To Invisible Children
The SOLD Project would like to publicly congratulate Invisible Children on the courage, drive, and determination it took to create and market the KONY2012 video. SOLD’s founding members have relationships with IC’s that go back to the beginnings of our young organizations. We shared a passion to make a difference and a general bewilderment at the overwhelming road that lay ahead of us.
For Invisible Children, this month has seen a remarkable feat of that determination and passion, as well as the power of social media. IC’s KONY2012 video has made history as the fastest viral video to ever hit 100 million views. As a fellow “young” non-profit, we humbly and proudly acknowledge all that Invisible Children has accomplished in less than ten years. As TIME summarizes, even before KONY2012, Invisible Children:
“…had already pulled off one of the greatest advocacy campaigns of all time, a true wag-the-dog story in which a small group of activists had built massive momentum on college campuses across the U.S., then translated that into such vociferous political pressure in Washington that the Congress and the Senate passed a law mandating the U.S. President to act against the L.R.A. To that Barack Obama had responded by sending 100 Special Operations troops to the Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Then the KONY2012 video happened, with IC co-founder Jason Russell in the spotlight. The film moved people to action and raised awareness for an international issue at historic speeds. The video also caused an onslaught of critical response. Some were thoughtful critiques; others were the kinds of vicious and brutal “nuggets of wisdom” we’ve come to expect from internet comment boards.
“No one fights more wickedly than humanitarians,” writes Nick Kristof in his New York Times essay “Viral Video, Vicious Warlord.” Kristof acknowledges that, yes, of course this issue is more complicated than any 30-minute video could ever begin to address, but is it better to have not attempted change at all? Kristof spoke with several former heads of state who make a good point that a video like this could have changed the course of past events like the Rwandan genocide. Kristof concludes:
“The bottom line is: [Jason Russell] devotes nine years of his life to fight murder, rape and mutilation, he produces a video that goes viral and galvanizes mostly young Americans to show concern for needy villagers abroad — and he’s vilified? I don’t know if this initiative will make a difference. But if I were a Congolese villager, I would welcome these uncertain efforts over the sneering scorn of do-nothing armchair cynics.” [Emphasis ours.]
Unfortunately, the “do-nothing armchair cynics” seem to have sunk their teeth deeply into Jason Russell. TIME journalist Alex Perry has been following the KONY2012 story and interviewed Jason Russell a second time just a few days ago.
“Strangely, even as the participants zeroed in on Invisible Children’s fast and loose presentation of the facts, most responded not with superior research or knowledge but ever wilder and thinner conspiracies: this was about oil, this was about radical Christianity, this was about the U.S. electoral cycle. A lot of it was directed at Russell himself, and deeply personal, cruel, bullying. When I spoke to him the second time, he told me most of the world seemed to view him “as the devil.” He also told me he hadn’t slept for nine days.”
Just three days later, Jason was found by San Diego police. His evident mental state led them to not arrest him, but rather send him to a mental health care facility–“at which point,” Perry writes, “the baying and blood lust only increased. Russell was down, naked and humiliated. Millions took that as a cue to point and laugh.”
Ford Vox, a health care policy writer at The Atlantic remarks, “Many police departments train their officers to recognize some of the basic features of psychotic episodes so that people are not inappropriately arrested. From the reported accounts, it appears that, in communicating with Russell on Thursday, San Diego police recognized features consistent with just such a brain problem, not a criminal problem.” If those of us at SOLD may step on a soapbox for a moment, we second Vox’s declaration: “It should be beyond the pale in civil society to videotape and publicly ridicule people who are in the throes of an uncontrollable disease process.”
One Day’s Wages co-founder, Eugene Cho (who does not personally know Jason), wrote an excellent response to the KONY2012 critics who shouted “I told you so” after this weekend’s headlines about Jason. He admonishes them to drop their stones.
“Whatever your views of Invisible’s KONY campaign, NOW is the time to pray for Jason, his wife & children. Not abandon them. Leaders, individuals, causes, churches, and organizations should NEVER revel in the trials of other leaders, individuals, causes, churches, and organizations. Feedback, criticism, pushback, and tough questions are all fair game [...] and even necessary for all of us to be better and deeper. But never revel in the trials of others.”
The SOLD Project would like to offer our steadfast support to the organization and particularly Jason Russell and his family during this difficult time. The issue of a mental or brain disorder strikes a personal chord for several of us here at The SOLD Project. We’ve seen it hurt the ones we love and, you know what? We’re grateful it’s not posted on TMZ for the whole world to laugh at.
We are thrilled at all Invisible Children has accomplished. We are proud of what it says about our generation. We are passionate about shamelessly speaking out for exploited children who cannot. In that spirit, we offer our support and encouragement and maybe even a “hell yes” to everyone at Invisible Children and all that they are working to accomplish for the greater good. Thank you.