Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind 'Kony 2012', was detained yesterday by police, says NBC San Diego. According to the San Diego Police Department, Russell was detained in Pacific Beach on Thursday for allegedly being drunk in public, running around naked, and making sexual gestures, as well as vandalizing cars. He was not arrested, but taken to a medical facility.
Russell has been called the mastermind behind the Kony 2012 campaign, which has generated a huge amount of attention: the 'Kony 2012' video has now been viewed over 100 million times online.
Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children, the organization that Russell co-founded, released a statement responding to reports of the arrest:
"Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. 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."
At the Invisible Children headquarters in San Diego, volunteers have been instructed not to comment on the situation, according to NBC San Diego, and a 'Kony 2012' sign has been removed from the lobby.
TMZ has posted what they claim is video of Russell taken during the incident. You can see that here.
UPDATE: Kony 2012 - The Filmmakers Respond To Their Critics - March 8, 2012 After giving the case of fugitive African guerrilla war leader Joseph Kony an unprecedented amount of coverage in the Western media in recent days, the U.S. charity Invisible Children has issued a response to its detractors.
While the group's "Kony 2012" video has been a viral sensation, and has inspired a new awareness of Kony's crimes and sordid history, Invisible Children has also been the subject of much criticism for its campaign - concerns that we discuss below.
For information on other efforts to address the issue of child soldiering - particularly those of Canadian Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, including a discussion he had with George on the subject in 2010 - scroll down to the bottom of yesterday's post.
And for an alternate take on Invisible Children and the Kony video, check out British comedian Charlie Brooker's look at the organization's other videos.
March 7, 2012 It's not every day that a campaign against human rights violations in Africa becomes a worldwide trending topic on Twitter and a viral video phenomenon.
This surprising development is the result of efforts by U.S. NGO Invisible Children, an organization dedicated to bringing to justice Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army rebel movement that has been waging a guerilla war against the Ugandan government since the 1980s - largely through the use of child soldiers it has abducted, abused and forced into service.
Two days ago, Invisible Children started a major push behind a video called "Kony 2012", a half-hour long account of Kony's murderous impact on the lives of children in northern Uganda and a plea to viewers around to help efforts to bring him to justice. Tied to the clip was a large-scale social media campaign, urging people to watch, share and promote the video with their friends and followers.
As of today, against all expectations, a half-hour-long video about a conflict obscure to many North Americans has turned into a bona fide phenomenon, with more than 15 million views and counting. Here is the video:
Kony is a deplorable figure: He has been accused of kidnapping untold numbers of children from the LRA's territory in northern Uganda, turning young boys into drugged and brainwashed killers, young girls into sex slaves, and many children into victims of torture and murder. He has been sought by the International Criminal Court since 2005 for crimes against humanity, and he remains a fugitive at large.
Many people would be happy to support efforts to bring him to justice, but it's rare that African war criminals are widely discussed on the Twittersphere, and the degree to which "Kony 2012" has captured attention is an incredible accomplishment.
Of course, like any sudden phenomenon, "Kony 2012" has attracted critics as well as supporters. While virtually nobody has tried to defend the reputation of Kony or the LRA (although Rush Limbaugh did attempt it recently), there have been some concerns expressed about the video, the campaign and the organization behind. These are just some of the discussions that have been taking place - mostly in the blogosphere - around Invisible Children's campaign:
1. It overly simplifies a complicated situation. While many in the human rights and development communities stated an appreciation of efforts to draw attention to Kony's horrific history, some were concerned that it the video reduced the situation in Uganda to an easy, good-guys-vs-bad-guys narrative, when the reality is far more complex.
2. It does not include the people of northern Uganda themselves. A post on the Justice in Conflict blog, written by a Canadian human rights scholar, provided a thought-provoking summary of this viewpoint. It points out that very few voices in the movie come from the people who the makers of "Kony 2012" are ostensibly trying to help - those living in northern Uganda who have suffered from the civil wars between Kony and the government. That is partly because it is their own children who make up the LRA, and partly because they blame the government as much as the rebels for the violence in their lives. There is widespread support for an amnesty process that would allow LRA members to return home to face a form of "peace justice" - an idea that might not fit neatly into a campaign to "Stop Kony."
3. It advocates a disempowering approach. Variations on this argument invoke uncomfortable words such as "paternalism," "colonialism" and even "racism" to summarize Invisible Children's approach to helping people in Africa - that the message being sent is that only rich, white North Americans can do something about the problems in places like Uganda, in spite of the fact that a lot of work has already been done on the ground to deal with problems such as Kony - such as the amnesty process mentioned above. This argument has been articulated by a number of writers, including Grant Oyston, whose Tumblr feed Visible Children is dedicated to presenting an alternative view to Invisible Children's take on Uganda, and other bloggers such as Unmuted, Siena Anstis and
There are also questions regarding Invisible Children's finances, summarized in the Atlantic Wire by Alexander Abad-Santos,
Of course, bloggers are notoriously willing to take down even the most worth of causes when given the chance, and there is no shortage of people who have been rightly inspired by the "Kony 2012" campaign, and who have become involved in an issue that they may have otherwise never learned about.
What's truly amazing is that a group of young filmmakers has been able to start a major public discussion about a seriously important issue that many North Americans were completely unfamiliar with just days ago. Invisible Children and their video campaign could be said to have attracted more attention to issues affecting northern Uganda in two days than had been accomplished in the last 20 years. Now it remains to be seen if it will be translated into long-term action.
One Canadian who has dedicated himself in recent years to campaigns against the use of child soldiers is Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian senator and former commander of the UN mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide in that country.
In 2010, he published the book "They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children", a harrowing but ultimately hopeful account of how child soldiers are used around the world and what governments like our own can do to about it.
On last month's anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Dallaire addressed the Canadian Senate on the topic, and we posted his comments here. His involvement in the Child Soldiers Initiative has been a large part of his work to familiarize Canadians with the issue.
Lt.-Gen. Dallaire dropped by the red chair to talk to George soon after the release of "They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children." You can watch their conversation below:
Also in 2010, Raymond Provencher looked at female child soldiers in his National Film Board of Canada documentary Grace, Milly, Lucy ... Child Soldiers:
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