Before Thursday, Jason Russell was known as the political activist and co-founder of non-profit organization Invisible Children, as well as the filmmaker of the viral documentary Kony 2012 which has recently taken the internet and zeitgeist by storm, raising awareness of African rebel leader and war criminal Joseph Kony.
But now, thanks to TMZ and camera phones, Jason Russell is known as the raving lunatic who was detained in San Diego Thursday for vandalism and public masturbation in what is being neatly referred to as a “breakdown.”
The official statement from Invisible Children’s CEO Ben Keesey cites exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition as the cause of Russell’s episode.However, Keesey also hints at a deeper, more psychological catalyst:
“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.”
But the public has not given Russell privacy, or support, or even respect in the wake of this event. In fact, Russell’s most recent actions seemed to have erased all the good that Kony 2012 and Invisible Children has done from mass memory. Is it fair to let this breakdown redefine Russell? Would the response have been the same if Russell had a breakdown sans sexual act? Or are all mental health issues met with the same reputation-tarring stigmas?
The Atlantic wrote an interesting response to the recent defamation of Russell, asking for more sensitivity regarding public mental breakdowns or other medical issues:
“Just as we recognize that it’s abhorrent for roommates to record and share the private sexual activity of gay teens in their dorm rooms, we must cultivate societal norms around the recording and displaying of acute medical events like the one experienced by Russell.”
I couldn’t agree more. Whether Russell acted out of dehydration, exhaustion, bipolarity or male frenzy, the brief breakdown should not breakdown his entire reputation as a political activist and human rights advocate.
The Naked Wreck Alert is given to a person or organization that has somehow hindered truth, justice, health, freedom and/or coolness in our world, and is therefore in serious need of therapy, naked or not.