The Guy Who Started Kony 2012 Has A New Campaign

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Brendan McDermid / REUTERS

Jason Russell, co-founder of non-profit Invisible Children and director of "Kony 2012" viral video campaign.

Jason Russell captured the world’s attention eighteen months ago with Kony 2012, the viral sensation that exposed the atrocities of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. The 29-minute film got more than 100 million views in a week, and it put Russell, a filmmaker and co-founder of Invisible Children, on the cover of TIME. Russell later had a public breakdown and was hospitalized for stress-induced psychosis.

(MORE: Former Ugandan Child Soldier Campaigns in U.S.)

Now, a year and a half has passed, and Russell is doing much better and continuing to advocate for the end of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Last week, Invisible Children launched a new campaign, ZeroLRA. The initiative, says Russell, is sort of like “Netflix meets the Peace Corps meets Comic Con.” It allows visitors to read stories about people who have escaped from the LRA and to fundraise for more to do so.  I caught up with Russell in Atlanta to ask him about the effort.

What is ZeroLRA?

Instead of having the focus be on Kony as it was in Kony 2012, this campaign is focused more on the people he has held captive. There’s about 250 fighters held captive, 140 women held captive, and some 80 children. No one really knows how many people are in [the LRA], that is why they are called invisible, because no one is keeping track of their names or lives. We want to stand for zero, no child soldiers, no killing, no war. At the same time we talk about the horror and the mutilation, we are going to celebrate every escape, every name, every life. The theme to this campaign is really celebratory.

How does this fundraising help people escape?

We have had 58 individuals escape from the LRA, and 81% cite “come home” messaging, the defection fliers or “come home” fliers we dump over the canopy forest where the LRA are known. The fliers are all compostable. We have FM radio messaging that says come home, and we have speakers mounted on helicopters, where former combatants will speak directly over LRA regions telling them to come home and escape. We need more capital to invest in our programs that we know work.

How are young activists participating?

They do it online, they set up a fundraising page, they set a goal. A lot of fundraising page goals are set at $20,000 because at $20,000 you win a trip to Uganda to see our program. You see these young teenagers, college kids saying, I want to go to Africa with Invisible Children, so they just start baking cookies, car washes, whatever it takes to raise money, and eventually they see hundreds come in, and thousands. Our goal is $3 million by Dec. 31. We have thousands of pages already set up and over $100,000 already raised.

What makes ZeroLRA unique?

I have never heard of a conflict, even a vaccine, where they are actually counting down to zero. We know there are less than 500 people in this LRA group. That is actually doable, tangible. When we started it was in the thousands. We are hoping to see an end of the conflict by the end of 2013. That would be the dream. We’ve always been hopeful, but we need all the stars to align.

What needs to happen?

The 100 advisory troops from America need to keep working well with the Ugandan military and the regional people being affected by the LRA. More escapes need to happen. Basically as we weaken the LRA one person at a time we are getting closer and closer to them surrendering. I have dreams about Joseph Kony coming out with his hands up, being, All right, send me to the International Criminal Court. What are his options? We are either going to kill him, capture him, or he could surrender. That would be the best.

You already have the end-of-war victory party planned—what will it be like?

We are getting buses all over Uganda, and we are getting in them and going from village to village. They have crates of beer, we are going to dance, we are going to sing, we are going to literally party. We are going to make sure that everyone who has been affected by the war has a chance to celebrate—their children are home, the women are home, the fighters are home, and almost three decades of war is over.

May I ask, how are you doing personally?

I’m doing really well, great actually. We got a new puppy. My wife and I are looking forward to Downton Abbey. We actually have a normal, Target-shopping, two-kid happy life in San Diego. We love where we live, we love our friends, we love our family. We don’t ignore the breakdown, but it is something that we feel we have done enough time rehabilitating, recuperating. I have a great therapist, we go to yoga, all is well. For anyone who was concerned or scared, I thank them for their kindness and their prayers. I really mean that, I feel that deeply, and to quote Kelly Clarkson, What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s a cliché because it is true.

10 comments
DawitAlemayehu8
DawitAlemayehu8

Invisible Children  and Jason Russell are great. My friends in Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya and Ghana all talk about these issues. I work as an educator in Addis Ababa and I am fully behind seeing an end to this conflict. For anyone involved with issues relating to Africa and development work in Africa--we are more worried about China's unsustainable path to growth, incompetent and corrupt  ministers and presidents, addressing the issue of tribal wars and food shortages due to climate change etc. No time to B.S here.  The point is I am more worried about Mugabe, Al Shabab and Kim Jong Un AND not a non profit that is rebuilding schools in Gulu and working with locals from the Central African Republic to develop systems and ways to track, stop and end LRA atrocities. There are bad people out there in Central Africa , in the Garamba forest etc. To counter that there are people from all over the world including  Norway, the U.S., India and Uganda trying to stop these bad people, the LRA. That is a good thing. It is beyond good. It is a beautiful thing.  Invisible Children is such a great model for non-profits. China, Mugabe and Al-Shabab now those are not great models for our children and generations of Africans. Invisible Children --do you!  

Bill_N
Bill_N

Someone should have asked about the other Kony star, "Jacob Acaye" who was arrested on Defilement charges "http://www.acholitimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1502:kony-2012-film-star-arrested-on-defilement-allegations&catid=8:acholi-news&Itemid=101"  Or how come last week their Facebook page which has been dwindling for months on Likes, all of the sudden Jumped up to over 600,000 more likes in a few hour period, with no visible signs of increased activity.. these people Lie about everything. They are real Good at Bloating Number's whether it be Fake Page Likes, Fake Youtube Views,LraCrisis tracker,Financial reports. and I'm still convinced his alleged Break down was only to keep him off the news for having to answer questions about the fake charity he founded.

MrsPizzaShit
MrsPizzaShit

Only a gay guy quotes kelly clarkson.  I'm sorry.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Saman Mohammadi, Contributor
Activist Post USA

Monday, July 30, 2012

Flipping The Script: The Western Media's Syria Propaganda Is Falling Apart

Do you remember this guy, Jason Russell? He was the frontman for the short-lived and over-hyped "Kony 2012" propaganda campaign that exploited young people's emotions to popularize a U.S. military invasion of Uganda. After his lies were exposed on the Internet he had a shocking meltdown in public. He ran around naked near traffic lights, smashed his fists on the pavement, and screamed bizarrely. The heavy spirit of Madness conquered his weak will. The day before his freakish breakdown Russell was idolized in the mainstream press as a saint on a mission to save the children of Africa. His war propaganda documentary about the deceased CIA contractor Joseph Kony became hugely popular on Facebook and other social media outlets. But as soon as his mask came down and his craziness was captured by cameras, the media vultures forgot about his crusade and quickly moved on to the next hot story. The new story that captured the corrupt Western media's attention was Syria. The conflict was heating up, and the "international community" was being pressed to take action against the country. "Assad is killing his own people," they said, without offering any evidence. "This is the next domino to fall in the Arab Spring, the rebels must be supported and Assad has to step down," so went the propaganda. And yadda yadda. The media's insane lies were repeated for months. Major media channels were engaged in non-stop propaganda warfare to destroy the independent Syrian state and reduce Syrians to slavery. But then something remarkable and unexpected happened. Some Western journalists began telling the truth about the origins of the conflict, the true motives behind the West's anti-Syria propaganda, and the nature of the unpopular Syrian opposition.

zakmatt2002
zakmatt2002

@Bill_N  Because you can now BUY LIKES on facebook.

Facebook is even becoming a scam. 

Pay us to see all of your posts, is the new facebook motto.

Johrune
Johrune

@Bill_N Long time, no talk, Bill. Hope all is well.

To answer your questions, as I understand it Jacob was cleared of all charges and the cased was dropped. As for the sudden increase in likes, the IC page became verified on Facebook which means it got a fancy little checkmark next to its name proving it is the real IC page. There was a Kony2012 page with over 500,000 likes that was not run by IC that was folded into IC's page, since it was being mistaken for an official IC page. Since there is only one real IC Facebook page, the fan-run Kony2012 page was merged into IC's Facebook page creating a sudden influx of likes.

Hope this helps clear up any confusion!

-JRB

anniea144
anniea144

@Sibir_Russia I'm sorry, but the "facts" you're stating about Kony 2012 and Invisible Children are completely wrong. Please do some research or find credible sources for what you're saying. IC is currently one of the best-ranked nonprofits on Charity Navigator (which, if you don't know anything about the nonprofit sector, is the most credible source for nonprofit rankings), and you'll find similar rankings on other credible charity ranking websites.

Also, I find it so shameful that your main argument against IC is that Jason Russell had a meltdown. I remember reading some of the comments and messages that people sent to him after Kony 2012 went viral, and they are some of the most malicious, hurtful messages I have EVER read. You have no idea the stress and pressure he was under during those few weeks. People threw horrible insults at him for 3 weeks, and then criticized him after he couldn't handle it: as if he could have prevented the breakdown, as if they hadn't criticized him, or that the messages he had to read every day had no effect on him. 

In the future, instead of criticizing organizations and people that you're clearly misinformed on, why don't you find a cause you care about and focus on making the world a better place?