On numerous progressive fora, I’ve read countless praises and tear-downs of Invisible Children’s tactics, motivations, and strategy. In general, I think the analyses were driven by sincere curiosity, and a desire to understand a phenomena, so that we can advance our work.
I had the chance to meet some of the Invisible Children staff Thursday at an event in San Francisco. Invisible Children is a customer and grantee of the Salesforce.com Foundation. I saw 6,000 chatting business people hush to silence when a 3 minute Invisible Children video was played. People wanted to hear from their COO Chris as he was interviewed live on stage by Peter Coffee. The interest and attention was powerful.
I saw the news yesterday and it upset me. We worked hard to get Invisible Children on stage. We would love to tell their campaign story to our customers. The technical side of how they dealt with virality is a blog post in itself. How inconvenient of him to screw things up for Invisible Children, for mass action in general, and for me.
The events yesterday, and Brené Brown’s talks, remind me that all this work we do, all this change we’re trying to drive, it’s all done by people. People, like me, who are flawed. People who have fears and things to prove and misguided notions and moments of brilliance.
I have never met Jason Russell, I don’t know what brought him to this work, I don’t know his motivation, and I don’t know what is behind the event that happened today. And on one level I don’t really care. My thoughts go out to him as a person trying to do what he thinks is right in this crazy world where so much is wrong. I don’t see it as naive, I see it as humane. I saw humanity in the Invisible Children staff I met Thirsday–smart, kind folks trying to do good work in an organization that changed over night in a way that they are struggling to manage.
It will be so easy to follow the funny internet memes about Jason, to listen to the late-night talk show jokes. I’ll likely laugh at many of them–I’ve already seen some that are clever.
But I’ll also remember how quickly the world tears down change makers at the first visible flaw. And I’ll hold back from joining in the tearing down, not because I know Jason in unimpeachable, but because I know he’s flawed, just like all of us.