Kony 2012 viral film-maker had 'mental breakdown'


Stephen Foley
Monday 19 March 2012 11:00
A video clip posted on the gossip website TMZ
shows Jason Russell (pictured) naked in the streets of San Diego last Thursday
A video clip posted on the gossip website TMZ shows Jason Russell (pictured) naked in the streets of San Diego last Thursday

Jason Russell, a film-maker and activist behind the viral sensation Kony2012, will probably escape charges after running naked through the streets of San Diego last week, police said yesterday.

His family blamed the incident on a mental breakdown, brought on by exhaustion and attacks against him and his video demanding the arrest of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

"We thought a few thousand people would see the film but in less than a week millions of people... saw it," said his wife, Danica. "While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason and... many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard."

Mr Russell was seen running in his underwear, shouting and gesticulating. He removed his underpants and beat his fists on the pavement before being restrained by police and passers-by. He is now under psychiatric observation. His family said there was no suggestion of drink or drugs being involved.

Footage of the incident is now a viral sensation, but Mr Russell's wife and staff at his charity, Invisible Children, said their campaigns would continue. "We will take care of Jason, you take care of the work," she said.

Mr Russell's 29-minute video is aimed at enlisting support for military efforts to find and arrest Kony, whose decades-old reign of terror involved rape, murder and the abduction of children to be used as boy soldiers or as sex slaves. Kony is the most-wanted person on the International Criminal Court's list of suspected war criminals.

For most of the past decade, Mr Russell has been campaigning for Western intervention to speed Kony's arrest, and Invisible Children has provided aid to villages devastated by war in central Africa. His charity plans a day of protest next month, when it will blanket global cities with Kony2012 stickers and posters.

The video passed 82 million views on YouTube yesterday, two weeks after it was uploaded. But critics say it paints a simplistic or distorted picture of the situation in central Africa.

After he founded his Lord's Resistance Army in the 1980s, Kony terrorised large parts of Uganda but his reign of terror has subsided since 2005 and he is now believed to command only a few hundred followers.

The Ugandan government took to YouTube to redress what it claimed was an unbalanced picture of the country given by Mr Russell's film.

"The Kony2012 campaign fails to make one crucial point clear: Joseph Kony is not in Uganda," said Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

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