The rise and fall of a YouTube superstar

The rise of Jason Russell from obscure film maker to worldwide YouTube sensation is a fascinating example of the positive power of social media.

The story of his tragic fall from grace in today’s Observer is equally captivating.

Russell was a co-founder of the charity Invisible Children in 2006 after he and two colleagues went to central Africa in 2003 in search of an adventure. According to their website: “They stumbled upon Africa’s longest-running war--a conflict where children were both the weapons and the victims.

“They produced the documentary Invisible Children: Rough Cut in 2005. At first they just showed it to their friends and family, but it wasn’t long before millions of people had seen the documentary and knew about the invisible children.”

Despite that publicity he wasn’t exactly a household name. That changed earlier this month when the charity launched a YouTube campaign aimed at bringing Joseph Kony to justice.

The 30-minute film, Kony 2012, was posted on YouTube on the 5th of March. Within 12 days it had been viewed 80 million times.

It reveals how Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which operates in Northern Uganda, South Sudan and The Democratic Republic of Congo, abducts children and forces them to take part in the armed insurrection against the authorities. The LRA has also been accused of mutilation, sex slavery and cannibalism.

Yet on Thursday, as Kony mania showed no signs of abating, Russell suddenly snapped.

According to The Observer: “Russell was detained by police in San Diego after being spotted apparently nude in the street screaming and interfering with traffic. Police said they had received several reports of him making sexual gestures or masturbating.”

The paper adds that while millions of people flocked to the charity’s cause the group also faced a torrent of criticism from aid groups, academics and media figures.

Russell’s public meltdown prompted a media frenzy as journalists besieged the charity’s offices. His wife, Danica, made a statement on American TV revealing her husband couldn’t handle the attacks against the film and had cracked under pressure.

The charity’s chief executive appealed for privacy on behalf of his stricken colleague. There’s no chance of that happening. A video of the naked Russell pounding the pavement of a busy street and screaming out loud has already been posted. How ironic would it be if it, too, goes viral?

You can find it on www.tinyurl.com/jason-russell-video.

The Observer also reported the death of John Demjanjuk at the age of 91. He was a retired American car worker who was accused of being a guard at the Treblinka and Sobibor nazi death camps.

He had been identified by Israeli Holocaust survivors as "Ivan the Terrible" and was accused of committing murder and acts of extraordinarily savage violence.

Demjanjuk fought a 30-year legal battle to stay out of court but eventually was tried and convicted of 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder, .

He was sentenced to five years by a German judge and was out on bail pending an appeal when he died.

His is another fascinating story, not least because a court in Israel had previously found him not guilty!

Staying on the subject of Nazis, full marks to The Scottish Sun Sunday for publishing a disturbing account of the rise of right-wing extremism.

The paper reports that the Scottish Defence League boasts of 4000 members and that the National Front plans to march in Aberdeen next month to commemorate Hitler’s birthday.

I’ve always been a proponent of free speech but I draw the line at celebrating Hitler’s birthday!

Let’s celebrate Scotland instead.

The Sunday Mail has an uplifting tale of a Canadian tourist who lost his wallet on holiday in Scotland. Back home in Newfoundland he was stunned when the wallet arrived with his credit cards and £100 cash intact.

His story was picked up by Canadian TV and now their website has been inundated with positive messages about Scotland.

It’s the kind of publicity money can’t buy and wouldn’t it be nice if VisitScotland rewarded those involved.

And now to Sports.

For a football fanatic like me The Sunday Herald’s front page was hard to resist. “McCoist: Private details for sale on black market” had the desired effect and I promptly handed over my hard-earned cash.

I rushed home desperate to read all about Super Ally’s private life.

Unfortunately the story didn’t live up to the hype. The article harked back to Operation Motorman in 2003. This was an investigation by the Information Commissioner into alleged offences under the Data Protection Act. These included obtaining information by subterfuge or paying corrupt officials for it.

Apparently 20 national papers and several magazines were involved in these activities (although none were charged) and McCoist was one of numerous Scots targeted.

Unfortunately that’s the main thrust of the article, which is based on an interview with Alec Owens who was Motorman’s lead investigator.

Here’s a flavour of some of the detail he provided for this exclusive investigation: “Amongst the files there were a lot of Scottish telephone numbers for reporters, a lot of Scottish numbers like 0141, 0131. A lot of numbers I recognised as Scottish. There were a lot of victims in Motorman that could be related as Scottish.”

A lot of hot air in my opinion.

Not surprisingly, Rangers dominate the back pages as well.

The Sunday Mail reveals Lee McCulloch’s Ibrox hell. In the interview the midfielder tells how he offered to play for no wages until the end of the season in the hope of helping the club stay afloat.

McCulloch also bemoans the fact that going into administration (and the resultant 10-point penalty) prevented Rangers from winning the league for the fourth time in a row.

I don’t think too many observers would agree with him but it’s academic anyway because subsequent results mean Celtic can clinch the title next weekend at Ibrox and this is the main item on The Sunday Post’s back page. I am, however, a bit confused by the “Doomsday Scenario” headline.

Celtic fans might not see it that way!

COLIN GRANT worked as a journalist for more than 30 years and now runs Spectrum PR, a Glasgow-based media consultancy.

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