Kony founder Jason Russell: Naked meltdown, everyone being jerks

The co-founder of KONY 2012 apparently suffered from a Britney-level mental break and was arrested for drunkenly exposing himself in public last night. Oh, and of course TMZ has the video and it’s been making the rounds on not only gossip sites, but even feminist site Jezebel, where everyone is being a jerk.

Since when is mental illness funny? People are so rude! I hate to be a buzz kill, but a guy doing erratic, naked speed-yoga on a sidewalk while cops try to contain him is sad no matter who it is. I don’t care if you like his KONY 2012 video or if you think Uganda is just a fabulous new baby name, Jason Russell’s psychotic break is not entertainment.

I deal with mental illness in my family. Sometimes it’s hard to determine the line between their disease and their personality. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked myself “is this mom’s sickness or is she just being terrible?” It’s like the third day of the stomach flu when you can’t decide what’s worse, hunger or the inevitable urge to barf if you eat. It’s all bad, but better to err on the side of not stoking the fire, right?

I feel the need to protect this Kony creator because he reminds me a little of my brother who is also mentally ill. Does my brother put crazy things on the internet? Why yes! Manifestos about how much he hates garden bugs, as a matter of fact. But I would I come out swinging if he were being mocked during a mental break even if for some reason he became famous and ordered militias into sovereign nations.

Let’s just turn away from this Jason Russell scandal. He’s not a real celebrity anyway. Isn’t a Kardashian doing something we can watch?

In lieu of showing the video of his public breakdown, let’s have a retro revival of Leave Britney ALoOoOOoOoOOoNE. No, let’s do the remix from ’08. I like history.

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  • Thank for your post. Hope you will share more.

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    the point is this is the same man who is asking us to give him money for a questionable organization with an outdated cause. it's scandal. its corrupt, and we have every right to mock the fallacy, and the man who fooled us all. , so if this were obama, everyone would have a panic attack. the point is when your the figure head of a campaign these things won't fly. stop griping.

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    While I appreciate the effort of this writer to sensitize the public to brain injuries/disease, I think the author also overcompensates and fails to recognize why there might be some skepticism regarding Mr. Russell. By telling his readers that they cannot criticize Mr. Russell because he may have suffered a psychotic episode or a brain disease, Mr. Vox does us a disservice.

    First, to recognize the Kony2012 campaign as one of the most successful publicity campaigns in history is to willfully erase the historical context and power of the internet. That is, previously "successful" campaigns such as We Are the World in the 1980s put on to "eradicate" Ethiopian famine would have been just as widespread had there been an internet at that time. That is, Kony2012 is not any more innovative or widespread than the We Are the World campaign was in its own time. Scholars of African history know that Europeans had dozens and dozens of charity campaigns in the 19th century using the available media of the time (periodic journals, magazines, etc) [and, by "success" I mean the widespread reach of its message - not necessarily the success of its mission, since there are many analyses that show that the We Are the World Campaign in fact did not succeed in eradicating famine)

    The point of saying this is to relativize the "success" of the Kony2012 campaign in light of its historical predecessors. I am tired of uninformed Americans making claims without any evidence or grounding.

    Furthermore, how does one measure the "success" of the Kony2012 campaign? By its "hits"? What a shallow ways to measure success indeed. Even the possible execution of Mr. Kony would not be success from my perspective, as the complex scenario we witness and/or experience in Uganda is the result of multiple causes and not just the result of an "evil" man.

    As to Mr. Russell's breakdown, his own nonprofit, IC, made matters worse by attributing the breakdown to - as you yourself note -"exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition." This is not only in-credible (that is not credible - not believable), but also insulting.

    The nonprofit is said to advocate on behalf of Ugandan children and yet resort to saying that this incredibly privileged man was so "malnourished" that he ran the streets naked, screaming, vandalizing cars and possibly masturbating??? How much more insulting can one get?

    To add to the insult, his wife comes out and says it is the public criticism (and success!) that broke him. Huh? Nowhere does she (or you) note that he invited the public scrutiny after using a complex situation as a platform for his own celebrity. No one asked Mr. Russell to become a one-man vigilante against Mr. Kony. (yes, just as Mr. Russell is a man, even Mr. Kony is a man)

    There are quite a few observers who note Mr. Russell's narcissism, and it certainly is possible that this narcissism contributed to the fragility of his ego such that the kind of public scrutiny he encountered caused a psychotic break. You don't mention that as one of the possibilities contributing to Mr. Russell's actions.

    In terms of the public demanding to know more about Mr. Russell's actions on thursday, they have every right to do so. A nonprofit is a public entity and is supported, in part or in whole, through public funds. A nonprofit therefore has an ethical obligation to communicate information about the actions of its top representatives. Mr. Russell put himself in the position as the "voice" of this "movement" (rather than, for example, empowering Ugandan media workers or intellectuals) and he orchestrated the campaign that was to result in April's action. Then, as others on here have noted, he and his colleagues could not answer fair questions about IC's strategy and timing. It is notable that IC does not have an African scholar on its board.

    You may not know -- since you may not have been interested in Ugandan or even African affairs before this video -- but plenty of African scholars launched severe critiques of his first film, Invisible Children. Here was a film that depicted an ignorant white American who "stumbles" into Uganda knowing nothing and "suddenly" becomes the hero/savior. Can we say "god-complex" and "grandiosity"? And when this grandiosity was punctured......

  • In reply to Onion Jack:

    I absolutely agree with a lot of your points. Thank you for such a thoughtful response! No doubt Jason Russell has delusions of grandeur. It's possible what we're seeing is an effect of drugs. I still think laughing at anyone having this type of episode isn't appropriate because it doesn't accomplish anything. Calling him an idiot and saying you're "getting popcorn to watch the shit show" doesn't shed counterpoints to KONY 2012.

    Thanks again for commenting!

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    A more likely cause of his psychotic-like event is Subliminal Distraction exposure. This simple problem of human physiology happens frequently to those unaware of how to avoid it. Typically it is mistaken for mental illness.

    Single events will quickly remit with no treatment once the source of exposure is found and removed.

    If it is not correctly evaluated and stopped repeating exposure will cause other episodes so the victim is incorrectly diagnosed as mentally ill. Bipolar Disorder is a popular diagnosis.

    Inherited brain sensitivity for movement in peripheral vision may explain why mental illness seems to run in families.

    Not mental illness, it requires an activity or location for exposure to cause the psychotic-like episode. That means it can be investigated, confirmed or eliminated. The writer should visit my site and learn if this is the problem that causes her family problems. VisionAndPsychosis.Net

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