SAN DIEGO – March 16, 2012 – Jason Russell, 33, co-founder of the San Diego-based charity Invisible Children and a co-creator of the unprecedented viral video sensation “KONY 2012,” is hospitalized in San Diego on a psychiatric hold after being detained by police on Thursday for being naked, drunk, and allegedly masturbating in public.
Police received numerous calls late Thursday morning from the Crown Point Shores area, just blocks from Sea World San Diego that a man was at one of the busy intersections vandalizing cars, appeared to be under the influence, and was acting out sexually wearing only a pair of briefs that he would take on and off.
According to the San Diego based-NBC television station, police approached and detained Russell, who was cooperative. Officers determined Russell needed a medical evaluation and treatment, and transported him to a local emergency room.
Speaking on behalf of the San Diego Police, spokesperson Lieutenant Andra Brown described Russell as acting “very strange.” When possible charges include public masturbation and auto vandalism a few feet from the shores of the Pacific while stumbling incoherently on a Thursday in broad daylight, that’s pretty much a given.
Late on Friday afternoon, the news website TMZ.com posted a 12-second video claiming to show “the naked meltdown” of Russell. Yet another reminder that in today’s world, cameras are everywhere, at all times.
Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey confirmed the story and issued a statement about Russell’s situation. “The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.”
The “KONY 2012” video about Ugandan militia leader Joseph Kony has been viewed more than 80 million times on YouTube, and it is impossible to say how many more times it has been viewed via other sites or shared. Russell appears in the video with his young son, showing him Kony’s photo and explaining to the boy how Kony brutalized children just like him.
These are the facts, which seem to be undisputed. Reaction to the story has taken on a viral life of its own, just as the original video “KONY 2012” exploded into public consciousness online within hours. Social media is once again at the center of this story as the same people who saw and reacted to the video are reacting to this stunning, unfortunate and unexpected news.
Within an hour, the top trending term on Twitter was #Horny2012, in a play on the video’s title. No doubt certain people are dusting off their Anthony Weiner clichés.
The small nonprofit organization Invisible Children has come under fire since the video became such a sensation, criticized for its lack of transparency about its financial records and fundraising, and for turning an extremely complex issue into a simplistic tale of good and evil that does not depict today’s reality in Uganda and the surrounding region.
Critics condemned the group for accepting large donations from Christian fundamentalist groups in the United States who have also funded anti-gay rights causes. The group’s leaders responded with information about their financial history and assured the public the only goal was to shed light on a devastating, dreadful human rights holocaust being ignored by the rest of the world. Their social activism and their innovation were commended around the world.
Sadly, this incident by one of the individuals at the center of the KONY 2012 phenomenon will hand ammunition to these critics, who will now make hay while th sun shines and do their level best to connect the dots between Russell’s highly embarrassing behavior and mental state and the moralistic hypocrisy it suggests.
There is no possible way Invisible Children could have predicted the strength of the reaction to its video, and no possible way the group could have been prepared for the onslaught of attention it received. While it seems like nothing but positive, there is no doubt the group was quickly overwhelmed by the circumstances, hammered from all sides and likely ill-equipped as nearly anyone would be to withstand the attention.
This is a classic case where these well-intentioned efforts may live by the sword, and die by the sword. Invisible Children will need to move swiftly and decisively to separate the circumstances, calling attention back to the reason everyone is paying attention to what would have been at best a local police blotter news story limited to San Diego in the first place: the human rights nightmare destroying an entire generation of African children. If there was ever a time for eyes on the prize, this is it. Focus, focus, and more focus.
Long after this embarrassing episode is over, and right this moment as you are reading, children are being brutalized. Let’s put things in perspective. Russell’s actions hurt no one but himself, and perhaps some sheet metal and windows on a few cars. Anyone who would try to put this in the same category as the atrocities going on and chronicled in the “KONY 2012” video has completely lost their direction.
In the wake of the “KONY 2012” video going public, scores of support groups have sprung up all over the United States and the world. A resolution of support for the groups’ aims was introduced in Congress. The group is planning a day of mass action in protest at Kony for next month that aims to distribute more than a million posters bearing the logo Kony 2012 across the U.S. For everyone who claimed to be in support of efforts to eradicate the abuse of children in Africa by the likes of Joseph Kony and his ilk, it is now more important than ever that they stand up and be counted, or reveal yourself to be a fly-by-night “slacktovist,” guilty of far worse than anything Jason Russell appears to have done.
This afternoon at the Invisible Children headquarters in San Diego, volunteers and employees have been told not to comment. Workers removed a “Kony 2012” sign in the lobby and a security guard is at the entrance of the check-in area.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities at WashingtonTimes.com” when quoting from or linking to this story.
Copyright © 2012 by Falcon Valley Group
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.