Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Personal is Viral

As many of you know, I was quite taken with the KONY 2012 campaign. I was fascinated that with all the content available to viewers—this half hour video was observed by so many—especially teens and young adults. While solutions in Uganda may be complicated—the historical horror is rather simple—that is, wrong. I appreciated that the KONY campaign didn’t suggest they had one solution to a complicated problem (or that donations would FIX the region). Instead they maintained that large numbers of people (as evidenced by film viewership and/or visible posters) would communicate to our government that the public is aware of Kony’s atrocities and want him convicted. While some dismiss this plan as simplistic slacktivism, I am awed by it. Social media is creating social change, and if you don’t believe me, refer to Susan B. Komen foundation reinstating Planned Parenthood funding or the Rush Limbaugh advertisers pulling out following virtual-vocal dissent. In college we used to say, the personal is political. Thanks to social media, the personal is viral. Rather than dismissing these click-campaigns, join me in marveling at the mediasphere’s influence on real policy change.
Last week, the KONY 2012/Invisible Children foundation continued to unfold. Filmmaker, Jason Russell was caught on camera in his underwear disrupting traffic and behaving bizarrely. Major publications reported that he’s been arrested for public intoxication and masturbation. Fortunately, the NY Times got the story right. They quoted a San Diego police spokesperson as saying that if Russell had been intoxicated they'd have arrested him--instead they took him to a hospital for what was almost certainly a psychotic episode. The police also noted that of all the calls they received about an anonymous man’s behavior (i.e. Russell)—only one mentioned that Russell MAY have been masturbating, yet, many newspapers reported that Russell was arrested, intoxicated and masturbating.
Many people (some even brilliant and talented) are diagnosed with mental illness. Fortunately, medication enables many to lead lives reflective of their potential. It is my hope that Jason Russell receives medical treatment and gets back to work, first responding to the public’s criticism and then resuming artistic/activist pursuits. Better yet, let his next film project take on the pervasive stigma related to brain chemistry—a.k.a. mental illness.

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