SAAS has supported the work of Invisible Children for years; yet we were as surprised as everyone else with the unbelievable success of their Kony 2012 video so far (it is officially the most viral video in Internet history). This has led to a sudden whirlwind of public awareness of the conflict in central Africa surrounding Joseph Kony, a rebel warlord who has abducted tens of thousands of children and forced them to serve as soldiers and sex slaves over the course of a war that has been going on for 26 years.
As we acknowledged in our recent blog post, the video’s success has also led to a sharp uptick in criticism of Invisible Children as an organization–everything from their financial transparency to their supposed oversimplification of the conflict to the pros and cons of their development approach. We addressed these concerns and continued to stand behind IC and their mission to end child soldier trafficking and bring Joseph Kony to justice.
Today, a different kind of controversy emerged. Jason Russell, who is a founder of Invisible Children and is the filmmaker and face of the Kony 2012 video, was arrested in San Diego for alleged public masturbation, vandalism of vehicles, and possibly being under the influence of an unknown substance in public.
Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey issued a brief statement about this matter shortly after news broke. Here is the full text:
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.
We at SAAS are deeply saddened by this incident. We do not condone Jason Russell’s actions in any way, but we acknowledge that he was under tremendous stress as a result of the recent increase in scrutiny of his organization.
We hope that this incident will not undermine or hinder the growing movement of people who are determined to bring the world’s worst war criminal to justice and prevent the trafficking of even more children. One man’s actions do not define this issue, nor do they have any bearing on its urgency. The movement against human trafficking should continue to be our foremost concern, and while we cannot change what has happened, we can choose to respond to it constructively and keep working for justice and for what we believe is right.
Update: The April 17 screening of Kony 2012 at Northminster Presbyterian Church has been cancelled. The film will still come to Tucson, but this screening is off. If you are interested in attending another screening, you can find a full tour schedule here.