One of the many criticisms of the Kony film was that it was factually inaccurate. I’ve got to admit I never watched the film through because the boss made me turn it off (he couldn’t stand Jason Russell’s voice).
As it turned out though the film itself was not as inaccurate as much of the criticism surrounding it. Infact, although overly simplistic, apparently the film isn’t factually inaccurate at all.
A couple of hours ago the news broke that Jason Russell had been detained by police. A twitterstorm erupted in which it was alleged that Russell had been masturbating in the street, half naked, under the influence of alcohol, and probably other narcotic substances, whilst vandalising cars.
All this information was attributed to a named police officer, although very little of it came from direct quotes.
The Guardian and many other news outlets tweeted that Russell had been arrested. Kind of delicious for the critics of the Kony film, seeing as the film is about getting Kony arrested.
But hang on, at no point it seems did the police ever arrest Russell, nor does it appear they ever claimed they had. He was detained for his own safety after showing signs of severe mental health problems.
Of course the big thing that has killed Russell off is the suggestion that he was wanking in the street. It goes without saying that no child centered charity can be headed up by a guy caught tossing himself off to the passing traffic. It’s this revelation that in matter of a couple of hours has killed Russell off. Death by twitter. The same tool that made him famous (twitter) has slit his throat.
But I’m wondering if this part of the story is even true? To date there are no first hand witnesses quoted anywhere that he was tossing himself off in the street. The whole stength of the allegation rests on this comment by a police officer as reported on the BBC:
San Diego police spokeswoman Andra Brown told AFP news agency: “Officers responded to a radio call to check the welfare of an individual who was said to be running in the street, interfering with traffic, screaming – one person said that he was naked and masturbating.”
Now that the person has been identified as Russell I suspect they’ll be a whole line of people wanting their moment of fame by convincing themselves they saw Russell jerking himself off, but its not very plausible to me that more people didn’t report it when contacting the police at the time. Infact an early report stated that Rusell was only seen making ‘sexual gestures’ which could mean anything, or very little at all.
I feel sorry for Jason Russell. I don’t agree with him and I have good personal reasons to despise his religion (fundamentalist Christian) but I smell a rat. The Kony film was spread in good faith and I believe however backwards it is, that it was made in good faith. Its generated a huge amount of healthy debate, bought new voices from Uganda into the mass media here and encouraged other NGO’s to think more seriously about using video as a tool for change. All of that has been a good thing.
In the end it may just turn out that it isn’t the hard to find inaccuracy in the Kony film that kills off Russell, but our judgement, based on potentially false information, of him. And that of course is the danger of making a film about someone else, when it’s really all about you.