Ever since the 30-minute pseudo-documentary “Kony 2012” appeared on the scene, criticisms and celebration have been flying. Now, new questions have been raised by some troubling news stories surrounding the man behind the film, Jason Russell, as well as some less-than-legal methods by which the Kony issue has been publicized.
First, there’s the story about Russell himself. Russell was recently arrested in San Diego, allegedly for the act of “masturbating in public.” NBC San Diego picks up the bizarre story from here:
Jason Russell, 33, was allegedly found masturbating in public, vandalizing cars and possibly under the influence of something, according to Lt. Andra Brown. He was detained at the intersection of Ingraham Street and Riviera Road.
Brown said Russell was acting very strange.
Police said they received several calls yesterday at 11:30 a.m. of a man in various stages of undress, running through traffic and screaming. Police described him as “in his underwear.”
The CEO of “Invisible Children,” Russell’s organization, put this more diplomatically in a statement, saying “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.” The emotional toll presumably refers to the fact that the Kony 2012 documentary has been recently and repeatedly attacked, both over questions of accuracy, and for possibly inadvertently aiding Kony’s flight from justice. Witness this excerpt from a story in USA Today:
Critics such as J. Peter Pham, an Africa expert at the Atlantic Council, question the timing of the awareness campaign and say that Russell has oversimplified the conflict in central Africa.
The film sends the message that Kony “is the sole source of evil in this part of the world and simply by sending in $30 for an action kit you’ve solved this problem,” Pham says. “When in fact, you’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest.”
Pham says the timing is bad because U.S. troops already on the ground and diplomatic efforts underway would work best “in the shadows.”
It’s worth noting that Russell’s “unfortunate incident” is deeply out of character for him. Russell is a born-again Christian, and even spoke at Liberty University’s 2011 convocation. He’s hardly the sort of person you’d expect to find drunk and masturbating in public. You can watch the video of his remarks at Liberty U below:
The other scandal to hit Kony 2012 comes from Lewisville, Texas, where some people have taken the Kony 2012 campaign’s call to publicize Kony’s name a little too far, and with the wrong imagery. NBC Dallas Fort Worth explains in the following video and excerpt:
Vandals sprayed-painted the name of a viral Internet campaign about a central Africa warlord on four homes in Lewisville, police said.
American advocacy group Invisible Children launched an online campaign to raise global awareness of Joseph Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.[…]
The graffiti ranged from obscene art to a giant swastika.
So while Kony 2012 might have a noble cause, its founder and supporters are doing it no favors.