San Diego, California – 33-year-old Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children, Inc. and owner of the face most-pictured in the 30-minute “Kony 2012” viral Internet meme, has been detained by police in San Diego for allegedly masturbating under the influence of something mind-altering, vandalizing cars, beating his fists on the sidewalk, and disrupting traffic, all while spewing incoherent nonsense from his surfer-boy-looking mouth.
Police arrived on this bizarre scene after they’d received several reports of a male individual in a Pacific Beach neighborhood who had removed his underwear and was “perhaps masturbating.” His underwear was back on before police arrived, incidentally. Mr. Russell was detained and taken to a mental health facility for evaluation. Russell’s camp is explaining the incident away by stating that he was “suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition in the wake of the emotional toll of the media storm around Kony 2012.” As far as I can tell, no charges have been filed, except by those of us who are shaking our heads a bit.
Jason Russell, in case you didn’t know, co-founded the “Invisible Children” campaign (also known as IC) in 2004 to bring about the arrest of Jonathan Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which spent years terrorizing the Ugandan people. Kony is accused of abducting as many as 30,000 Ugandan children, turning the boys into soldiers, and making the girls serve as porters and/or sex slaves. The goal of Russell’s organization is to raise awareness and spur worldwide interest in bringing Kony to justice. The Kony 2012 film is the culmination of years of IC’s efforts.
Russell is the son of the founders of the Christian Youth Theater, a USC film school graduate, an evangelical Christian, father to two children, and husband to Danica Russell, with whom he says he’d like to have nine more children (not a misprint). He describes Danica as his best friend for over 23 years.
Critics of Russell’s plight have leveled a number of charges against the campaign. Some have pointed out that the LRA has flat-out left Uganda, seeking refuge for their shrinking membership (they’re said to currently have only between 200 and 300 soldiers) in more interior parts of the African continent. They are seen by many as “not a threat” to the stability of the region and are reportedly now relegated to 5-to-6 person raids of villages, searching only for food. Others criticize the tactics of the Russell’s organization, which center around raising awareness and sustaining itself rather than providing direct aid.
Invisible Children, Inc. has affected some change, however, such as convincing American government officials to place roughly 100 advisors in Uganda to aid the Ugandan army in finding Kony. However, as many will point out, the Ugandan army is poorly equipped, poorly trained, and has an abysmal human rights record with the civilian population of the country. To add to the difficulty, Kony’s skill at hiding himself and his relatively small army in the dense African forests is formidable to say the least.
To make matters even worse for the cause, many Ugandans who have seen the film are taking strong exception to its message:
“There was a strong sense from the audience that the video was insensitive to African and Ugandan audiences, and that it did not accurately portray the conflict or the victims,” Victor Ochen of the African Youth Initiative Network, said in a statement. “In particular, viewers were outraged by the KONY 2012 campaign’s strategy to make Kony famous and their marketing of items with his image.”
Knowing what I know about Russell’s background and the fact that what he’s made his life’s work is now seen by many as a dead issue, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if he went a little whackier than he already was. However, I have a strong suspicion that his recent display of public indecency is probably only a stunt to further bolster awareness of his weakening cause.
Tags: Inc., Invisible Children, Jason Russell, Kony 2012, masturbation, public nudity