The counter-backlash pointed out that oversimplification is what advocacy does. Advocacy bundles a complex issue to reach a wide audience. It is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment or a rich historical retelling of the facts. It is meant to get attention. In this way, advocacy is an effective and important tool, particularly in a war that has not been a cause célèbre drawing in the likes of Angelina Jolie or George Clooney.
To its credit, Invisible Children has done more than just advocacy. It has raised funds to support education, wells, and economic growth in Uganda. Primarily, though, it is an advocacy organization. It is not fair to criticize an advocacy organization for not being a development organization. A primary mission of the organization is to make the invisible visible, to give a voice to the voiceless.
But here’s where it gets tricky: giving a voice to whom? True, northern Ugandans are not a monolithic group. But does the video attempt to represent the perspectives and opinions of the people depicted on the screen?
It is evident that the video does not have Ugandans in mind as the intended audience. Last week, in Lira District, word had spread that a video depicting this horrible war was suddenly the most popular video on the Internet. A public screening in that district of northern Uganda was held by a charity organization so that those directly affected by the conflict could see what the world was watching.
People came from miles by foot, bicycle, and boda boda (motorcycle taxi). When they saw it, many were offended. Some threw rocks. The screening was halted.