Kony narrator sent screaming to hospital
Man behind warlord internet sensation found wandering in his underwear in incoherent state
Sunday 18 March 2012
The narrator of the "Kony 2012" video about a brutal Ugandan warlord that has become an internet sensation has been detained in hospital after witnesses saw him running through the streets of San Diego in his underwear, screaming, and banging his fists on the pavement.
Jason Russell, 33, of the non-profit group Invisible Children, is being treated for exhaustion less than two weeks after the release of the 30-minute video about Joseph Kony. Ben Keesey, Invisible Children's chief executive, said: "Jason Russell is suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition. 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."
San Diego police transcripts show neighbours began calling about 11.30am on Thursday to report that a man was running around in his underwear in the city's Pacific Beach area. "(Subject) is at the corner, banging his hands on the ground, screaming, incoherent," the transcript continues. "People are trying to calm him down, he's been stopping traffic." He was taken to a hospital but not arrested; no charges are planned.
His wife, Danica, denying alcohol or drug use had triggered the behaviour, said: "We thought a few thousand people would see the film but, in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it. While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason and, because of how personal the film is. Many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard."
Mr Russell narrates the video, which has been viewed more than 80 million times on YouTube. In it, Mr Russell talks to his young son, Gavin, about Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army. At one point, the boy sums up what his dad does for a living. "You stop the bad guys from being mean," he says. At the end, Mr Russell says, "At the end of my life I want to say that the world we left behind is one Gavin can be proud of, one that doesn't allow Joseph Konys and child soldiers."
The video's success has brought heightened scrutiny to Invisible Children over its tactics and spending practices. The group has been criticised for not spending enough directly on the people it intends to help and for oversimplifying the 26-year-old conflict involving the LRA and its leader, Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
The group accepts the video overlooks many nuances, but said it functions as a "first entry point" that puts the conflict "in an easily understandable format". Mr Keesey released a video on Monday to respond to questions about the group's finances, including the cost of travel. He said money that directly benefits the cause accounted for more than 80 per cent of its spending from 2007 to 2011.
"I understand why a lot of people are wondering, 'Is this just some slick, kind of fly-by-night, slacktivist thing?' when actually it's not at all," Mr Keesey said. "It's connected to a really deep, thoughtful, very intentional and strategic campaign."
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