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On March 16th, 2012, an NBC affiliate reported that Jason Russell, one of the co-founders of the nonprofit organization Invisible Children Inc. and the KONY 2012 movement, was detained in San Diego, California. He was allegedly taken into custody for drunkenness, vandalizing cars, and masturbating in public.
According to the official report, San Diego Police responded to several calls about a man in his underwear running through traffic and yelling in broad daylight. When the police arrived at the scene, Russell was cooperative and the officers suspected he was under the influence. After taking him into custody, the police took Russell to a medical center where he was placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold.
The story was immediately picked up by the Huffington Post, People, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Jezebel published an email from a reader named Cindy who saw the incident. Although it was initially reported that Russell was arrested when taken into custody, San Diego Police Department later confirmed that he was briefly detained and later hospitalized without arrest. Within 48 hours of the episode, TMZ published videos allegedly showing Russell standing on a street corner, pounding his fists on the ground.
In the following hours of news report, people began uploading image macros with commentaries on Russell’s breakdown via Quickmeme and hashtag puns like #Horny2012, #Koner2012 and #Faptivism surfaced on Twitter.
Comedian Patton Oswalt commented on the news via Twitter:
In Jason Russell’s defense, who DOESN’T celebrate a video going viral by jerking off in public?— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) March 16, 2012
Invisible Children’s Response
Shortly after the story broke, Invisible Children’s CEO Ben Keesey issued a statement about the Russell’s helath on the company’s blog, noting that he was hospitalized exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition, due to the emotional toll taken by the success of the KONY 2012 video.
Danica Russell, the wife of Jason Russell, also released a statement regarding the incident, revealing the pressure her 32-year-old husband and director has been under since the viral rise of KONY 2012:
Jason has dedicated his adult life to this cause, leading up to KONY2012. We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it. While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason--and, because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.
While search queries for “Jason Russell” and “Horny2012” both show an upsurge in March, they remain outnumbered in terms of volume when compared to “Invisible Children” and “Kony 2012.”
the Washington Post – Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell detained for being drunk in public
Wall Street Journal – Director of Viral ‘Kony 2012’ Video Detained in ‘Meltdown’