Category Archives: Online

Invisible Children: genuine charity or money making scam?

  1. All of you social media addicts out there will be aware of the Invisible Children video circulating in cyber space. However, if you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks i will bring you up to date. Invisible Children defines itself as “a global community of young people that galvanizes support to bring a permanent end to LRA violence through mass awareness campaigns and strategic advocacy efforts…”

  2. They have recently gained worldwide publicity due to an online video highlighting their mission to stop Joseph Kony, who has abducted 30,000 children in the last 20 some years, forcing them to fight in his Lord’s Resistance Army. 

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  4. This video has circulated the internet and now celebrities like Rihanna and Angelina Jolie are said to be backing the cause.

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    Joseph Kony 2012 video: Rihanna gets behind Invisible Children …
  6. But is there more to this story than meets the eye? despite the endless coverage in support of invisible Children, more and more sceptics are coming out of the woodwork questioning the motives of the charity and its leader Jason Russell. Blog site ‘Now the End Begins’ believe that Russell and his charity are using the Joseph Kony saga to draw attention to their charity in order to further their careers in film making and music, while boosting their finances in the process. The site states that “for the last 2 years less than 10% of funds collected by Invisible Children are sent to the Ground to help the Ugandan Children. Previous to that, less than 30% of the money they collected was sent to Uganda to help the Ugandan People.  A preliminary survey of all projects and activity on the ground in Uganda to help the Uganda Children does not even total up to $1.5 Million of the $13 Million they have collected in donations so far.”

  7. Amidst these allegations Jason Russell and Invisible Children have hit back claiming they are false, but instead of proving they are false by showing how the money has helped the Ugandan children, they have simply picked up a hoard of celebrity followers in the hopes that this will convince people to ignore the sceptics and back the charity. Oprah, P Diddy, and Justin Beiber are just a few of the celebrities jumping on the Invisible Children bandwagon, but have they done their research?Just like ordinary members of the public celebrities can be easily influenced and are capable of making miss-judgements, yet just because they are of a higher status they are known to influence opinion which is a scary thought, particularly in this case as the charities motives are severely under question.The groups founders have been criticised for offering support to armies of Sudan and Uganda despite claims both have been involved in rape and looting. 
  8. Invisible Children are campaigning tirelessly and rubbing shoulders with politicians in order to stop Kony, yet they are known to support armies that are doing exactly the same thing, it just makes no sense. Since more allegations have come to light the public have been split in their opinions on Invisible Children.

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    big thanks to @Invisible children for coming to CSAS today. I completely support your cause. KONY2012!!!!!!
  10. There is no doubt that Invisible Children are good at giving heart felt, inspirational speeches to big crowds (as seen in the Kony 2012 video) so it is no surprise that people are won over by their speeches. However, all that Invisible Children do is give speeches and make videos which tend to promote them as an organisation rather than the cause they are supposed to be raising awareness for. 

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    KONY 2012: Invisible Children the Musical (High Quality)
  12. This video doesn’t go in to any detail on Kony and the problems in Uganda, instead it appears that the Founders of the charity have created it purely to show off their filming making and dance skills (which are pretty poor and tacky).  Is this what the publics money is being used to fund? Since these videos have come to light many have been taking to Twitter in an attempt to stop people donating to the charity.
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    I don’t care who you are, if you’re giving money to “invisible children” you’re a stupid bastard
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    RT @Dylan_Gregory: I can honestly say I regret donating to Invisible Children.
  15. Another point which puts the legitimacy of Invisible Children under question is that the’ Kony 2012′ video was released in a bid to get Kony out of Uganda, but as Charlie Brooker stated on 10 o’clock Live, Kony left Uganda 6 years ago and so the video is considerably out of date.  
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    Kony 2012 NWO sinister logo’s and invisible children – 10 o’clock live 14.03.12
  17. According to Converge Magazine, “even the Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has been tweeting with the tag #KonyisntinUganda 
    and he recently posted a video to YouTube denouncing “Kony2012” saying, “We do not need a slick video on YouTube for us to take notice.” He says that the authorities in Uganda and neighbouring countries know the situation with Kony and have been working for many years to get him arrested. “It would appear that In their effort to solve the problems in central Africa, Invisible Children seem to have forgotten about the people they are solving the problems for” which would lead further to believe that this is a money making scam constructed solely to benefit Invisible Children and not the children of Uganda. 

  18. Despite Converge Magazine highlighting the pitfalls in Invisible Childrens awarness pitch, it also acknowledges the impact social media has had on the charity and its message. None of the negative press surrounding Invisible Children havs been proven fact yet it has circulated the internet and put Jason Russell and other members under close scrutiny. At first Russell was seen as a hero doing good things for the people of Uganda, now he is receiving endless amounts of bad press due to recently being arrested.
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  20. “Late last week San Diego police detained Russell after he was running naked in the street, yelling, pounding his fists in the pavement and disturbing traffic. Before “Kony2012,” this episode wouldn’t have even made local news, but after “Kony2012”, this episode is international news precisely because it is bad press and perfect fodder for those who love to see our cultural heroes fall.”

Here Converge are highlighting how the media can twist a situation to make people with good, genuine intentions appear in a negative light, which can have seriously damaging effects like we have seen with Jason Russell’s breakdown. Even now jokes are being made out of his mental instability. 

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    Jason Russell the guy who made the Kony documentary was arrested last night for masturbating in public. I guess his new slogan is #Horny2012
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    the funny thing is Jason Russell could have been known for doing something good but now he’s just ruined it lol
  • Russell is now in hospital and will remain there for several weeks as his wife explained he had suffered from “reactive psychosis.” In an article by the LA times, his wife suggests that the criticisms against the ‘Kony 2012’ video may have contributed to his irrational/bizarre behaviour. 
      “Because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal and Jason took them very hard,” the statement said.
    This further shows how the comments and opinions of people on social media sites can have a damning affect on the person at the receiving end. Even more so if the criticisms are true as experts said the Kony 2012 video misstated the facts about the current level of violence in Uganda, Kony’s current whereabouts and the strength of his militia forces. For someone who has “dedicated his adult life to this cause” there is a considerable amount of misinformation which explains why the public aren’t so forgiving. 

  • It was only a matter of time before someone used Jason Russell’s recent breakdown against him by creating a mock video entitled ‘Me So Kony’ 
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  • In it Russell is saying “It’s not about politics, it’s not about humanity, it’s all about money, we really want your money” . The video was only uploaded yesterday and already has 1,681 hits, showing how much publicity Russell and Invisible Children are getting at the minute. Most people have commented on how funny the video is rather than on the underlying issue which is being highlighted – that Invisible Children are scamming people out of money. 

    It would appear that the cause Russell was trying to raise awareness on (#stopKony) and the supposed money making scheme by Invisible Children has both been overlooked since Russell’s personal life hit headlines. 
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    So now that Jason Russell got caught doing “that” in public, no-one seems to give a shit about Kony 2012. #thatbandwagonlookscomfy
  • This highlights how individuals private lives take priority in social media. Instead of backing the cause celebrities, like Jason Biggs, are now making jokes out of the situation as he has released a video re-enacting the breakdown that Russell had. 

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    Jason Biggs Parodies Jason Russell’s Nude Breakdown, KONY 2012 Organization Strikes Back (Video)
  • More people appear to be against Jason Russell now than those supporting him as a lot of people still believe that they have been cheated out of money by Invisible Children.
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    I wonder if they’re going to use the Kony 2012 donation money to bail Jason Russell out of prison.
  • Website Wannabe Hacks posted an article on its blog today highlighting Invisible Childrens finances. 
  • Here they published figures stating that Jason Russell made around $90,000 for the most recent fiscal year while Invisible Children’s expenses was close to $9 million. “Invisible’s Children expenses for that year was close to $9 million. Of that, about $415k was used for employee compensation and over $1 million for travel expenses.” They also linked to a site called GuideStar which shows an organisations annual revenue and expenses. It shows that in the year 2009 to 2010, Invisible Children made $8,253,941 and of that they claimed 
    $8,064,426 in expenses. 

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  • This proves how much Invisible Children spend on making the videos, travel expenses, compensation and wages, as displayed above. The revenue and expenses don’t leave much left that actually go to the children in Uganda. The ‘charity’ are misleading the public by not explaining where the money goes as after seeing the Kony 2012 video they would rightfully assume that a large majority of the money would go to helping Ugandan people. 

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    Ex-Kony Soldier — Warlord May Have CURSED Jason Russell
  • The hype around Jason Russell’s mental state is still going strong with people coming out with bizarre, far-fetched explanations to what could have caused his extreme breakdown .Richard Akena, a former member of Kony’s child army, believes that Kony may have used ‘voodoo magic’ on Russell which could explain his strange meltdown. Highly irrational some might say, but a great way to detract from the issue of Russell and Invisible Children scamming money from the public. 

    One Daily Mail reader suggested that Russell ran around the streets naked as a publicity stunt which, judging by his previous videos, sounds like a more believable explanation. More money from newspaper deals and TV appearances talking about his ‘psychosis’ perhaps? 
  • Surely that would be below the belt for Russell? (should he be seen wearing one, or any clothes at all for that matter!) but one celebrity has come to the aid of the Invisible Children founder, Forgetting Saraha Marshall star, Kristen Bell replied to a tweet saying: 

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    @Bpd116 ur misinformed & r judging based on salacious headlines. Be Human. Drop the stones.”
  • Bell does make a fair point, very few people judging Russell actually know him and are forming opinions based on what they see/read in the media. However, this could also go against her as she is defending Russell without knowing him either. He has sprung up out of nowhere and become an overnight success, on one hand he could be a good guy who is genuinely out to help people, but on the other he could be a con artist using genuine causes to take innocent peoples money. If the latter is true then Kristen Bell could receive backlash for supporting him. 

    Still more people believe the organisation is a scam if Twitter is anything to go by. 
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    KONY12 is a scam only 35% of their funds go to Uganda and the Children. And Jason Russell is a streaker on the streets. See for yourself.
  • Some believe that Russell is an attention seeker and has used the videos not just for financial gain but also to boost his ego. Forbes Critic Marshall Crotty describes Jason Russell as an “Atrocity Tourist” (AT) and suggests that “
    outsized celebrity egos require larger-than-life problems to tackle,
    ” adding that Russell is an AT with “global media lust”

  • But not all the blame can be placed on the organisation. A student at Washington University believes that, although organisations have a responsibility to report the truth, we should also “engage with them and assess their honesty and possibility for deception”
    In a way he is saying that we are partly to blame. Jason Russell and Invisible Children would not have been able to take this money (which may or may not have been used for personal gain) if we had been wary from the outset and researched further without just giving it to them. It could be a case of ‘more fool us’ at the end of the day for being passive with the information. With any charity we want to believe that they are genuine, but we also know that some people are deceptive and it is up to us to research and be less careless with our money.

    Finally the evidence i have been waiting for, a video of a member of Invisible Children actually ADMITTING that he pocketed money for himself rather than donating the majority to worthwhile causes. In the video Jedidiah Jenkins is seen swigging from a bottle of vodka while slurring “I don’t know if you heard this or not but we won a, we won a million dollars, so … that’s pretty rad, here’s $100,000 for Haiti and $900,000 extra for me. Get on the bandwagon.”
  • So there it is, straight from the horses mouth. It will be extremely hard for Invisible Children to get out of this one, I wonder what ‘voodoo magic’ or Kony curse has been put on Jedidiah…

    Seeing the success of Kony 2012 has now inspired another Invisible Children co-founder to get in on the action. Bobby Bailey, who left the ‘non-profit’ organisation in 2009 has decided to put his multimedia skills out there for all to see, just like his friend Jason Russell. 

  • ‘I Am Mother’ aims to raise awareness about another issue in central Africa. According to Bailey, abducted children are afraid to return home due to the potential for reprisal attacks against them. This video doesn’t quite tug at the heart strings like the Kony 2012 video does as it just features various celebrities in scarves (which of course you are told to buy to help the children) and some good editing skills by Bailey himself, which take over the majority of the video. 
    Forgive me If I sound slightly sceptical, but after all the backlash Invisible Children have received for the Kony video, is this really the right time to ask the public for more money? especially being an ex Invisible Children member people may be slightly wary to donate to the cause. It is less personal than the Kony video and the story doesn’t seem as hard hitting. Selling scarves (at $34 each) so that radio towers can be built for mothers to broadcast songs urging their children to come home.Don’t get me wrong, it is a nice thought but will it really work? Or is it just a ply to gain more money?

    Surprisingly the ‘I Am Mother’ video hasn’t sparked a discussion on social network sites but the news that Invisible Children have released a sequel named Kony 2012: pt 2- Beyond Famous is bound to cause quite a stir.

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    KONY 2012: Part II – Beyond Famous
  • After watching the video I have to say I am slightly confused as it appears to be reinforcing the same message. ‘Deliver your voice’ is primarily the same message as ‘Make Kony Famous’ which was what the last video aimed to achieve and it did just that. Kony became known worldwide yet this video highlights that it didn’t make any difference. Political leaders from all over the word have been made aware and taken action yet Kony still hasn’t been stopped and if anything this video shows how the LRA have just been made stronger so I am confused as to what they are appealing for this time? The video does highlight that rehabilitation is needed and doesn’t directly ask for money but it is clear that is what Invisible Children are hinting at. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against giving money if I think it will help improve a situation but the video has already shown that despite efforts from people around the world after the first video, it has barely made a difference. 

    They are also holding a ‘Cover the Night’ event where they are urging people to get together with their friends, contact policy makers and promote justice for Kony. I am failing to see what difference it will make as that is precisely what happened the first time around. It appears that other people are feeling as equally uninspired as me about this video. 
    Website Jezebel published an article entitled ‘Here’s Everything You Need to Know about the Kony Sequel You Didn’t Ask For’ in which they state “we’re not planning to don Kony2012 t-shirts on April 20th — or anytime, for that matter.

  • The site has even gone one step further by putting together a ‘5-step guide to effective philanthropy’ which offers alternative charities and worthwhile causes to support. It is going to be hard to convince the public that this is genuine, judging by early responses to the video it isn’t looking promising
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    just saw knoy 2012: beyond famous (kony 2012 pt 2). sorry, that shit is not convincing. we already know about the shadiness going on.
  • It is going to be hard for Invisible Children to shake the negative stigma and this video doesn’t appear convincing enough to change peoples opinions but only time will tell. 
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    Westboro Baptist Church: attention seekers fuelled by the media?

    1. For those of you who don’t know, Westboro Baptist Church is an independent family church known for it’s extreme stance against homosexuality and it’s protest activities, which include picketing dead soldiers funerals. Over the years they have appeared on numerous talk shows, such as Jeremy Kyle and The Tyra Banks Show, and hit the headlines more times than I could possibly keep count of. 

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      Crazy Baptist Lady On Tyra Bank’s Show Part 1
    3. They are topic of conversation yet again as they prepare to lead yet another anti-homosexuality protest at Lansing Eastern High School In Michigan. Website LSJ published an article stating where the ‘church’ would be picketing and at what time while also adding a quote from the schools superintendent who said “our plan is to make sure our students are safe and in class out of harms way…we’re not really interested in engaging in any conversation.”

    4. Surely by publishing the date and time of the protest LSJ are attracting MORE attention to the matter as members of the public will come out to heckle the protesters. Ultimately their presence will cause more harm than good and by highlighting that they will be in town the media are playing in to the protesters hands as they are attention seekers who get a kick out of causing controversy.
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      Westboro Baptist Church is gonna be in my county tomorrow protesting. Smh. I feel like something bad is gonna happen down there.
    6. Whether the press is negative or not they are still gaining publicity and spreading their rhetoric of hate around the world, which is highlighted by the fact that after over 20 years of protesting, they are still the topic of conversation on news and social networking sites.
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      RT @tredmond15: Just heard on the news westboro baptist church is coming back to EL in 2 weeks
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      Watching the craziest documentary on the westboro baptist church
    9. The Westboro Baptist Church, which is made up of members of the Phelps family, are attention seekers who picket events (or threaten to picket events) which are likely to attract publicity. For example, a few months ago they announced they would picket Whitney Houston’s funeral and then posted photoshopped images to make it look legitimate. The story was covered by the Mail Online and The Huffington Post (to name but a few) 
    10. The article gained a hoard of negative comments but when will people learn that for people like the Westboro Baptists, negative publicity is still publicity! The only way to deter people like that is to simply ignore them, yet the media are unable to do so which is proven by a new story to hit the headlines, this time in music magazine NME. 
    11. The Phelps family most recently protested outside a Radiohead concert in Kansas City, USA where the religious organisation described the band as “freak monkeys with mediocre tunes” before going on to say ” you try to get the people to look at the nonsense and not the Wrath of God that abides upon them. Look at the circus monkey over there and the fluffy setting, blah blah…”

      By protesting at a music event the Westboro Baptist Church are getting their message heard by a whole new audience and by reporting on it NME are taking it beyond the attention of the concert goers and making the 376,000 people who read the magazine each week aware of who they are as well.Not only that, but band producer Nigel Godrich tweeted a picture of the picket with the caption “Highlight of the tour so far… Being picketed by westboro baptist church this evening.. Hoorah!”
    12. He only tweeted two days ago and it has already had 50 retweets and 25 people ‘favouriting’ it, which is playing right in to the churches hands. Cultural news site Flavorwire is aware of the “hate-mongering, attention seeking antics” by the Phelps family, yet it still published an article about them in which they even refer to them as entertaining.

    13. Despite all the media coverage, others also believe that media attention is doing more harm than good. Kelly French hit the nail on the head when she wrote on Yahoo! Answers that “too many media outlets give WBC attention, and all this does is inspires people to try and ‘talk some sense’ into Church members. This only makes the Church’s willpower stronger as they know their propaganda is working…”
    14. Another person responding on the site also acknowledged that the more attention the church gets, the more people they can recruit. 
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      Louis Theroux in Hell – America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis – BBC Two
    16. In a documentary by Louis Theroux last year, he meets a man who had been converted to the church while also filming a documentary about them. This proves that the publicity given to the Phelps family is doing more harm than good. Now things are getting worse as Journalism Professor at Michigan University, Tim 
      Boudreau, has INVITED the Westboro Baptist church to speak at the university on the 23rd of April. 

    17. According to the website, Central Michigan Life, Boudreau invites a controversial speaker to his class each semester “to better demonstrate an understanding of the freedom of speech.” Boudreau says that the students are “excited about having a chance to talk, discuss and debate with people who are in the news…” which is giving them celebrity status to some extent. They have appeared on so many talk shows, news programmes and magazines that people are really interested in them and what they have to say which is quite worrying. 

      They have now also taken their campaign one step further by producing a parody video to Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’, conveniently named ‘Read It’ in which Rebekah Phelps dons a t-shirt saying ‘God Hates Fags’ while singing homophobic lyrics out of tune. It seems like the Phelps family were on a roll that day as they also wrote lyrics in the tune of The Beatles song ‘Yesterday’ and Paul Simons ’50 ways to eat your baby’ which they named ’50 ways to eat your baby’. I must say I didn’t really understand parts of the video which featured a baby wearing a t-shirt reading ‘my parents are gay’ and a sign saying ‘you eat your kids’. 
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      RT @WBCVideo: Thank you, Michael Jackson, for providing Westboro Baptist Church good parody material:


    20. Westboro Baptist Church member Fred Phelps Jr posted the video link on Twitter and refers to the video as good’ which causes me to question not only his mental state but his hearing too as certain members of the Westboro Baptist Church clearly need to miss a few protests and invest in some singing lessons. Thankfully this video hasn’t been re-tweeted or shared on any other social networking sites and finally some positive information is starting to circulate as an article by Nate Phelps, who escaped Baptist Church, is getting a lot of attention. 
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      Nate Phelps: Life After the Westboro Baptist Church via @HuffingtonPost
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      Whenever I see stories or pics of Westboro Baptist Church, I pray for his children. Glad to see one has survived.
    23. In the article, Life After The Westboro Baptist Church, Phelps describes what it was like growing up in a family with such strict, negative beliefs that “violently quelled any defiance”. He then goes on to talk about how he escaped on his 18th birthday after years of isolation and punishment. It is interesting to read and to get an inside perspective on how the Westboro Baptist Church operates.

    24. Having said that, I can’t help but think that this is further fuelling the fire. Again the Westboro Baptist Church are being portrayed in a negative light which is attracting attention with 2,483 people liking it on Facebook, but they are obviously used to critisism and reply with the most unhinged responses. For example, on Twitter, Westboro member, Rebekah Phelps-Davis re-tweeted this from a member of the public “@EradEcator: @AbiWBC @KJVMatt @jaelphelps I hope you all choke and die” and responded with, “yes, well, the hypocrites’ hope shall perish”. This proves that nothing affects them and by re-tweeting it she is sharing it for other people to see and be amused by as well. 

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      RT @AwkwrdWhenSober: GROUP PLANS 5th ANNUAL PROTEST OF WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH (via @millionfagmarch)
    26. They even promote protests which are against them, like the one above. Promotion has begun to rally protesters to the annual ‘Million Fag March’ which takes place in Topeka, Kansas (the home town of the Phelps family) each year. This just highlights how popular the Wesboro Baptist Church has become. Whether it is for a negative reason or not, they have affected people so much that they feel the need to travel to Kansas in order to protest against them. Obviously they aren’t bothered about the protest, as Rebekah Phelps highlights above, and will more than likely bask in the attention from members of the public. 

    27. On the web page above which details the march, the creators stress that they want to “turn the tables” on the Baptist Church by using the same laws they use to shield themselves. They then go on to say “we believe that ignoring a problem will make it go away”, but the obvious response to this is how do you know if you haven’t tried? I have given numerous examples of the media and the public drawing attention to the Westboro Baptist Church with new stories emerging every day. 

      They have caused controversy yet again by praising god for the earthquake in Woodward, Oklahoma which killed 5 people. And as if the people of Oklahoma didn’t have enough to deal with, local site ‘The Examiner’ thought it would publicise the hate fuelled comments by the church for all to see.
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      4/9/2012 Woodward, OK Tornado and Huge Hail Footage – Part1
    29. Margie Phelps has caused uproar on Twitter by saying she is ‘thanking god’ that five lives were lost in the Tornado. She then posted a video of the Tornado with the hash tag #OkayShouldHaveObeyed. Obviously a number of people have responded with hate fuelled messages for the church. 
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      RT @ADHopper1: Westboro baptist church thanks God for the people killed in Oklahoma tornado. Smh. How bout we show up on their doorstep? #Punks #FalseFaith
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      To the Westboro Baptist Church you need to shut your mouths about the tornado that hit Woodward,Oklahoma you have no idea what people are
    32. It appears that Margie Phelps’ comment has taken the attention away from the victims and their families as people are more concerned with directing hate towards the family, which obviously they won’t take any notice of anyway. At the end of the day, if Margie Phelps wasn’t trying to get a reaction from the public she wouldn’t have posted her comment on Twitter for everybody to see. It isn’t hard to understand. Media platforms, like The Examiner, the Mail Online and The Huffington Post may have good intentions by reporting on the negative wrong doings by the church, but they are ultimately just fuelling their desire to continue.

       I hope that the media and the public will stop giving the Westboro Baptist Church the attention it so obviously craves, but judging by the latest stories to emerge and the reactions they have generated, I can’t see it happening any time soon.

    Move over Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore is on its way!

    Following on from the success of American ‘reality’ show Jersey Shore, the UK has decided to get in on the action too,  introducing to you…GEORDIE SHORE.

    The MTV show will follow 8 loud and proud Geordie lads and lasses who have been let loose for 6 weeks of wild partying in the glamorous city of Newcastle! (If you hadn’t already guessed from the name)

    The cast will be living in a 5 star luxury house complete with shared bedrooms and a hot tub. Oh and what would a shore house be without an outhouse for those ‘special visitors’.

    However, the Geordie lads will have to be on top form to compete with the pulling powers displayed by Mike, Pauly, and Vinnie who definitely earned their status as MVP throughout the 3 seasons of Jersey Shore.

    Whether the show will be as successful remains to be seen but the cast are certainly going to attempt to give their American rivals a run for their money! As well as daily gym, tan and laundry sessions, the cast will also be seen fist pumping at some of the most renowned hot spots on the Diamond Strip.

    According to the MTV website, Geordie housemate Jay is rarely pictured with his top on and his mantra in life is ‘whoever, whenever’ while Holly is known to get in to fights at the end of a night. Hmm sound familiar…? The Situation and Jwoww spring to mind!

    Hopefully the gang aren’t just cheap imitations of the Jersey Shore cast but you can be the judge of that by tuning in to MTV on May 24th at 10pm!

    Valencia album review

    Philadelphia born rockers Valencia have re-joined isurrender records to release their well awaited third album ‘Dancing With A Ghost’.

    With previous release ‘We All Need A Reason To Believe’ cementing its place as one of my favourite albums of 2008; I was excited to hear more of the catchy melodies and anthemic tunes which have made this band pop punk royalty.

    For those of you hoping to hear the same, prepare to be taken aback as Valencia have taken their music in a whole new direction this time around; slowing down the tempo and writing deep and meaningful lyrics.

    Cue ‘Still need you around (I’m lost without you)’ which is without a doubt the most emotional song on the album. It reflects on the importance of family and coming to terms with the realisation that they aren’t going to be around forever.

    Lyrics like “I’m tired now and my mind wont quit, since I got the news that you were sick”, strongly imply that the main inspiration for this song was drawn from lead singer Shane Henderson’s mother’s diagnosis with cancer.

    Having just the piano accompaniment and hand claps complimenting the soft vocals allows you to fully concentrate on the heartfelt lyrics.

    Although personal experience has brought about a deeper, darker side to this album; Valencia’s title track ‘Dancing with a Ghost’ displays the typical warm melodies and unforgettable chorus that these 5-piece pop punkers are well known for.

    This song could easily be grouped in the same category as ‘The Space Between’ which is undoubtedly the most popular song to date. With the infectious hooks and punchy lyrical build up, this is THE tune you will be humming for the rest of the day(you have been warned!).

    However, follow on song ‘Spinning Out’ sticks in your head for an entirely different reason. The rhythm section really shreds in the chorus making it one of the most powerful songs on the album. It has many different layers from piano; to strings to percussion which all compliment each other effectively.

    It also shows how diverse the band has become this time around by really experimenting to create a different sound with each song. The sixth track on the album. ‘Friday night’, is no exception as, again, it shakes up the mood by debuting the bands aggressive but theatrical side.

    The introduction displays an entirely different vibe to any other song on the album with the synth sounds creating a feel of horror and mystery. The sharp electric guitar riffs mix well with the blunt lyrics such as “I guess I fucked up! I guess I was wrong” and shows that the band are challenging typical pop punk styles and doing it well.

    End track ‘Stop searching’  would be an incredible track to play in an arena setting as not only does the music strike you with the vigorous double time drum solo on the chorus, but the powerful intensity of Henderson’s voice really comes through on this. I was blown away.

    It is a shame not all the tracks on this album have the same effect, with ‘Somewhere I Belong’ and ‘Consider Me Dead’ appearing to slip through the net. Both tracks seemed to drag on emotionlessly and I found them slightly mundane.

    Aside from the few poorly executed songs, ‘Dancing with a Ghost’ is definitely an album to be heard. The diversity displayed in most of the tracks are very rarely seen in the pop punk genre and not only did Valencia dare to try it but they pulled it off extremely well with songs ‘Stop Searching’ and ‘Losing Sleep’ arguably being two of their best to date.  They have definitely proven why they are at the top of their game. The gamble payed off.

    Handguns EP review

    Don’t Bite Your Tongue’ is the second EP release by Pennsylvania pop punk band Handguns.Since their first EP ‘Anywhere but home’ was released in 2010 the band have had a whirlwind year from signing to Pure Noise records to touring with bands such as Man Overboard, The Wonder Years and Hawthorne Heights (to name a few).

    Their most recent release is sure to gain the band further exposure as ‘Dont Bite Your Tongue’ displays all the old school pop punk characteristics heard in debut release ‘Anywhere but Home’ while delivering a more rounded and sometimes slightly polished sound proving that the band are definitely heading in the right direction.

    As soon as opening track ‘A Year in Review’ kicks off it is easily recognisable as a Handguns record. Again, the band reject the frills and producer tricks to deliver straight pop punk courtesy of a guitar, bass and drum kit.

    It is a snare happy track, much like the rest of the EP, and with the speedy guitar riffs and playful vocals it is reminiscent of pop punk in early 2000. Fast, fun and catchy.

    These elements continue to shine through in follow on track ‘Scream Goodbye’  which grabs your attention with its hard hitting chorus and group vocals. Lyrics ’And I would rather die, or staple gun my eyes then have to see your face again, you’re wasting all my time’’ shows that the band dont take themselves too seriously, their fun fuelled lyrics teamed with the upbeat tempo’s and guitar riff intro’s show that the band definitely have all the elements of a good pop punk record in place.

    The only downside is that it lacks variety; all the songs are pretty generic pop punk songs with forceful percussion and catchy hooks, but then again, Handguns have done extremely well and gained a following from this type of music, so it bares the question, if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

    There is no doubt that they have raised the bar since  ’Anywhere but Home’  which pretty much documented their first year as a band, touring and making a name for themselves, it is a good record but one which lacked any deep meaning. The band make up for this in ‘Don’t Bite  Your Tongue’ which features songs about standing up for yourself and not wasting time, factors many people can relate to.

    It shows the band have matured over the last year while still managing to maintain the fun, slightly immature aspects displayed in the first EP. It is sure to please old fans while gaining them a few more in the process.

    I Am The Avalanche @ The Cockpit, Leeds

    Read original review on Croon


    127 Hours review

    Imagine going from the filthy slums of Mumbai in Slum dog Millionaire to the isolation and loneliness of a desolate cave,well this is the latest offering from acclaimed British director, Danny Boyle.

    Already tipped for Oscars (as if he needs any more!) ‘127 hours’ documents the 5 day struggle of Aron Ralston, a man living life on the edge.

    Whilst cycling dangerous Blue Rock Canyon, he finally pushes himself too far, an action which see’s him trapped and in excruciating pain.

    From that point the film shifts from a physical to an emotional journey when he is forced to overcome obstacles to survive.

    James Franco plays the daredevil, giving a heart wrenchingly flawless performance in tackling the emotions of a man whose severe exhaustion and dehydration leads to a chilling set of hallucinations.

    These propel the story, along with other element such as split screens and flashbacks, which is a welcome surprise, differing from my original expectations. I assumed the fall would halt the thrills of the previous 20 minutes but boy was I wrong. Not only does Boyle delve deeper in to Ralston’s life, he ensures we become connected to the character, reinforced by Franco’s brilliant performance.Reuniting with Oscar winning composer A R Rahman (Slum Dog Millionaire), Boyle ensures the music throughout mirrors the feelings of the audience; which range from shock and awe to compassion and sympathy.

    However, some parts proved uncomfortable as I developed such a personal bond with Franco’s depiction of Ralston that I physically couldn’t stand to see the struggles he was facing. Despite ‘127 hours’ truly testing the boundaries of human suffering, Boyle still sees fit to offer rare moments of comedic relief.

    This is a dimension rarely seen from Franco in his previous films, which range from a junkie in the laughter driven Pineapple Express to the best friend and eventual enemy of Spiderman. Even playing James Dean in the self titled biopic failed to catapult him to major success.

    The dynamic between Boyle’s visions and Franco’s portrayal of a man pushed to the ultimate level of survival, ensure the audience is glued to the screen throughout. This film is a rollercoaster ride, exhausting every feeling possible, but still manages to offer hope and determination despite unbearable circumstances.

    Those of you with sensitive stomachs who are deterred by some of the gorier aspects of the film, I assure you, they are well worth enduring for the 90 minutes of pure genius displayed throughout this film. Boyle’s unique eye and range of cinematic elements has pushed what is seen as a fairly simple story to a whole new level.

    The constrictive nature of the setting and near absence of supporting characters would be enough to deter even the most experienced actors, but Franco welcomes the challenge with open arms and delivers a performance that can only be described as  mesmerising. It is safe to say that the release of 127 hours will see his days of support roles left firmly behind him and chalks up yet another success for Boyle, who will surely be adding a host of new awards to his collection.

    Fireworks @ The Cockpit, Leeds

    After supporting Set Your Goals back in 2009 and playing to a room of eager fans at last years Slam Dunk Festival, It was only a matter of time before  Fireworks were to sell out their own headline shows.

    Fast forward a year and they are doing just that. As I stand in a crammed room at The Cockpit waiting for the boys from Detroit to take to the stage; it is clear to see how far they have come in such a short period of time.

    Since the release of their album ‘All I Have to Offer is My Own Confusion’, in March 2009, they seem to be going from strength to strength; which is apparent from tonight’s turn-out.

    The night kicked off with the first support act ‘Save Your Breath’. Giving a brief introduction and whizzing through their set of pop punk songs, they failed to spark much more than head bobbing and foot tapping from the crowd.This may have been due to the illness of the lead singer which grew apparent as each song went on.

    Despite the struggle on some of the higher notes, he battled through and song ‘Your Oven is on Fire’ from the bands split EP with Fireworks, did get the most prominent reaction from the crowd but still failed to spark any real excitement.

    Following on from them were American band ‘Make Do and Mend’, whose sound proved slightly heavier  than the two other bands on tonight. Despite my initial reservations, I soon found my self in awe of their performance as it never faltered. They sounded just as clear as they did on CD and everyone else seemed to enjoy their set as much as I did.

    However, it was obvious that everyone was there for the headliners ‘Fireworks’ who kicked off their set with ‘Geography, Vonnegut and Me’. As soon as the introduction was heard the room erupted in to chaos with people throwing themselves around the compact upstairs room.

    This continued throughout ‘From Mountain Movers to Lazy Losers’ which prompted the band to jokingly tell everybody to calm down slightly over fears they may fall down the stairs (not that anyone did calm down!)

    It was impossible not to get caught up in the bands infectious energy. They jumped around despite the lack of room with lead singer, David Mackinder, still managing to maintain great vocals throughout.

    The band also played songs from their new EP ‘Bonfires’, which got a great reception with the whole crowd singing along to the closing chorus on ‘ I Grew Up in a Legion Hall’ and revived song ‘Seasick’ which they dedicated to the events promoter for allowing them to play.

    They then went on to close the night with a bang; playing their most popular songs to date ‘Detroit’ and ‘When We Stand on Each other We Block out the Sun’. I looked around and there wasn’t a still body in the room as everybody sang the songs word for word.

    After the gig nobody (including me) wanted it to finish. A definite sign that the band are now finally getting the recognition they deserve. I just hope they come back again soon!

    Such Gold/ Koji @ The Royal Park, Leeds

    I went to the Such Gold gig at Royal Park pub this week and i must say it was the best show i’ve been to in a while.Local Leeds band The Locks & Keys were up first and immediately  ushered the crowd forward to get in on the action.

    They raised the bar really high for the bands that were to follow by giving an energetic performance which had the crowd bobbing their heads throughout.

    The banter and conversation amongst the band between songs further livened up the night as the lead singer shouted out ‘who likes pizza!?’ before proceeding to tell the story behind the next song ‘Late Nights, Good Friends’ a catchy song about eating pizza after a late night out. The pizza question all made sense then!

    Next up were Irish band and permanent fixtures on the tour, Starters, who grabbed everyone’s attention with their heavy hitting songs and catchy choruses.

    ‘Geocache girl’ was a particular crowd favourite as fans began to throw themselves around at the front of the stage. I was particularly transfixed with the drummer’s performance as I have never seen arms move so fast. They are definitely a talented bunch of guys with bags of energy, making them the perfect support for Such Gold.

    American artist Koji was up next and although I’d never heard his music before, I was aware that he played laidback acoustic songs and wasn’t sure how he would fair with the rowdy crowd of pop punk enthusiasts, but surprisingly his set went down really well.

    His songs featured lyrics about life, learning and love with ‘Giants Sleeping’ being one of the songs which really tugs at the heartstrings.He confessed to it being about losing himself while finding his way in the world and everyone stood in awe.

    The rest of the set pretty much followed suit with the crowd stood silently taking in every word.  When introducing the last song Koji announced he wanted everyone to join him on the chorus of his cover of Bob Dylans ‘Wagon Wheel’ and the room echoed as the crowd blared out the chorus of  ‘rock me momma like a wagon wheel, rock me momma anyway you feel’. The response he received was well deserved.

    After Koji had finished playing, fellow American headliners Such Gold stepped up to get the crowd hyped
    up again. As soon as they started playing the intro to ‘Sycamore’ the crowd were throwing themselves around to the bands fusion of melodic hardcore and pop punk.

    They definitely lived up to their energetic reputation and their set was filled with stage dives and sing alongs. There wasn’t a dry body in sight as people were swinging from the rafters, literally. Definitely the sign of a good night and any band that can spark that kind of reaction are without a doubt deserving of the headline spot.