious and sexual diversity, also enjoys extensive institutional and social ties to the global evangelical network known as The Fellowship (also known as "The Family") -- which has been credited with inspiring and providing "technical support" for Uganda's internationally-denounced Anti HomosexualityBill, also dubbed the "kill the gays" bill.
"This, of course, is sickening"
The efforts of Invisible Children and KONY 2012 have been sharply criticized by a wide range of voices, especially Ugandans -- who jeered and threw stones at the screen during a screening of KONY 2012 in North-Central Uganda -- as well as journalists [1234] familiar with conflict in Northern Uganda and the DRC Congo and academics [123] who study the Northern Uganda region.
According to Rosabell Kagumir, a young Ugandan journalist, the war in Northern Uganda was, in the beginning, "much more about resources and about marginalization of people of Northern Uganda." Kagumir, who has studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, observed that "the situation [shown] in the [KONY 2012] video was [from] five, six years ago," and noted that the video shows Westerners and Americans as rescuers who swoop in and "save" helpless, benighted Africans. "if you are showing me as voiceless, as hopeless... you shouldn't be telling my story if you don't believe that I also have the power to change what is going on," said Kagumir.
In a March 12, 2012 op-ed in Al Jazeera, Dr. Adan Branch, senior research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Uganda and assistant professor of political science at San Diego State University -- as well as author of Displacing Human Rights: War and Intervention in Northern Uganda -- called out Invisible Children for "the warmongering, the narcissism, the commercialisation, the reductive and one-sided story they tell, their portrayal of Africans as helpless children in need of rescue by white Americans." He continued: