The Return of Kony 2012 Mastermind Jason Russell, Now With 80% Less Psychosis


Invisible Children co-founder and Kony 2012 director Jason Russell, fresh out of the hospital from his highly-publicized nervous breakdown, was back in finger-snapping glory when he sat down with Oprah yesterday to talk about his meltdown and his new campaign. (But mostly about his meltdown.) Russell’s not exactly sure what went wrong, but he does know that he was a victim of the media — and Invisible Children’s new campaign focuses more on Russell’s hardships than on those of Africa’s “invisible children.”

Why Did Russell Make the Kony 2012 Video?

Sure, Russell was inspired by big words such as injustice, inaction, Africa, etc. But he was also inspired by Oprah. “To be honest, truly, your master class changed my life,” he told her. “You’re kidding,” she responded, looking slightly sick. With great power comes great responsibility!

Later, she recovered enough to give Russell props for exposing all of the previously invisible children of Africa. “What I think is so admirable about Invisible Children is that you all have brought to the forefront, have made the world acknowledge, that yes life does matter,” she said — right before asking Russell a ton of questions about whether he’s gay and if he was masturbating on that fateful, sunny San Diego day.

So What About Those Gay Rumors, Anyway?

Oprah reminded Russell that his heterosexuality was challenged after he ran around naked in the street. (Yes, that is the only reason.) “I’ve heard those rumors,” Russell laughed:

“In the video I’m snapping my finger up and down…I grew up in theater… I am animated. I am theatrical. And that’s me by nature. So When you take me and times it by 10… I don’t know what was in my head, but it was controlling my body and making me do really strange things.”

Maybe his body was possessed by the spirit of Bob Fosse?

Wasn’t He Masturbating?

Maybe. Possibly. It would make sense. “There were rumors of masturbation but no one who was there ever said that that was happening,” Russell said. “Masturbation is…I’m naked so it’s not a far extension of imagination that that would be happening. But no, I don’t remember any of that.”

So What Does He Remember?

Russell remembers “flipping off cars,” running around trees, and stopping cars by laying in the street, but that he doesn’t remember why he took his clothes off because that person was not the real him. He said he started running around outside because he became convinced he had to get back to New York in the next 12 hours. “That’s what I thought, because I have to stop the war…I think I was trying to ask cars to take me to the airport. In my underwear.”

But Why Did He Have the Breakdown in the First Place?

Russell attributed his meltdown to his newfound star power and a website that he says “cut” him:

“It was so high, I kept thinking wow and then it was like you’re the worst. You’re terrible. The thing that got my mind spinning is these powerful people in the world are looking to you for what’s next. That made me feel alone. It also made me feel like I had to have the answer to the future. I thought oh my God, the U.N. (United Nations) is contacting us.”

He expanded on this point on Today:

“My mind couldn’t stop thinking about the future. I literally thought I was responsible for the future of humanity. It started to go into a point where my mind finally turned against me and there was a moment where, click, I was not in control of my mind or my body.”

When Did He (in Oprah’s Words) “Come Back to Himself”?

It took two weeks for him to snap out of his media-induced psychosis. “I thought people were trying to kill me, so I wouldn’t take any medicine,” he said. “I didn’t really trust anyone.”

What Natural Disaster was the rise of #Kony2012 Most Like?

A tsunami. Russell said his team wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of attention and that the only time they celebrated was after a million views. “Everyone felt it,” he said. “It was like, ‘what have we done?'”

What’s the Deal with Invisible Children’s New Video (Released Last Night), MOVE?

If Kony 2012 was a tsunami, MOVE is like a lukewarm wading pool.

“MOVE is a behind-the-scenes look at the viral video KONY 2012, the organization behind it, and the movement that made Joseph Kony famous,” Invisible Children explains. “You can lead or you can follow, but eventually everyone will have to MOVE.”

Oh, how Invisible Children loves flashy, vague buzzwords. I (am probably the only person who) watched the entire 30-minute video. Here are some of my notes:

  • “The Kony 2012 experiment will reach its peak on November 17” — hey, whatever happened to “Take Back the Night?”/that poster party thing on 4/20? Wasn’t that supposed to be the peak?
  • Then there is a metaphor about a slinky and a lot of YouTube clips of people calling millennials lazy.
  • “This is a story about a group of millennials around the world trying to do something big.”
  • Lots of dancing.
  • This is basically just a recap of everything that happened to Invisible Children over the past six months. A loooong recap. Interesting how they filmed so many emotional conversations…almost as if they planned to use this “behind the scenes” footage one day! Or as if they were auditioning for The Real Non-Profit Housewives.
  • Here’s a bullshitty brainstorming sesh, practically a parody of itself:

  • Almost 20 minutes in and we’re still talking about how the personal attacks against Russell were unfair. Blah blah mean blogs and pundits, blah blah no one understood them. Way more air time devoted to Russell than to Kony at this point. Seriously though, why did they film Russell crying? See below:

  • ALL of the (English-speaking!) black people in this documentary have subtitles when they’re speaking. It’s bothering me.
  • We don’t find out what the big plan is until 28:55! Basically, we’re all going to meet in DC on November 17th and convince 10 international leaders to meet and “activate the arrest of Joseph Kony.” As you can see in the screenshot below, they’ve assigned all of the countries numbers re: how many representatives they need. Like Risk? #Gamification #Kony2012 #MOVE #Wooooo!

So How, Exactly, Is Any of This Really Different From Last Time?

It’s not. Did you think it would be? Sure, more people are aware that Joseph Kony exists. (And that Jason Russell is unstable.) But soundbites about “awareness” from Nicholas Kristof don’t actually equal action — or, at least, they haven’t yet. Even MOVE admits Kony is still abducting people without much pushback. But what about all of those Facebook shares?!?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: there are better ways to give back globally. Try our handy five-step guide to effective philanthropy!

How’s the Whole “Oversimplification” Strategy Working Out for Russell This Time Around?

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