This article originally appeared on Stories of Conflict and Love.
Jason Russell, the co-founder of Invisible Children, was detained for public masturbation a few days ago. He and his organization had been in the spotlight because of Kony 2012, the Invisible Children advocacy campaign that yielded the fastest viral video we have known.
Critical reaction to the campaign raised some poignant questions about storytelling and advocacy: How do we balance a compelling call for advocacy among those far away with respecting the wishes and priorities of those on the ground? How do we preserve Ugandans' dignity, integrity, and agency over their lives in the process of telling their story? How do we transform a complex history into a call to action without oversimplifying, dramatizing, or falling into the very stereotypes we seek to combat?
Many have argued that Invisible Children has failed in striking this balance, thus potentially creating a video that is inaccurate, disrespectful, or out of sync with the wishes of Ugandans for their country and with their perceptions of the conflict. I have read these opinions with respect and am proud to be part of a community that analyzes the meaning of responsible charity, dissects advocacy strategies, and does not shy away from the difficult questions.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons