Lots of Problems with Kony2012, But Let’s Give Jason Russell a Break

No sooner had I posted my second piece about the problems with the Kony2012 video than I started hearing that Jason Russell, co-leader of Invisible Children and star of the video, in which he explains Joseph Kony to his 5-year-old son, than I started hearing that Russell had been arrested for public masturbation. Apparently, he broke under the pressure generated by the video and the criticism it invoked, and reacted by taking off his clothes and otherwise misbehaving in public. You can read a pretty objective account of this, with quotations from both sides and a link to a video apparently of the naked Russell, in the Guardian, here.

In today’s political climate of bitterness and invective, it’s tempting to use the opportunity to ridicule Russell, and by extension his approach to world politics (“get the bad guys”), and many critics have not been able to resist this temptation. Sarcastic remarks are flying through twitterspace (e.g., “Now Jason Russell has another difficult thing to explain to his 5-year-old).

It’s also true that the incident has made us more aware of some of the relevant facts: that Russell is an evangelical Protestant, backed by right-wing religious groups, for example.

That said, I think it’s time to give him a break. The video was superficial, insulted people in Uganda (in fact, in all of Africa), and treated the public as if we were all five years old. That was true before he broke down, and it’s true today. But Jason Russell is a troubled human being who needs some space, and some medical care. Let’s let him have it, while we concentrate on the real issue: how to end the system of land grabs, mineral exploitation, and wars, all sponsored by giant capitalist corporations, that is causing so many problems in Africa.