On Thursday, a clearly off-kilter Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind the extraordinarily viral Kony 2012 video (now at nearly 81 million YouTube views), was detained in San Diego for stripping naked, interfering with traffic, and possibly masturbating in public. The police have since confirmed they are not charging Russell, who was taken straight to a local hospital following the incident.
It’s our belief that a medical condition would explain his irrational behavior as opposed to criminal intent. If we thought he was under the influence, we wouldn’t have taken him to a hospital; we would have taken him to jail.
Those remarks align with a statement released by Russell's family, which started out: "Let us say upfront that Jason has never had a substance abuse or drinking problem, and this episode wasn't caused by either of those things." Instead, they claimed, it was "extreme exhaustion and dehydration" that caused his outburst — also the official line taken by Invisible Children, the organization behind the Stop Kony campaign.
To be fair, Russell likely is, in fact, exhausted. He, along several other Invisible Children spokespeople, has been working the press circuit nonstop: What was initially a media lovefest quickly turned into a feeding frenzy as focus shifted to Invisible Children's finances, which, among other things, have been tied to several known anti-gay Christian groups.
"The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us," Invisible Children's chief executive Ben Keesey said in a statement yesterday, "Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday." As Russell's wife put it: "Because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal and Jason took them very hard."
Though Russell himself has yet to make a personal appearance or apology in the matter, Keesey did say that he is "receiving medical care and is focused on getting better." After which, we presume, he will be dragooned into his fair share of damage control.