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Russia's LGBT horror
August 7, 2013 7:37 AM   Subscribe

What the hell is going on in Russia, and why did it take Jay Leno to get America to notice? (previously)
posted by mrgrimm (205 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
The worst is the IOC. They have been lying through their teeth about this. Saying athletes won't be subject to the law. But now the Russian Minister for Sport says the law will be enforced at the games. If we don't boycott, I want to see the US National team also fly a rainbow flag.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:41 AM on August 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


The Sochi Winter Olympics would be the first where LGBT athletes have to exist in fear of being arrested since... Salt Lake City in 2002.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 7:42 AM on August 7, 2013 [42 favorites]


So is that crooked thumbs up sign that skinheads are sporting? I kind of assume it's a arm of the Swastika?
posted by edgeways at 7:48 AM on August 7, 2013


The Sochi Winter Olympics would be the first where LGBT athletes have to exist in fear of being arrested since... Salt Lake City in 2002.

Don't seem to remember Romney getting up there and telling a room of reporters that athletes would be arrested for spreading "homosexual propaganda."
posted by Ironmouth at 7:49 AM on August 7, 2013 [20 favorites]


I certainly will not be watching and I can't see how any athlete who is sympathetic to the LGBT community can justify participating in the games. This shit has no business in the world and the international community needs to step up and make that clear on the world stage.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:50 AM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


The Sochi Winter Olympics would be the first where LGBT athletes have to exist in fear of being arrested since... Salt Lake City in 2002.

Where any LGBT athletes arrested in Utah during the Olympics? Your link doesn't say either way.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:51 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stephen Fry has an excellent and eloquent open letter to David Cameron and the IOC on his website calling to boycott the Olympics. This letter has gotten some pretty big traction in the national media here in the Netherlands, where there's also been a broader discussion about Russia/LGBT-rights and whether or not to boycott.
posted by Marcc at 7:52 AM on August 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


I can't speak for everyone in America, but I started hearing about (some) of this pressure when Dan Savage began his campaign to dump Stolichnaya. And Harvey Fierstein had an editorial in the the New York Times on July 21. (David Zirin has a response in Grantland with which people may or may not agree. Stephen Fry has just written an open letter to David Cameron on the subject.)

I guess what I would suggest is that saying that Jay Leno has gotten America to notice is more an acknowledgement that, when a media personality as big as Jay Leno can ask about something, America has noticed - in the same way that an article in Politico qualifies as an acknowledgement that a beltway media institution thinks that the beltway should notice.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:52 AM on August 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


Every time I've seen or glimpsed a snippet of news lately about Obama and Putin and the...difficult relationship my mind leaps to thinking it's about the anti-gay laws and the Olympics. And then the news goes "Snowden" and I go oh, yeah, him.
posted by rtha at 7:55 AM on August 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


As horrendous as Russia's state-sanction suppression of LGBT people is, it is not a pogrom, and it is not Nazi Germany, as Savage and Leno seem to think it is.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:55 AM on August 7, 2013


Where any LGBT athletes arrested in Utah during the Olympics? Your link doesn't say either way.

They probably won't be arrested in Russia either, regardless of what they have said. It would be too much of an incident and the games would likely come to a halt over it. That doesn't excuse any anti-gay laws of course. I support the boycott.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:56 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Were any LGBT athletes arrested in Utah during the Olympics? Your link doesn't say either way.

Weren't there a number of states with old unenforced sodomy laws on the books at that time? The Supreme Court invalidated this (and all state sodomy laws) the next year.
posted by aught at 7:56 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


What the hell is going on in Russia is a classic fascist power play. You demonize some scapegoat and rile up a gang of violent thugs. That not-militia then becomes a useful tool for both causing violence and making ordinary people frightened enough to welcome your police and military. Also this dovetails nicely with Putin's co-opting of the Russian church.

I was ambiguous about how I felt about the Sochi Olympics until reading Stephen Fry's piece where he fearlessly makes the 1936 Berlin Olympics comparison. One mild correction; he doesn't call for a boycott, he calls for moving the Olympics to somewhere that respects human rights.

The Olympics are only a sideshow, a single event, but it's a useful one because it commands world attention. I just hope the attention stays focussed on the very dangerous thing going on in Russia; not just for gay Russians, but for the country as a whole. Yeah it's not full blown pogroms, at least not yet. It's just a state sponsored beating and murder of a few undesirables.
posted by Nelson at 7:57 AM on August 7, 2013 [60 favorites]


Not questioning the potential move, just trying to follow along: if the US athletes boycott, what are the practical effects on Russia and/or this Olympic Games? Obviously, there's a ton of symbolic protest power, but would it hit them in the pocketbook or spur any other repercussions?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:57 AM on August 7, 2013


To be fair, the Notorious SRD didn't say anyone actually had been arrested at the Utah Olympics, just that the fear existed. I don't know how many people actually had been arrested under those laws ever. (Even for Lawrence v. Texas, there's a lot of speculation that the case arose through collusion, as you didn't previously see too many prosecutions of the Texas law in the wild.)

On the other hand, many other places still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, and they're not all places that you would immediately suspect. For example, in Hong Kong, sex between two men, where one man is under 21, can potentially result in both men being sent to prison for life.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:57 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


it is not a pogrom,

Yet, anyway.
posted by rtha at 7:57 AM on August 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


Wasn't the Great Patriotic War fought to save the East from fascism?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:58 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jay Leno's wife was about the only public figure to speak for Afghan women before 9-11.
posted by brujita at 7:58 AM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


It surely cannot be news to MeFites that the Olympics as an organization, led by the IOC, is corrupt with a strong fascist streak. The only thing one can do is focus on the athletes, who have to put up with this ridiculous, monstrous system in order to perform.

We had these IOC bastards in Vancouver a few years ago, and I am glad they are gone.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:59 AM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Jay Leno's wife was about the only public figure to speak for Afghan women before 9-11.

I also remember Afghan women's treatment under the Taliban coming up in either Dear Abby or Ann Landers. This was in the 90s.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:00 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If Utah was arresting people for breaking the sodomy statute during the Olympics, myself and a lot of gay people I know living here should have been put into solitary for a long time. But hey that didn't happen, and there was no real threat of it happening.
posted by msbutah at 8:01 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


An important quote from a footnote in the Grantland article I linked above and that had previously escaped me:

In a comment to Grantland, Patrick Sandusky, chief communications and public affairs officer for the USOC, said, "The U.S. Olympic Committee is not considering a boycott of the Games in Russia. History has proven that the only people that are hurt by boycotts are the athletes that have worked their whole lives to participate in these Games."
posted by Going To Maine at 8:02 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Sochi Winter Olympics would be the first where LGBT athletes have to exist in fear of being arrested since... Salt Lake City in 2002.

You linked to a Wikipedia page on LGBT rights in Utah. Mother Jones has a different view on the 2002 Winter Olympics: Mitt Romney's Big, Gay Olympics
But there's one accomplishment from his time in Salt Lake City that has been largely omitted from the oft-told narrative of his Olympic effort: Romney's success in making the 2002 Winter Olympics one of the most gay-friendly games in Olympic history.
And as aught said, the Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws in 2003:
Lawrence explicitly overruled Bowers, holding that it had viewed the liberty interest too narrowly. The Court held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Lawrence invalidated similar laws throughout the United States that criminalized sodomy between consenting adults acting in private, whatever the sex of the participants.
Anyway, I'm sad that Obama has such strong language for other countries ("I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.") and won't say the same thing to US states. As a refresher, same-sex marriage satus in the United States by state. Currently, 32 states have added amendments banning same-sex unions to their constitutions.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:04 AM on August 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


Are boycotts really about "hurting" the boycotted entity, or bringing what the boycotters perceive to be that entities unjust actions to light?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:06 AM on August 7, 2013


Are boycotts really about "hurting" the boycotted entity, or bringing what the boycotters perceive to be that entities unjust actions to light?

It's to hurt the target, and to feel good about yourself for doing so. Nothing about bringing anything to light - a boycott doesn't work unless the reason is already in public awareness.
posted by kafziel at 8:08 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


As horrendous as Russia's state-sanction suppression of LGBT people is, it is not a pogrom, and it is not Nazi Germany, as Savage and Leno seem to think it is.

Yeah, as rtha notes, yet. These things seem to start with repressive laws backed by thugs not-exactly-not-sanctioned by local law enforcement, so they are deniable but operating with approval. If that flag flies long enough, you can move on to more official organs doing the arresting, torturing, and murdering. Ugh.

I was just listening to a lecture about the early Soviet approach to sexuality -- it was insanely progressive, even by today's standards (in most cases) -- sadly, it collapsed under the weight of conflict (Civil War and WWII) and Stalinism. Disclaimer: the lecturer was from a Trotsky-leaning organization, so take that as you will. Anyway, it would be nice to see a world where that early promise got to follow through.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:09 AM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is likely no real threat of Russia doing squat to visiting athletes. the issue is not really about the Olympics (per se), but just how fucked Russia has become irt laws targeting people who are gay, and people who just plain have a beef with herr Putin.. it's almost like America 50-60 years ago eh?

what would be great is if every athlete not from Russia was issues a rainbow flag along with their flag of nationality, and if many many of them flew it/wrapped it around themselves alongside their nations flag.
posted by edgeways at 8:10 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to see the US National team also fly a rainbow flag.

In my imagination, I see it as every single American athlete waving a little rainbow flag, and maybe athletes from other countries, too. We are all Spartacus, and all that.
posted by briank at 8:11 AM on August 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


There is likely no real threat of Russia doing squat to visiting athletes

I wonder if the same could be said for visiting spectators, though.
posted by Gelatin at 8:17 AM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


We had these IOC bastards in Vancouver a few years ago, and I am glad they are gone.

One of the petitions circulating is to move the games back to Vancouver, which is both gay-friendly and to a city demonstrably capable of handling them, and with most of the machinery still in place. I'm so torn: I'd love to see Sochi lose the Olympics, but motherfucker, I really don't want them back here.
posted by fatbird at 8:20 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


So is that crooked thumbs up sign that skinheads are sporting? I kind of assume it's a arm of the Swastika?
It's a reference to one of the guys seen as a founder of the movement; he's supposed to have had a tendon in one thumb cut in a fight.
posted by kavasa at 8:22 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everyone likes to have the Olympics but no one seems to ever want them in their town. We should just build some big ol' stadiums in Antarctica, hold them there every year, and give some city the privilege of merchandising rights in exchange for paying for maintenance.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:23 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stephen Fry: "At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world."

That about sums it up for me.

Hold the Games elsewhere.
posted by Gelatin at 8:23 AM on August 7, 2013 [24 favorites]


The way to make this stick is simply to not watch. That will make the games' TV deals worth less and hit the IOC right in the pocketbook. Especially the biggie--figure skating. Hell people should start by telling the figure skating international federation they are not going to watch at all this year, even the non-olympic competitions.

The US TV contract basically keeps IOC afloat.

Also tweet-bomb Coke, McDonalds and all other major games sponsors because they are sponsoring this Olympics in violation of their own corporate diversity policies.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:25 AM on August 7, 2013 [27 favorites]


Wow, that third link is awful.

.
posted by DynamiteToast at 8:32 AM on August 7, 2013


I said it before and I'll say it again. Russia was better under Communism (I mean more the early years of the revolution, up to 1933, at least, when Stalin made it a crime).
posted by symbioid at 8:34 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that Russia might have been more liberal in some ways under early Communism, but looking a a time period where dekulakization killed 10-15 million people is hard to hold up as a beacon.
posted by mercredi at 8:44 AM on August 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Very disappointed that this hasn't gotten much traction in the US vis-a-vis the Olympics. I think we should absolutely boycott, but it doesn't look likely.

It's to hurt the target, and to feel good about yourself for doing so. Nothing about bringing anything to light - a boycott doesn't work unless the reason is already in public awareness.

I don't agree, at least in this case. Not a lot of people are aware of this, and a US boycott would make it front-page news nationwide.
posted by eugenen at 8:45 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hmm, and then to see the section about the GDR and Paragraph 175 (inherited from before the split of Germany):
A revision of the criminal code in 1957 made it possible to put aside prosecution of an illegal action that represented no danger to socialist society because of lack of consequence. This removed Paragraph 175 from the effective body of the law, because at the same time the East Berlin Court of Appeal (Kammergericht) decided that all punishments deriving from the old form of Paragraph 175 should be suspended due to the insignificance of the acts to which it had been applied. On this basis, homosexual acts between consenting adults ceased to be punished, beginning in the late 1950s.

On July 1, 1968, the GDR adopted its own code of criminal law. In it § 151 StGB-DDR provided for a sentence up to three years' imprisonment or probation for an adult (18 and over) who engaged in sexual acts with a youth (under 18) of the same sex. This law applied not only to men who have sex with boys but equally to women who have sex with girls.

On August 11, 1987 the Supreme Court of the GDR struck down a conviction under Paragraph 151 on the basis that "homosexuality, just like heterosexuality, represents a variant of sexual behavior. Homosexual people do therefore not stand outside socialist society, and the civil rights are warranted to them exactly as to all other citizens." One year later, the Volkskammer (the parliament of the GDR), in its fifth revision of the criminal code, brought the written law in line with what the court had ruled, striking Paragraph 151 without replacement. The act passed into law May 30, 1989. This removed all specific reference to homosexuality from East German criminal law.
posted by symbioid at 8:46 AM on August 7, 2013


Also tweet-bomb Coke, McDonalds and all other major games sponsors because they are sponsoring this Olympics in violation of their own corporate diversity policies.

If every LGBT and support in fact boycotted Coke, McDonalds, and all the other major games sponsors, the games would be moved in about a week, because Coke, etc. would be dropping their sponsorship, and that would leave the IOC broke, and thus the IOC Grand Poobahs would have anything to line their pockets with, and that will not be tolerated.

But boycotts only work if enough people both *say* they will do it and then *actually* do it -- and stick to it.

Ranting on the Internet means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Money means everything. Get enough people to hurt the money flow, and it will change.

But I expect everyone to just go watch the Olympics. Because, you know. Olympics. How do you think the IOC and (related situation) FIFA get away with so much corruption? Because they know no matter how much they fuck you over, and how much money they rake off, you'll watch the games, which means the ads will sell, and they'll be rich.
posted by eriko at 8:48 AM on August 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


As a Jewish, bisexual woman, it angers the crap out of me that Barack Obama doesn't just say, "We're not going."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:51 AM on August 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


The White House made a smart move there; not just on this subject but two or three others as well.

Y'know how one of the networks says "more Americans get their news from [TLA] News than from any other source"? In point of fact more Americans get what passes for news from Leno's monologue than any other source. What Jon Stewart is to a certain set of the half-informed, Leno is to the uninformed. The Administration realized that Leno's signature cheap and easy punchlines were defining the narrative in McMansionland and realized they had to go to there. It was neatly done.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:53 AM on August 7, 2013


You know, I don't really give a damn about the Olympics. I mean sure it's an important symbolic thing, a time where decent people can stand up and say "it's not OK to have facist thugs beating up homosexuals". But the Olympics are a one-off event. The real issue is the safety and human rights of a large number of Russians. Russia's nominally a civilized European country, and right now we're watching the start of state-approved beatings and murders of gay people. In 2013. It's hideous.

Of course gays and lesbians are abused, tortured, and murdered all over the world. Uganda, or Saudi Arabia, or... take your pick. But those are culturally backward places saddled with religious prejudices. Russia is supposed to be something different, a civilized and modern nation.
posted by Nelson at 8:53 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Russia's nominally a civilized European country, and right now we're watching the start of state-approved beatings and murders of gay people. In 2013. It's hideous.

Of course gays and lesbians are abused, tortured, and murdered all over the world. Uganda, or Saudi Arabia, or... take your pick. But those are culturally backward places saddled with religious prejudices. Russia is supposed to be something different, a civilized and modern nation.


EXXXXCUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEE ME PRINCESS?

Russia is a culturally backward place saddled with religious prejudices. Just because Russia is full of white people doesn't it somehow different than the 'backward places'. Unless you were trying to differentiate white societies from non-white societies, which I hope you weren't trying to do. But it certainly comes off that way.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:56 AM on August 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


I can't decide if the Gibsonian Kombinat was prophesy, or if Putin read Gibson and thought it sounded like a great idea.
posted by aramaic at 8:58 AM on August 7, 2013


Stephen Fry has an excellent and eloquent open letter to David Cameron and the IOC on his website calling to boycott the Olympics

With the greatest respect to my dear country, while in political terms Great Britain boycotting might make waves.. in sporting terms few events are likely to suffer from the lack of British competitors and I doubt the British public would notice either way.

But seriously - in one sense the key to this is pressure through the sponsors. The kind of marquee sponsors that love the Olympics always want a cheesy message of unifying or connecting the world and attacking that fuzzy and warm marketing message before the start of the event and toxifying it is a surefire way to get Russian officials to sit up and listen.

But at ground level? It might reinforce the reactionary behaviour that's driving the vilification of gays. Gay mafia disrupts Olympics. Blame the gays for ruining our showcase event of an extremely expensive "Winter" Olympics in a town with warmer winter weather than London or Paris. It's not like Russia isn't diametrically opposite Europe and America on a whole host of hot button issues already.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:59 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am really into the Olympics - like, tracking 2024 host city bids into - and I'm fully prepared to ignore the shit out of these games if Russia doesn't back down from this.

I also thought it was interesting that Obama went on Leno. NBC has the games' broadcasting rights.
posted by troika at 9:01 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think eriko is right, and to really make the point there should be a "sample week" in the very near future that will allow Coke and McDonalds and others to get a preview of the popularity of a boycott, with a pledge from people that if these corporations don't pull their sponsorship the boycott becomes permanent. Even if there are 'counterprotests' by tea party types where they specifically head to McDonalds (as they did with Chik-filet), a week of very noisy protest will make the point -- any rational corporation does not want the controversy.

This point needs to be made very forcefully -- Russia has to recognize that their entire Olympic investment is toast if things don't change, and change dramatically and quickly for LGBT Russians. This will also serve to put the IOC on notice that this shit _CANNOT_ go on, and that all future Olympics will happen in modern countries.
posted by Killick at 9:11 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


In a comment to Grantland, Patrick Sandusky, chief communications and public affairs officer for the USOC, said, "The U.S. Olympic Committee is not considering a boycott of the Games in Russia. History has proven that the only people that are hurt by boycotts are the athletes that have worked their whole lives to participate in these Games."

Well, them and the Olympic Committees involved, so grain of salt, Pat.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:12 AM on August 7, 2013


I'm not trying to compare Russia to Uganda or Saudi Arabia on the basis of race. I'm talking about cultural problems, specifically cultures where people think it's OK to murder someone for their sexual orientation. That is backward. In Saudi Arabia the murder of homosexuals is justified by their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. In Uganda it's a form of nationalism egged on by white American Christians.

What scares me is the idea that Russia is backsliding. Because if it can happen there, it can happen in the rest of Europe too. Or here in the US.
posted by Nelson at 9:13 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If every LGBT and support in fact boycotted Coke

Interestingly -- to put it mildly -- Coca-Cola has something quite significant to its credit in this area.
Sources with knowledge of the backlash confirm that one of King & Spalding’s top clients, Coca Cola, also based in Atlanta, directly intervened to press the firm to extricate itself from the case.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:15 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest: "As horrendous as Russia's state-sanction suppression of LGBT people is, it is not a pogrom"

I don't know what else you'd call this except something resembling a progrom.
From the main link of edbles's deleted post from last night.

"No arrests have been made and no charges were pressed. Putin’s law enforcement seems to fully condone these actions. Moreover, Dr. Degtyarev’s numerous written complaints to the authorities only resulted in his own persecution and threats directed at him and his 72 years old mother.
In the official correspondence from the local District Attorney office and Governor’s office it was explained that Russian authorities do not see any wrongdoings in the video clips or photographs posted by Neo Nazi group “Occupy Pedofilyaj.” Actually, the authorities referred to this group as one of the “civil movements fighting the sins of the society.” "

"It must be noted that these organzied Neo Nazi gangs continue to operate within Russia in broad day light and also continue to share videos and pictures online of what they call ‘safaris’ (hunting down gay victims for torture)."


from a fairly recent Spiegel article:

"According to the Levada Center, a respected Russian opinion research institute, 42 percent of Russians favor either supression or isolation of gays and lesbians. Five percent say they would have nothing against a "liquidation" of sexual minorities."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:20 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Should have added a trigger warning. The first link to the article posted by edbles originally is very horrific and disturbing and includes pictures.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:24 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems that Russia has been violently homophobic, if not politically, at least culturally for many years now.


I remember several years ago some friends of mine, one of whom is flamboyantly and effervescently gay and a great artist and musician whom I love very much, were going on tour there and I begged them to be careful and worried about them every day.

I see pictures of what is happening now and I am shocked, saddened and angered, but not surprised. I don't need Jay Leno to tell me what is happening.. I know it, too well.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:26 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even if there are 'counterprotests' by tea party types where they specifically head to McDonalds (as they did with Chik-filet)

Now I have a mental image of a bunch of homophobic assholes intently watching men's figure skating as a counterprotest.
"Wait... that guy's wearing--"
"SHUT UP AND WATCH, FLOYD."
"But... he's--"
"HE'S GOING FOR A QUADRUPLE SALCHOW, SO SHUT UP."
"No, I mean--"
"THIS IS OUR PATRIOTIC DUTY, GODDAMMIT."
posted by Etrigan at 9:32 AM on August 7, 2013 [20 favorites]


The TPM story I linked above gives me some hope that Coca-Cola might be persuaded to have a serious talk with the IOC simply via twitter and email pressure. They really, really do not like bad publicity. McDonalds is another matter. They finally agreed to stop putting ammonium hydroxide washed fatty tissue in their signature food item only after incredible amounts of publicity. Getting them to act on a more indirect political matter sounds like a labor of Hercules by comparison.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:33 AM on August 7, 2013


... get what passes for news... What Jon Stewart is to a certain set of the half-informed, Leno is to the uninformed. ...defining the narrative in McMansionland...

I want to think this comment was not meant to be as offensive as I see it.
posted by achrise at 9:35 AM on August 7, 2013


I can't see how any athlete who is sympathetic to the LGBT community can justify participating in the games.

I dunno... I'm a huge supporter of equality & rights. I'd like to think I'd be the sort that could give up a dozen plus years of devoting my life & finances chasing a dream. I don't think I am though. I can speak out. I can give up some cash & time. I can advocate. But to give up my dream... to give up the sacrifices that I forced on my family in pursuit of that dream... I dunno if I'm that good. I'd probably find ways to justify it. For many athletes, this is their one chance. They're damned if they do and damned if they don't. My heart goes out to them.
posted by imbri at 9:37 AM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


I can't see how any athlete who is sympathetic to the LGBT community can justify participating in the games.

They could take the opportunity to do something like this, which is a far more indelible image of Olympic history than any of the boycotts have been.
posted by Etrigan at 9:44 AM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hairy Lobster,

That's evil persecution, no doubt, but the pogroms in Russia resulted in thousands of jews being murdered. These took place over centuries. Invoking the memory of pogroms to characterize Russia's contemporary persecution of LGBT people is, fortunately, right now a gross exaggeration.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:44 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is likely no real threat of Russia doing squat to visiting athletes

I would agree, however I do see the distinct possibility of some symbolic, overt act, similar to the '68 Olympics Black Power salutes, but something more legally provoking that would instigate an arrest, by one of the athletes, and by doing so causing some sort of incident.

I could see someone deciding that since they have spent so much of their life working to get to the Olympics, that now that that as been accomplished, weighing the benefits of 'behaving' and following the traditional route post-Olympics of perhaps endorsements, training future athletes, etc, and what could be seen as a noble sacrifice to force the issue of LGBT rights to be addressed in a more direct way.

Whether or not the second option is a wise choice, both politically long term and personally short term, however, is not for me to say, but I could understand a person with strong set of beliefs concerning this matter, might have to make that choice between the two when the time comes.
posted by chambers at 9:44 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, the protest has been going on for some time. The three triggers (not in order) appear to have been Harvey Fierstein's editorial, Dan Savage and others calling for a boycott of Russian vodka, and photos of violence posted by Buzzfeed.

More recently there were a series of simultaneous protests on August 3 - here are pictures from Toronto; this was covered on our basic 24 hour news and hourly news as well as by the LGBT press.

The same weekend, CBC's Day 6 (Radio One) had an interview with Masha Gessen, a Russian journalist who has written a book on Putin. She's an expert on this regime and how they think - the interview is a must listen. She also happens to be a lesbian, and she is trying to leave the country for fear that her children will be taken away from her.

as for this not being like Nazi Germany:

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog has been posting about thugs who have been kidnapping young gay men and gay teens and beating them on video, which (of course) also outs them and puts them at further risk. Some say that one has died from his injuries - if anyone can read the Russian on that site, that would be helpful.

My SO's family are German Jews who left Germany in 1933 and 1939 respectively. What is happening in Russia right now looks a lot like what was happening in Germany in the mid-thirties. They left out of fear of their lives. Their relatives who did not leave died.

The Nuremburg laws have been put in place and the pogroms have started.
posted by jb at 9:46 AM on August 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


As horrendous as Russia's state-sanction suppression of LGBT people is, it is not a pogrom, and it is not Nazi Germany, as Savage and Leno seem to think it is.

Nazi Germany in which year?
posted by acb at 9:47 AM on August 7, 2013 [25 favorites]


As horrendous as Russia's state-sanction suppression of LGBT people is, it is not a pogrom, and it is not Nazi Germany, as Savage and Leno seem to think it is

Traditionally, invoking the Nazis is a Godwin that indicates you've lost the debate. "Somewhat better than Nazi Germany" (so far) as a defense of Russia is some sort of super-Godwin that leaves your position a smoking, radioactive crater.

Would it be possible to revive the Pythian games as an IOC-free celebration of amateur sport?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:49 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's probably less useful things people could be doing than falling over themselves to reassure everybody that IT'S NOT THAT BAD, GUYS, REALLY but I can't think of many.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:51 AM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest: "Invoking the memory of pogroms to characterize Russia's contemporary persecution of LGBT people is, fortunately, right now a gross exaggeration."

Well, the Kristallnacht in Germany is also generally referred to as a pogrom. During that event "only" 91 jews were killed. I don't think the numbers matter so much. It's the combination of outright hatred and potential for violence in the population and a state that not only sanctions lethal actions based on that hatred but supports and protects the perpetrators.

Wikipedia defines pogrom as "a violent massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group" where as Merriam-Webster says it's "an organized massacre of helpless people". People are being tortured and killed and, according to the article I linked, the hunts are well-organized events by a neo-nazi group (or groups) and the state sanctions and supports it by declaring that nothing wrong is really being done and by persecuting those who speak up or fight back. I know we're arguing about a word here but words are powerful means of raising awareness and I think it's important to call this what it resembles most: the beginnings of what, if it isn't stopped right now, will in hindsight be referred to as a pogrom.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:57 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not saying 'its not that bad'. I'm saying its not a pogrom, nor is it a holocaust, nor is it a genocide.

I'm a historian/social scientist that specializes in the application of historical analogies in international relations. Employ whatever rhetoric you like, but as an analytical point, analogizing the persecution of LGBT people in Russia to the Russian pogroms and Nazi Germany is an exaggeration.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:58 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


As for why Russia: it's because they are backsliding, and things are getting worse.

Things are still bad in so many places around the world. A seventeen year old boy, Dwayne Jones was murdered by a mob in Jamaica, apparently because he was dressed as a women. A government minister in Uganda thinks that raping small children is better than consensual sex between two adults, so long as it's heterosexual rape.

But Uganda hasn't escaped international criticism - and things may also be getting (very slowly) better. Here are some hopeful, beautiful pictures from the second Pride Parade in Uganda.
posted by jb at 9:59 AM on August 7, 2013


the analogizing the persecution of LGBT people in Russia to the Russian pogroms and Nazi Germany is an exaggeration.

So from an analyical point of view, how many LGBT people have to die before we could call it a pogrom? And to call it a massacre do all of those people necessarily have to die in a short space of time?
posted by Talez at 10:01 AM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


And then the news goes "Snowden" and I go oh, yeah, him.

Yeah, Tonight Show interview aside, the White House's official statement dedicates a whole sentence to Snowden, but makes no strong statement on these issues except by appending "... and human rights and civil society" to a laundry list of complaints. This does not read like a principled stand intended to fire up the international community.

In other words, a grassroots boycott seems more likely, like we did with China in 2008 over Tibet/Darfur (wait, did we end up doing that?)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:03 AM on August 7, 2013


I agree with MisantropicPainforest, not just because I don't think the historical analogies fit or that they are necessary to condemn the extreme injustice of the situation, but more because by making them it smacks of the suggestion that only extreme pariah states enact such discriminatory laws, whereas here and in, e.g., Uganda it's in fact functioning democracies that are well integrated into global trade and diplomatic networks - something that should give us greater pause IMO.
posted by Abiezer at 10:06 AM on August 7, 2013


I'm a historian, and I'm married to a historian who studies 20th century international relations and war (including genocides) and whose family lived in Germany as Jews in the 30s - and he has been comparing what is happening to the period of the Nuremburg laws. No, it is not yet the Holocaust. The Holocaust wasn't the Holocaust until 1941. But it is like Germany in 1933-36, and maybe this time we don't want 1941 to happen.

He and I both believe that the next step is that other countries must step up to provide safe havens for LGBT Russians - and that we should call it the MS St Louis program.
posted by jb at 10:08 AM on August 7, 2013 [26 favorites]


Russia is supposed to be something different, a civilized and modern nation.

Part of the horror of Nazi Germany was that a civilized and modern nation undertook such organized and lethal brutality. Too, the Nazis started out small scale at first, and the reality and scale of the Holocaust was said to be difficult to accept at first, even as it was ongoing, because it was instigated by a civilized and modern nation.
posted by Gelatin at 10:08 AM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


From Wayne Besen via Salon.com:

"Of course, to compare Russia’s persecution of LGBT people to Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews would be hyperbole — at least if the year in question was 1944, with the holocaust in full-swing. It would, however, be fair to point out that Hitler’s war against the Jews began less dramatically in March 1933, with a decree from the Berlin city commissioner of health suspending Jewish doctors from the city’s charity services. That year ended with another relatively innocuous, incremental change, a law banning Jews from writing editorial posts in newspapers.
[...]
Nonetheless, what we are witnessing in Russia is a modern pogrom. The state is imposing social death on its LGBT population and its new law is designed to make openly gay people disappear through force and intimidation. If one is out of the closet in this sick society, they will have a limited future...."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:10 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


What is going on in Russia is absolutely appalling and I would support many kinds of political action against it--including ones that would cost me far more than an Olympic boycott would (I'm unlikely to watch any of it). Still, I understand people's hesitation about Olympic boycotts. The real problem is not "is there something genuinely bad going on in the host country?" it is "when is there not something genuinely bad going on in the host country--or in one or more of the other countries participating in the games"? I mean if the point is "playing sports in X country means endorsing X country's policies" then, surely, "playing sports with X country also means endorsing X country's policies," no? So we should ban the US from participating in any sporting event which includes countries that are doing things we find profoundly objectionable. That means, for example, that the World Cup (football) is obviously off the agenda pretty much forever. It means the US simply ceases to participate in the Olympics--again, forever. But then, why is it just sports? Surely this also means we ban all non-essential contact with that country. No Russian artists should be allowed to display their works in the US. No Russian ballet companies, opera singers, musicians. No US artists should be allowed to travel to Russia, either--right? Or Uganda. Or a whole host of other countries. Essentially we end up with the logic behind the US policy towards Cuba--and yet generally speaking the kinds of people who post on Metafilter think the US policy towards Cuba is nuts (and thought it was nuts even in the very recent past when Cuba was a hellish place for LGBT people to live).

I suspect that if the real purpose here is to try to make things better for LGBT people in Russia then letting the games go ahead and encouraging athletes from all over the world to find ways to send pro-LGBT messages during the games is ultimately the more powerful move than a boycott--which will only feed into Russia's persecution complex. Still, I understand why the calls are being made.
posted by yoink at 10:11 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the petitions circulating is to move the games back to Vancouver

Noooooooooo
posted by KokuRyu at 10:16 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nazi Germany in which year?

That's a staggeringly good point. Russia doesn't look like the Germany of 1941, or even the Germany of 1938. But it sure as hell looks a great deal like Germany in 1935.
posted by eriko at 10:16 AM on August 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


There are also frightening parallels between the Russian regime's rhetoric and Nazi rhetoric. The best explanation that I've heard on why this is happening right now is in the Masha Gessen interview that I linked above (it's audio, sorry for any inconvenience). LGBT people really are being used as a very similar kind of scapegoat to bolster state power.

She also explains why, sadly, all of our protests and boycotts won't change the regime's behaviour but just make them feel like they have successfully thumbed their noses at the "decadent west".
posted by jb at 10:17 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's easy to call for a major sacrifice like a boycott when you have no skin in the game. Let the athletes choose whether or not to boycott. Stop telling them what to do.
posted by cman at 10:19 AM on August 7, 2013


In other words, a grassroots boycott seems more likely, like we did with China in 2008 over Tibet/Darfur (wait, did we end up doing that?)

I would strongly suggest that governments all over the world take action. While grassroots and consumer boycotts are helpful, they are definitely not enough, for the simple reason that tons of people, such as me for example have about zero leverage here - I already don't drink coke, eat at macdonalds, chickfile or any fast food, already don't drink stolichnaya or any vodka, already don't watch olympics or own a tv, don't have plans to visit Russia etc...

Our government represents us. I expect them to take a strong stand in face of extreme abuses like this, and am super disappointed at the response so far. While historical analogies are always imperfect, let us note that the U.S. government was extremely torpid when it came to defending Jews in Germany, or indeed, even admitting them as refugees. This is an intolerable situation, and I will certainly do my part to pressure our legislators any way I can.
posted by VikingSword at 10:20 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's easy to call for a major sacrifice like a boycott when you have no skin in the game. Let the athletes choose whether or not to boycott. Stop telling them what to do.

Yeah, what's with all this expressing your opinion and trying to persuade others of it nonsense?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:21 AM on August 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


Putin is obviously gay. No straight man spends that much time worrying how he looks with his shirt off.
posted by humanfont at 10:23 AM on August 7, 2013


chickfile

I hear Mitt Romney has one of those.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:24 AM on August 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


It's easy to call for a major sacrifice like a boycott when you have no skin in the game. Let the athletes choose whether or not to boycott. Stop telling them what to do.

It'd be really nice if the athletes were the only people with "skin in the game", tbh.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:25 AM on August 7, 2013


I certainly will not be watching and I can't see how any athlete who is sympathetic to the LGBT community can justify participating in the games

I don't know; the Olympics can provide a place for a symbolic victory or protest. Some of the most poignant images of the Olympics are of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium, or Jesse Owens kicking ass in Berlin. Some of these athletes train for the sole purpose of competing in the Olympics. While I can get behind a boycott, I could see how athletes themselves might want to participate regardless and I won't hold it against them. An athlete's participation in the Olympics is not necessarily an endorsement of the host country. It would be great if we got a memorable political statement out of some of the athletes though.
posted by Hoopo at 10:33 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


They could take the opportunity to do something like this, which is a far more indelible image of Olympic history than any of the boycotts have been.

Patrick Burke, from "You can play", made a similar, very persuasive argument, but I've since learned that athletes are forbidden by the IOC from making political statements, and this could include overt support for LGBT rights. I can't remember where I first read it, but I believe that I heard that both men who made the black power salute in 1968 were stripped of their medals. (Please correct or confirm).

As someone really with no skin in the Olympics game - I don't compete, I don't watch (not even the opening ceremonies, I'm so boring) - I'm inclined to follow the athletes and Russian LGBT community on whether boycotting/moving/whatever is a good idea or not. But I worry about their safety, and I wouldn't trust the current Russian regime at all. The only thing I see protecting athletes who are LGBT or allies is the public eye of the world, and that may or may not be enough.
posted by jb at 10:34 AM on August 7, 2013


If you want to be an athlete in a role that frames you as a representative of my country, I'm going to feel okay with advising you how to act.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:35 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't remember where I first read it, but I believe that I heard that both men who made the black power salute in 1968 were stripped of their medals. (Please correct or confirm).

No, but they were expelled from the Games (under threat of expelling the entire US contingent if the USOC didn't go along with it), thanks to Avery Brundage, about whom the less said the better.
posted by Etrigan at 10:39 AM on August 7, 2013


I can't remember where I first read it, but I believe that I heard that both men who made the black power salute in 1968 were stripped of their medals. (Please correct or confirm).

They weren't actually stripped of their medals; they were expelled from the games, though. It was a HUGE deal at the time; front page news all over the world, with most of the coverage being harshly negative. The Aussie guy on the podium with them, Norman, who won the silver, received a two-year ban on participation in the sport when he returned to Australia, simply for the fact that he had supported their action and refused to condemn it afterwards. He was also passed over the for the next Olympics, despite having qualified multiple times. Carlos and Smith were pallbearers at his funeral.
posted by yoink at 10:43 AM on August 7, 2013 [21 favorites]


Etrigan: Oh wow. I just read the Wikipedia article about the event, and you are not kidding about Brundage. Wow.
posted by seyirci at 10:54 AM on August 7, 2013


Figure skater Johnny Weir and speed skater Blake Skjellerup respond to some of the same tough questions being posed here. I personally disagree with both of them, but I have never walked a day in their shoes or trained that hard all my life for something that only comes around every 4 years. Also, please note that they may not have been aware of some of the more disturbing stories linked in the OP at the time of their interview.
posted by gimli at 10:55 AM on August 7, 2013


Here's a suggestion, hammer NBC on twitter and don't watch their new programs this fall. They are the ones paying huge amounts to IOC for the games rights. If they call up the IOC, then it is a lot different than if we call the IOC. They write the checks.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on August 7, 2013


This is coming from somebody who knows Russia only through some of its 19th-century novelists, but damn, what the hell is up with this, Russia.

Olympic athletes are better people than I am in many ways, but the idea of worrying about the effects of their exclusion to an extreme reminds me of that moment in Alexie's story where this gymnast who was excluded from the 1980 games is complaining about it to a poor Native American and he says sincerely, it seems you and the Indians have a lot in common and there's this awkward silence after.
posted by angrycat at 11:02 AM on August 7, 2013


thank you for the correction!
posted by jb at 11:03 AM on August 7, 2013


It would be interesting to see what would happen if the athletes from one of the major powerhouses of the winter olympics all agreed to do something like wear a rainbow flag pin when they received their medals or something. I mean, the precedent of Carlos and Smith would make the IOC very leery about what kind of sanctions they could impose, and yet they would certainly feel constrained to do something because of their general rule against political statements.
posted by yoink at 11:04 AM on August 7, 2013


It'd be really nice if the athletes were the only people with "skin in the game", tbh.

Actually that's a great idea: athletes could reassert the classical Olympic practice of competing in the nude. Given that most Olympic athletic events are single sex, this would send a powerful visual message.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:12 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


don't watch their new programs this fall.

I think that boycott has already been happening for a few years.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:19 AM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm anticipating a very moving podium protest, like the black panther salute in 1968.
This time, a winning athlete will approach the podium hiding a rainbow-coloured leather glove close to their body. As they receive their medal and the music starts to play, BAM, 3-way sodomy right on the podium.

It will be beautiful.
posted by Theta States at 11:20 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I want to think this comment was not meant to be as offensive as I see it.

Nah, i think it kinda was. It really seems like it was written with a sneer like the i'm-a-college-freshmen-and-what-is-this I'M AWAKE AND YOU'RE ASLEEP, WAKE UP SHEEPLE! kinda crap. If it wasn't intended to be that, they should have tried a hell of a lot harder because it really reads that way.

And it sucks, because there's a good point to be made there about chopping up information like this in to 30 second youtube clip, bite sized morsels for the kinds of people who just glance at the tv while they play angry birds. That really is the way to widely disseminate information in the 21st century. It just had to get wrapped up and couched in a bunch of weird crap that seems like a rejected futurama joke about middle america. It that reads like the one in that clip, "it's funny, but is it going to get them off their tractors?".

It's like, give it a rest dude. We would have gotten it without that.
posted by emptythought at 11:21 AM on August 7, 2013


Actually that's a great idea: athletes could reassert the classical Olympic practice of competing in the nude.

look I appreciate a good Grecian reference as much as anyone but for the Winter Olympics this just seems cruel

also it might encourage MORE shirtless Putin photos and honestly, no.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:28 AM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


It would be much better for everyone involved if he stopped presidenting and decided to be a glamour model instead, really.
posted by elizardbits at 11:31 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder if this time, whether the U.S. government will prevent refugees from emigrating.
posted by happyroach at 11:34 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.--George Santayana

I am 100% in favor of equal rights for everyone in the LGBT* community. I am also old enough to remember the last time the U.S. actually boycotted the Olympics, and how that went.

Hundreds of athletes had their hopes dashed when they were unable to compete. Quite a few, perhaps the majority, faded into obscurity as a result. Future Olympian hopefuls (and remember, this was at a time when maintaining amateur status was paramount and athletes suffered economic hardships just training for the Games) learned the hard way that even their heroes, those at the top of their fields, were easily dismissed from the collective conscience.

More significant, though, and relevant to this discussion, were the results of the boycott politically. If the Olympic boycott had at all the intended effect, all the sacrifice might have been worth it. But it didn't.

Rather than turn against the subject of the boycott, Americans turned on the President for taking a stand on principle that affected him personally so little (except in retrospect), and cost so many young people so much; not just the Olympians themselves but those aspiting to become the best in their fields.

That boycott was also of Russia, protesting the Russian military occupation of Afghanistan.

Not only did we not convince Russia to act as a result of the pressure of our Olympic boycott--they did not withdraw from Afghanistan until another nine years had passed--this country did a 180 on its own Afghanistan policies, and ended up supplementing humanitarian aid with troop deployment and drone strikes. Ironically enough, the latter happened under the same President who so passionately denounces Russia now.

Frankly, this whole play reads to me as a diversion tactic, taking the focus off the very public offer of political asylum Russia has extended to Snowden. Why aren't Americans more angry over that turn of events? It used to be that Russians came to us, the U.S, seeking asylum from an oppressive regime. Now this country has become the place political dissidents flee from, while Russia accepts them with open arms. Where is the public outrage over that?
posted by misha at 11:37 AM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Many years ago there was a long and extensive sporting boycott of South Africa, it kept the spotlight on that awful regime, which eventually changed.

Petition your local Olympic Committee and the Olympic sponsors to pull out. Let them know that if they do not do so then each one of you will boycott the sponsors and the television coverage. You might not be able to influence your country's participation in the Games but you can certainly affect the people expecting to profit from them.

Or am I just being naive?
posted by epo at 11:39 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm, and then to see the section about the GDR and Paragraph 175 (inherited from before the split of Germany):

As a side note, I don't think the fact Paragraph 175 was modified quite quickly in the DDR reflects a particularly progressive stance on the part of the SED with respect to homosexuality. They basically thought 'Nazis did X, Nazis bad, we will do not X'. Which isn't a bad rule of thumb, but I don't think they were thinking about homosexuality more broadly. There's sort of a recurring them of the SED coming up with progressive social policies not exactly accidentally, but out of necessity, meaning some groups did lose ground after reunification. (For example, there was state provision for childcare to enable women to work, partly out of a belief in equality for women, but also because they desperately needed women to be working outside the home to keep the economy going.)

That said, one of my favourite pieces of trivia about the fall of the Berlin Wall is that the reason so many West Berlin journalists were in East Berlin that night was because it was the premiere of Coming Out, so DEFA was even sanctioning 'gay' films at the very end.
posted by hoyland at 11:47 AM on August 7, 2013


It used to be that Russians came to us, the U.S, seeking asylum from an oppressive regime. Now this country has become the place political dissidents flee from, while Russia accepts them with open arms.

That would have to be the least plausible summary of the Snowden affair imaginable. Snowden is not a "political dissident." He is not subject to prosecution for advocating any particular political agenda; he is subject to prosecution for making public secret information which he had sworn to protect in pretty clear violation of many relevant laws. You may or may not think that the net benefits of his lawbreaking outweigh the negatives, but that he broke the law--and knew that he was breaking the law--are self-evident. Russia did not "accept him with open arms," either, and certainly not because they believe in any "principle" that Snowden may or may not stand for (the last thing the Russian government believes in is some universal right to freedom of information!) They gave him temporary asylum simply as a calculated insult to the US, with whom they're pissed off about a variety of things.
posted by yoink at 11:50 AM on August 7, 2013 [11 favorites]



Frankly, this whole play reads to me as a diversion tactic, taking the focus off the very public offer of political asylum Russia has extended to Snowden. Why aren't Americans more angry over that turn of events?


While I agree with that a boycott would probably be most harmful to some athletes, I don't think that this is at all diversionary. When I see gay friends and relatives posting stories about gay teens in Russia being beaten to a pulp, they are not ignoring Snowden. They are worried about the legalization of hate in a major country and about the victims of those crimes. Some are worried about gay athletes, whose right to succeed and win in their sport should never have to be under a Don't Ask, Don't Tell threat of deportation.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:50 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Frankly, this whole play reads to me as a diversion tactic, taking the focus off the very public offer of political asylum Russia has extended to Snowden. Why aren't Americans more angry over that turn of events? It used to be that Russians came to us, the U.S, seeking asylum from an oppressive regime. Now this country has become the place political dissidents flee from, while Russia accepts them with open arms. Where is the public outrage over that?

I'm not outraged about it because, as one of the Russians you mention who came to the U.S. seeking a better life (albeit as a run-of-the-mill refugee in the 90s rather than an asylum-seeker), I think that that characterization and parallel are mostly bullshit.

The gay folks being maimed and killed in Russia are very real, though.

I do think this is different from the 1980 boycott, in that I think a gesture like this over a civil rights issue is likely to have more of an impact than one over geopolitics. It also has a more direct connection to our participation, in that it affects our LGBT athletes, athletes' LGBT family members, and spectators.
posted by eugenen at 11:52 AM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Has any Olympic host country -- let's say in the postwar era to keep it more or less relevant to modern international accords -- ever before announced in so many words its intention of infringing on an internationally recognized civil right? Seems like the IOC has substantive grounds for action here, and may even be compelled to act by a reasonable interpretation of its own codes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:54 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Killick: "to really make the point there should be a "sample week" in the very near future"

That's brilliant.
posted by notsnot at 12:01 PM on August 7, 2013


One thing that first article really makes clear is that Putin is actually *behind* a lot of the country in homophobia, and they're really mad about it.

"We strive to help the public become better and stronger, to assume some of the functions of the state, which itself is neither willing nor able to deal with such problems."

Similarly, in this awful video (major trigger warning for homophobic violence), although the police take away the LGBT protestor, they won't let the drunk marines beat him up, and the marines insist that this proves that "Putin's a fag." It seems like this is less the Kremlin trying to get people mad about gays, and more like the Kremlin trying to get in front of a very ugly grassroots movement.

As for the boycott: I fear it will have the opposite effect that people are hoping for. Homophobia in Russia is very much connected to anti-Western feeling (which the Putin administration has eagerly fed– Russian TV reporting on drone strikes sounds like a more sentimental Alternet). If Western countries "ruin Russia's Olympics" over it, it will simply make Russians say "You see! The West hates us, and loves gays! Fuck 'em!"

Unlike South Africa, Russia is not dependent on the West for military and economic support, so our leverage is very limited. What will help? Christ, I wish I knew.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:08 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


A viral FB/Twitter campaign against Olympic $ponsor$ would be the only thing that would move the thing back to Vancouver (sorry Vancouver but you're the only viable solution). Money is the only thing that talk$ to the a$$hole$ at the IOC. Make it happen, Internet$. I'll tweet and post the hell out of it.
posted by Ber at 12:09 PM on August 7, 2013


I don't really get this "but the athletes' dreeeeeeeeeams" thing. 15% of Americans live in poverty, and I'm supposed to get all fired up about someone's career setback?
posted by threeants at 12:13 PM on August 7, 2013


I don't really get this "but the athletes' dreeeeeeeeeams" thing. 15% of Americans live in poverty, and I'm supposed to get fired up about someone's career setback?

Look, I SUPPORT the boycott, and that's sort of apples in oranges. Poverty exists in this country at the same time as people spend $480 per ticket to see The Book of Mormon. Just because I care about low income people doesn't mean I don't think actors shouldn't have audiences.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:15 PM on August 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


It's to hurt the target, and to feel good about yourself for doing so. Nothing about bringing anything to light - a boycott doesn't work unless the reason is already in public awareness.

I was just looking through a copy of Entertainment Weekly, and they included a sidebar in their preview of Ender's Game, about the boycot, with a few good quotes of OSC saying dumb shit.
My guess would be that before that a majority of EW readers were not aware of that before.

The Dan Savage vodka thing, seemed to get a good bit of media/social media traction.

People like a boycott, or at least they like to argue about a boycott. It is a nice narrative, and it makes for a nice headline that might get eyeballs who would not otherwise be interested in reading a foreign policy piece.
posted by St. Sorryass at 12:16 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really get this "but the athletes' dreeeeeeeeeams" thing. 15% of Americans live in poverty, and I'm supposed to get fired up about someone's career setback?

If you like the Olympics at all, then "the athlete's dreeeeeeeeeams" is pretty much the entire point. Though I guess one could be a sucker for pageantry without caring about the people who are there providing an excuse for it.

If you don't like the Olympics (and lord knows, there are plenty of reasons not to), then I don't see the point in diminishing the work the individual competitors put forward to get there.

If you just want to complain that the issue you care more about than the Olympics is getting any press, well, mission accomplished, then.
posted by Etrigan at 12:18 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't really get this "but the athletes' dreeeeeeeeeams" thing. 15% of Americans live in poverty, and I'm supposed to get all fired up about someone's career setback?

I'm not really a sporto by any stretch of the imagination, but the majority of athletes from the US (and other countries I imagine) work very hard to secure financing to train and attend the Olympics.. living in poverty hard even, and most of them even if they medal don't really see an improvement in income post Olympics.
YOU don't have to be fired up about shit, but it really speaks volumes if you are are ready to dismiss all that work and desire out-of-hand.
Yeah - perhaps- a boycott might be worth it, it certainly is worth the debate, but it would not be pain free, and if you are callus about it and sneer at it under the guise of, well these people here have it hard, so we shouldn't even consider the feelings of those people over there, everyone must suffer equally; then you really do not help advance the side of the debate you may represent.
posted by edgeways at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Hey guys in Vancouver who were possibly slightly inconvenienced when we had the Olympics, if it means that Russia gets a message about human rights by moving them back here, then I am in favour of you being barely impacted again.
posted by dobie at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


while Russia accepts them with open arms.

I'm pretty sure if it were a Russian FSB (or whatever their counter-intelligence agency is called) whistle blower he would have been tortured and killed, if caught, along with any journalists publishing the leaks and apparently anyone who happens to be gay, and I highly doubt he would have the public support in Russia that he is getting in the US. If Snowden were prosecuted here, I'm guessing he would get a number of years in prison and still become a popular political icon.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:36 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


If Snowden were prosecuted here...

I think he could potentially face the death penalty, but I would guess he'd end up in life in prison.

but the whole Snowden thing with Russia is just a political game. You are absolutely right Putin would outright kill anyone in a similar situation, I mean looking at how they deal with a band that criticizes him it doesn't take much imagination to see what someone actually threatening national security would end up as hamburger somewhere. Most of the places Snowden is likely to end up outside of Russia also have their own pretty nasty shady sides.

Mind you, the US would also absolutely grant asylum to a Russian Snowden equivalent. It's like the Cold War is in full force with perhaps a few less nuclear missiles pointed at our heads. And frankly that is kind of what Putin wants. It legitimizes Russia as a global power again.

I just wish it could have been achieved without all the penis waving about.
posted by edgeways at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2013


I think he could potentially face the death penalty, but I would guess he'd end up in life in prison.

Eric Holder has already said the death penalty is not on the table.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:56 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think he could potentially face the death penalty,

Obama already assured Putin that that would not be the case. It's very hard to imagine them trying for a conviction that would carry a death penalty and even harder to imagine them securing it.
posted by yoink at 12:56 PM on August 7, 2013


Part of Snowden's revelations was proof that executive branch representatives are willing to lie under oath to Congress so it's not hard to speculate he might be afraid of them changing their mind on the death penalty. Regardless, Russia is no hero for their actions in regards to Snowden. I'm glad he is safe, but it shouldn't impact anyone's views on Russia as a whole.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:04 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


One observation is that Putin and his allies may actaully view homosexuality as an importnyï phenomenon, belonging particularly to foreigners. Putin's real problem may be particularly directed at gay Russians rather than gays in general.

(It's an interesting aspect, I think, but I undertand it's really beside the point.)
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:09 PM on August 7, 2013


This is a painful and personal topic for me. I think it's definitely a net good to broaden public awareness of legal or at least semi-sanctioned persecution of gays and other minorities in Russia (and Hungary, Romania, and so on).

But I am also dismayed and weirded out when the persecution of gays becomes just another news item, when people start reasoning on the basis of fragmentary information and old preconceptions, when people basically start talking shop about this issue.

I mean, I'm sure it's an interesting situation with lots of rhetorical opportunities. But all it reminds me of is being in the audience when those Lancet estimates of the civilian death toll in Iraq were being presented. And half the people I talked to in the audience said, "Well, it's a war, isn't it, let's talk about the flaws in the methodology." I don't mean to say that anyone here is wilfully dismissive, but it's so easy, so very very easy, to let this be abstract, somewhere else, happening to "them," and attributable to "reasons." It's real, it's viscerally real, and it's big, and it's not recent, and it's part of something that's bigger and older.
posted by Nomyte at 1:09 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean looking at how they deal with a band that criticizes him it doesn't take much imagination to see what someone actually threatening national security would end up as hamburger somewhere. Most of the places Snowden is likely to end up outside of Russia also have their own pretty nasty shady sides.

Last comment: I think this is a significant oversimplification that I've seen in the papers a lot. No. This misses a very important aspect of the phenomenon, the reason why there was such immediate popular outcry among the public and a substantial commotion right there at the cathedral.

To a larger or smaller extent, a lot of Russians believe that letting a profane band of rebellious women take center stage in the holy of holies will literally cause the heavens to open and supernatural destruction to issue therefrom. Russian religious beliefs are often very literal. And people who literally believe in the constant threat of supernatural punishment will reasonably perceive a group like Pussy Riot to be a literal existential threat.
posted by Nomyte at 1:28 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


RT.Coms two kopecks.

I've also heard the argument that the new laws are in response to Russia's declining demographics.

In any event, I think Obama is being foolish in cancelling his proposed September meeting with Putin.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:38 PM on August 7, 2013


Not going to click any of those links from here. This is a sad and terrible time for Russians, especially gay ones, and on the plus side every one of those miserable people in those horrible videos will be dead in 100 years. Fuck them.

I've been worrying about this for long enough, and I can't see a path to making it better. Pissing off you, my darling western liberal Mefites, is reason enough to kill a few untouchables in the twisted world of politics. Reminding people that you can just kill people is another.

Have fun with the boycott, it will impede this little flirtation with fascism not in the slightest. Things will get better, or worse, and as ever in Russia, people will get out of the way, or get killed. I hate this place sometimes.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:43 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pissing off you, my darling western liberal Mefites, is reason enough to kill a few untouchables in the twisted world of politics. Reminding people that you can just kill people is another.

Uh. Okay.
posted by elizardbits at 1:46 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been worrying about this for long enough, and I can't see a path to making it better. Pissing off you, my darling western liberal Mefites, is reason enough to kill a few untouchables in the twisted world of politics. Reminding people that you can just kill people is another

I have no idea what you're trying to convey here.
posted by amorphatist at 1:58 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am suddenly reminded that I can just kill people.
posted by Theta States at 2:01 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well anyway I'm going to miss watching curling.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:07 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well anyway I'm going to miss watching curling.

Especially nude curling (it's more of an endurance sport than anything).
posted by yoink at 2:10 PM on August 7, 2013


Not only did we not convince Russia to act as a result of the pressure of our Olympic boycott--they did not withdraw from Afghanistan until another nine years had passed--this country did a 180 on its own Afghanistan policies, and ended up supplementing humanitarian aid with troop deployment and drone strikes. Ironically enough, the latter happened under the same President who so passionately denounces Russia now.

The U.S.S.R., a communist country, invaded Afghanistan to preserve a Communist coup in the country. The United States invaded Afghanistan because Afghanistan state-sponsored the worst terrorist attack in history, killing 2,900 people in a matter of hours, destroying the two tallest buildings in our largest city, as well as flying a fully-loaded jetliner into our military headquarters after terrorists decided that they couldn't get to the White House. A fourth aircraft, with hundreds aboard, crashed when the passengers, aware of what had happened earlier, seized the aircraft.

9/11 really did happen. And the terrorist group that did it was state-sponsored by Afghanistan. That is an act of war. And we made war upon them for that. As for drones, the most accurate, anti-administration absolute maximum count of civilian deaths due to drone strikes is 942 people (the minimum from the BIR is 407). In eleven days, between 18–29 December 1972, B-52 strikes in Operation Linebacker II against North Vietnam killed 1,624 people, to add perspective. 407-942 civilians killed in 9 years. 1,642 killed in 11 days.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:16 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


kafziel: "It's to hurt the target, and to feel good about yourself for doing so. Nothing about bringing anything to light - a boycott doesn't work unless the reason is already in public awareness."

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I didn't know what was going on in Russia until the vodka boycott started getting attention.

I guess that says something about my priorities.
posted by brundlefly at 2:18 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey guys in Vancouver who were possibly slightly inconvenienced when we had the Olympics,

If by "slightly inconvenienced", you mean "your city had to absorb a $700 million liability for a white elephant athlete's village that might not result in a total loss if the real estate bubble blows up again", then I can agree. Let's not pretend our distaste for having the Olympics return is a disinterest in having excessive tourism for a couple weeks.
posted by fatbird at 2:19 PM on August 7, 2013


You convinced me. Nixon was worse than Obama!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:19 PM on August 7, 2013


I would actually say that kafziel is wrong here. As you have demonstrated, a boycott can create awareness.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2013


One possible solution would be for the United States/USOC (or others) to officially boycott, but let individuals/teams compete under the Olympic flag. It's been done before. Per the wikipedia article on the 1980 boycott:

"At the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, athletes from a number of countries, including Australia, Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Spain, and Switzerland, marched under the Olympic Flag, instead of their national flags, a fact that the Soviet TV coverage alternately ignored. Moreover, although the government of New Zealand officially supported the boycott, four athletes from that country competed independently and marched under their NOC's flag.[8] Altogether, the athletes of 16 countries were not represented by their national flags, and the Olympic Anthem replaced their national anthems at medal ceremonies. As a result, there were a few ceremonies where three Olympic Flags were raised."
posted by tittergrrl at 2:27 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I'm just angry. If you place zero value on certain human lives, and pissing off the west is a political plus, that makes for a very simple decision. All this awareness makes at best zero difference to the current and future victims.

I literally can't think of a way that anyone in America could react that would make things better. Protest? Strong Mr. Putin defends traditional Russians against the west. Don't protest? Strong Mr. Putin protects Russian children against predators. Protest in Russia? Illegal propaganda under the new laws. All the while supported by the kind of people who know a good excuse for violence when they see it.

I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more until I can get my family out, because I don't want to be arrested.

Ever read history books and think "What would I have done if it was happening around me?"? It's not fun to find out.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:35 PM on August 7, 2013 [19 favorites]


I literally can't think of a way that anyone in America could react that would make things better. Protest? Strong Mr. Putin defends traditional Russians against the west. Don't protest? Strong Mr. Putin protects Russian children against predators. Protest in Russia? Illegal propaganda under the new laws. All the while supported by the kind of people who know a good excuse for violence when they see it.

Just don't watch. It will make sure that the Olympics won't get awarded to a country with these sorts of laws again--and countries that want the Olympics will repeal those laws. Where it hurts them is if you don't watch the ads and the events.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:44 PM on August 7, 2013


Frankly, this whole play reads to me as a diversion tactic, taking the focus off the very public offer of political asylum Russia has extended to Snowden. Why aren't Americans more angry over that turn of events? It used to be that Russians came to us, the U.S, seeking asylum from an oppressive regime. Now this country has become the place political dissidents flee from, while Russia accepts them with open arms. Where is the public outrage over that?

Snowden is one man. In 2010, the United States granted asylum to 21,113 people. Snowden's "political asylum" is from prosecution for revealing classified information, a crime in almost every state on Earth.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:48 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Instead of targeting NBC it might be better to target the corporate overlord Comcast. Lots of people canceling Comcast cable to go with Hulu/Netflix or Dish/FiOS might draw some attention.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:25 PM on August 7, 2013


Would it be possible to revive the Pythian games as an IOC-free celebration of amateur sport?

How about the Friendship Games? They even have a rainbow on the logo!
posted by Apocryphon at 3:30 PM on August 7, 2013


I keep coming back to this thread out of a sense of alarm and enraged helplessness. As if it's a disaster thread and I'm combing the comments for news updates to see how bad it is and when the worst will be over (not for a very long time, I'm realizing). Finally had the nerve to click on the one of the links and discovered that one of the kids in a video still I saw from an article last week has died from the injuries he received from being tortured. Jesus fucking christ, the LGBT situation in Russia is starting to sound like the one in Iraq.
posted by treepour at 5:52 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Place Your Bets: Team Snowden vs. Team America
posted by homunculus at 6:01 PM on August 7, 2013


The treatment of LGBT in Middle Eastern nations, you say?!
posted by Apocryphon at 6:09 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


So let me get this straight.

"Encouraging homosexuality" is a crime in the USSR, one that almost any gay person could be found "guilty" of, and one that the USSR has not promised not to enforce against Olympic athletes - or spectators.

But more, it's clear that violence against homosexuals (again, either athletes or spectators) goes systematically unpunished by law - even if it ends up in murder.

So how can any nation possibly send their athletes and spectators there?

This allows, God forbid, the following scenarios:

1. A gay athlete makes a pro-gay statement at the games - for example, exhibits a rainbow flag. He or she is arrested and jailed for several years.

2. A gay athlete wins an event that a Russian was expected to win. Someone kills him - say, a police officer or security guard at the games. Russia refuses to press charges against the killer.

3. There is systematic violence by individuals against gay spectators ("let's show those foreign queers what's up!") and the police refuse to intervene.

Or let's put this another way - suppose that instead of homosexuals, the oppressed category were Jews - that Jewish athletes visiting Russia were subject to summary arrest (for "encouraging Judaism") or violence without police protection. For those of you who don't suppose a boycott, would you support one if this were the case? If so, what's the difference?

(And note that there are more gay humans than Jewish humans - it's hard to get an exact number but between 3 to 20 times as many...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:20 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


The same weekend, CBC's Day 6 (Radio One) had an interview with Masha Gessen, a Russian journalist who has written a book on Putin. She's an expert on this regime and how they think - the interview is a must listen. She also happens to be a lesbian, and she is trying to leave the country for fear that her children will be taken away from her.

Masha Gessen is fearless and amazing. Her hopes of a continuing protest movement and Putin's ultimate demise expressed in this interview with Charlie Rose seem to have been crushed by Putin's culture war and crackdown on dissent. So sad. I hope she gets out of there; the world needs people like this.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:24 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also remember Afghan women's treatment under the Taliban coming up in either Dear Abby or Ann Landers.

It was Mavis Leno who wrote the letter(s).
posted by brujita at 8:41 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


We saw this short (about 6 minutes) at the queer film festival in June:

In response to a Russian law banning “homosexual propaganda,” director Koskimies has created an activist music video that depicts the androgynous Venuz Vulgar, a coterie of colorful queers, and their quest to fight discrimination.
posted by rtha at 9:48 PM on August 7, 2013


I am with jb: this is really scary and very reminiscent of Europe in the 1920s and '30s. It isn't the discrimination and violence alone; it's the way the state oppresses minorities legally while turning a blind eye to extra-legal harassment by paramilitary groups.

We just had a FPP called How Hollywood Helped Hitler which described how many, many institutions - some run by Jews! - continued to do business with Nazi Germany because they were just commercial ties, not political ones; other people were doing it; there would be bad consequences for making a fuss; and it wouldn't change anything anyway. Let's not have people look back at us in sixty years and ask why we collaborated.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:05 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm pleased if the Snowden affair pushes the U.S. to criticize Russia's human rights abuses more vocally, and causes harm to the IOC, along with raising awareness of U.S. human rights abuses. All the human rights abuses and corruption in both the U.S. and Russia deserve more attention than they get. And the IOC consists of nothing but corruption.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:47 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: ""Encouraging homosexuality" is a crime in the USSR"

The USSR has not existed since 1991.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:37 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So how can any nation possibly send their athletes and spectators there?... - suppose that instead of homosexuals, the oppressed category were Jews - For those of you who don't suppose a boycott, would you support one if this were the case?

If I were an olympic level athlete who had just spent the last 10-15-20 years pursuing a dream and actually qualified for the team, I'd probably be pretty pissed off if my government forbade me to go. While I'd like to think of myself as the sort who would be willing to give up my dream & sacrifices (and family's sacrifices) for a cause I so strongly believe in, I'm not sure that I am. Either way, though, it should be my choice to make... no matter which group of people the host country is persecuting.

If we're playing the "would you if..." game: If you expect an athlete to give up the thousands upon thousands of hours & dollars they've spent pursuing this dream, would you be willing to give up the same for the cause. Perhaps, your retirement account and 20 hours a week for the next 10 years?
posted by imbri at 6:01 AM on August 8, 2013


Note: What's going on in Russia is absolutely horrid. I do not support it and I would like to see nations (and the IOC) standing up against it. I just struggle with the calls for screwing the Olympians out of their dreams. Two wrongs don't make a right and all of that. There has to be a better way.
posted by imbri at 6:11 AM on August 8, 2013


Imbri, it's quite possible that this will all blow over and that Russia will return to a less-authoritarian government with greater respect for human rights. It's also possible that things will get much worse, and a medal from these games will be like one from the 1936 Olympics. Should an athlete in 1936 have attended those games? Without the benefit of hindsight I ... don't know. On the other hand, things are different now. Hitler didn't threaten to imprison Jewish visitors, the way Putin is threatening gays.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:18 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I would like to see is the US team going to the Olympics, all with rainbow flags on their uniforms. Lots of American spectators should attend, and hold up "We support LGBT rights" signs in the stadium. Dare Putin to arrest a bunch of foreigners attending the games. When he doesn't, because maybe some of his spell will be broken.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:33 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know what. Obama and Kerry can make the decision about how they'll finagle the diplomatic issues. The athletes and U.S. organizations can make the decisions about whether chasing the records and medals are worth it. Those people have a better understanding about diplomacy and athletics than I do.

And I can make a decision about whether I can support companies that fund the IOC, since I have a pretty good understanding about where I'm ethically squeamish spending my money.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:52 AM on August 8, 2013


I love the Rainbow Coalition idea. I'd be 100% behind as many countries as possible sporting the rainbow, not just the U.S. I'm reminded of the armbands and patches athletes often wear now to commemorate former greats and milestones in their sports.

Here's why I think something that simple and seemingly minor could be effective, as far as creating positive change: the athletes and sponsors can still participate in the Games and even use them as a vehicle to further public awareness and outrage over the treatment of gays in Russia. A movement to incorporate the rainbow into every sporting event in some way--so that the public watching, even those who normally have their heads in the sand on LGBT issues--can't help but see it, will make an impression.

Sports fans follow athletes, and seeing 'their' competitor sporting the rainbow--and, hopefully, mentioning in every single interview why he/she is doing it and why it is so important in light of the violence against gays in Russia--will impress those fans more than Dan Savage or some politician they probably didn't even vote for. We really want to spread consciousness across the general population, and that kind of in-your-face, can't ignore it, can't forget about it campaign has the kind of impetus we need.

If we can't, realistically, get the nation behind a boycott of all the Olympic sponsors, maybe we can at least convince the sponsors to address the issues themselves, too. They have the financial clout to push the hardest on this.

There are SO many ways the Rainbow symbol could be incorporated into the Games--think Rainbow Oympic Coke cans, with proceeds going to support LGBT legal defense funds, etc.

Bonus: would Putin even be aware of the symbolism if all the spnsors started incorporating rainbows into their Olympic promotions? Because, if not, that kind of subversive campaign could be even more effective by making Putin appear weak and impotent when The Big Reveal comes.
posted by misha at 7:36 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


From Russia, Without Love; a small editorial from an American about a gay Russian he met in St. Petersburg.
posted by Nelson at 7:57 AM on August 8, 2013


I just struggle with the calls for screwing the Olympians out of their dreams. Two wrongs don't make a right and all of that. There has to be a better way.

This is why not watching and telling NBC why you're not watching is the best move. Athletes still compete and get medals. Instead, the giant corporations that support the IOC take the hit.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:01 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So how can any nation possibly send their athletes and spectators there?... - suppose that instead of homosexuals, the oppressed category were Jews - For those of you who don't suppose a boycott, would you support one if this were the case?

If I were an olympic level athlete who had just spent the last 10-15-20 years pursuing a dream and actually qualified for the team, I'd probably be pretty pissed off if my government forbade me to go. While I'd like to think of myself as the sort who would be willing to give up my dream & sacrifices (and family's sacrifices) for a cause I so strongly believe in, I'm not sure that I am. Either way, though, it should be my choice to make... no matter which group of people the host country is persecuting.


LY makes a very good point so let me try and underline it. This isn't like the previous boycotts where the goal was to express disapproval with the foreign policy of the host nation. A potential boycott here would in part be because the athletes we are sending might be unsafe and become victims of human rights violations. Is it really any athlete's dream in the year 2013 to compete in an event where athletes from minority groups may have been intimidated out of attendance? You aren't proving anything about being the best if those circumstances occur.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:09 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I love the Rainbow Coalition idea. I'd be 100% behind as many countries as possible sporting the rainbow, not just the U.S.

You understand, right, that everyone doing this would be "promoting homosexuality", and thus under the laws of Russia, committing a crime that could get them hard time in a Russian jail?

> If I were an olympic level athlete who had just spent the last 10-15-20 years pursuing a dream and actually qualified for the team, I'd probably be pretty pissed off if my government forbade me to go.

If you were a straight athlete - but what if you were gay?

Here are the specifics:

"Public displays of affection by gays, including holding hands or displaying symbols like a rainbow flag, are now banned. Violators face steep fines and jail time; foreigners face similar penalties plus deportation.

"Vitaly Milonov, who sponsored legislation in St. Petersburg last year that became the basis for a national law signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, was quoted telling the Interfax news agency that the law will remain in place during the Olympics and will be applied to foreigners.

""If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn't have the authority," he reportedly said, stressing that he has not heard anything different from Russian officials."

[...]

"The U.S. Olympic committee recently sent a letter to American athletes warning them about the law, but stressing, "We do not know how and to what extent they will be enforced during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.""

Source.

This would not be acceptable in the slightest if the target group were, say, Jews, blacks, women, or Catholics. The only reason that people are doing nothing is because a lot of them still think there's something wrong with you if you're gay.

The entire rest of the world should band together and say, "NO". If Russia won't cooperate, there are many other places that would host the games - or some alternate games.

The message is "discrimination against gays is fine". I won't stand for it.

If they DO host the games in Russia, it's not just that I won't watch any of them, but I'm going to be sending letters to whatever companies are advertising on them, telling them that I'm not buying their crap. (It'll probably be extremely easy - I drink Coke less than once a year, for example - but I shan't tell them that...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:35 AM on August 8, 2013


If you were a straight athlete - but what if you were gay?

I heard an interview on the radio of one gay athlete about whats going on and about the idea of a boycott.

He said he would go and wear the rainbow pin that was officially sanctioned by the IOC even if it meant he might be arrested.

I expect that with any group of people you'll find people agreeing and disagreeing with what the best way to stand against what's happening is.
posted by Jalliah at 9:53 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


As the links in this post demonstrate, the risk isn't getting arrested by some polite Russian police officers. It's getting beaten to death by a gang of brownshirts and the local police looking the other way.
posted by Nelson at 10:23 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Daily Show: Leader's Digest - Russia
posted by homunculus at 10:36 AM on August 8, 2013


The USSR has not existed since 1991.

In name, perhaps, but certainly not spirit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:09 PM on August 8, 2013


He said he would go and wear the rainbow pin that was officially sanctioned by the IOC even if it meant he might be arrested.

I'm anticipating reading stories about confused thugs, badly-briefed militia and temporary security help harrassing and arresting people wearing this rainbow emblem as well.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:01 PM on August 8, 2013


It's getting beaten to death by a gang of brownshirts and the local police looking the other way.

With any luck, the athletes village will be reasonably secure and off-limits to the general public. That said, I am terrified for the fans and protesters. Would Russia be sufficiently worried about violence on visiting spectators to ensure there would be no international incidents of this kind? I know Vancouver was very careful to make sure protesters and the homeless were kept out of sight, with heavily armed forces stationed anywhere there was a threat of locals speaking their minds or making a scene.
posted by Hoopo at 2:06 PM on August 8, 2013


Blazecock Pileon: "In name, perhaps, but certainly not spirit."

The objection to homosexuality in Russia is couched in religious terms, just as it is in the US. I don't see anything particularly Soviet about it.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:52 PM on August 8, 2013


In the USSR, Stalin made homosexuality a crime punishable by up to five years in prison with hard labor. It's couched in religious terms now, but the history goes back a ways.
posted by homunculus at 3:22 PM on August 8, 2013


There's a problem with the whole "this would not be tolerated if it were Jews" argument. In fact it is tolerated, at least with respect to Israelis.
In July 2011, Alirezaei refused to enter the same pool as an Israeli at the Shanghai FINA World Championships. Last October, Algerian judoka Meriem Moussa refused to compete against Israel's Shahar Levi in the knockout round of the Judo World Cup. A month later Rawan Ali, an Egyptian taekwondo champion, refused to compete when she learned her opponent was Israeli. And this past May, in a story that got considerable attention throughout the Middle East, a Tunisian 10-year-old refused to play against an Israeli opponent at the World School Chess Championship.
[...]
In something less than a Solomonic solution the IOC and various sports governing bodies have at least mitigated controversy by separating Israel and Arab countries. Though Israel's immediate neighbors—Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria—compete in Asian qualifiers, Israel has been assigned to the European division.
This relegation means that, for instance, the Israeli soccer team could only qualify by beating teams like England and Italy rather than, e.g., Egypt and Lebanon.

When Arab nations consent to participate in the same events as Israelis they behave as if their opponents had cooties: Lebanon judo team refuse to train alongside Israel
The Lebanon judo team has refused to train alongside the Israeli team, demanding that a curtain screen be erected so that the athletes would not have to see each other.
And sometimes it gets worse: Egyptian wrestler suspended over 'biting' Israeli
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:26 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the USSR, Stalin made homosexuality a crime punishable by up to five years in prison with hard labor. It's couched in religious terms now, but the history goes back a ways.

Stalin had been a seminarian, so there's no reason his motives couldn't been religious.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:34 PM on August 8, 2013


there's no reason his motives couldn't been religious.

You mean besides his eager participation in the campaign against religion, until WW2's propaganda needs required otherwise?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:08 PM on August 8, 2013


homunculus: "In the USSR, Stalin made homosexuality a crime punishable by up to five years in prison with hard labor. It's couched in religious terms now, but the history goes back a ways."

Yes, exactly. It's not really about communism or Soviets.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:43 PM on August 8, 2013


Well anyway I'm going to miss watching curling.

Aw, don't you live far North enough to get the CBC? I'm a bit over an hour from Windsor. Come over, we'll watch regular season curling and decimate the wine rack!

On a more serious note, this all upsets me immensely. Putin's horseshit violates the peaceful spirit of the Games. What the hell happened to suspending hostilities for the duration?
posted by MissySedai at 8:49 PM on August 8, 2013


Stalin had been a seminarian, so there's no reason his motives couldn't been religious.

Except for the fact that he ceased to be a seminarian and became a dogmatic atheist.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:24 AM on August 9, 2013


Russian-Jew museum director fired for art criticizing Sochi Olympics
posted by mrgrimm at 9:08 AM on August 9, 2013


Sochi Olympics: Rogge asks Russia to clarify gay law
posted by KatlaDragon at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2013


if every LGBT and support in fact boycotted Coke, McDonalds, and all the other major games sponsors

Hopefully, the sane among us already "boycott" Coke and McDonald's. (Coca-Cola is one of the most evil companies in the history of the world, fwiw.)

... what else ya got? ... So ... I suppose I get a Discover card?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:30 AM on August 9, 2013


Stephen Fry: The Daily Mail and Lord Dacre appeasing again
posted by homunculus at 12:42 PM on August 10, 2013


The 16 Most Homoerotic Photos Of Vladimir Putin
posted by jeffburdges at 2:55 AM on August 11, 2013


Masha Gessen writes in the Guardian: As a gay parent I must flee Russia or lose my children
posted by jb at 2:39 PM on August 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Two things happened to me the same month: I was beaten up in front of parliament for the first time and I realised that in all my interactions, including professional ones, I no longer felt I was perceived as a journalist first: I am now a person with a pink triangle.

It is not a pogrom?
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:58 AM on August 12, 2013


Garry Kasparov:
In 1936, for the Berlin Summer Games, Germany allowed Jewish German athletes to compete -- after most had been expelled from competition and clubs and others had fled the country. This allowed the Nazis to tell the world they weren't so bad, and the world went along with it. If Putin's regime does suspend its persecution of gays for a few weeks in Sochi, is that really deserving of praise from the IOC and the world? There were already many reasons to boycott the Sochi games -- epic corruption, security -- but here the IOC shows they simply don't care.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:46 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sticking It to Sochi: Russian LGBT Activists on What Works. Appeasement and rainbow pins won't stop Putin's witch hunt
posted by homunculus at 1:00 PM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't speak for everyone in America, but I started hearing about (some) of this pressure when Dan Savage began his campaign to dump Stolichnaya.

Apparently Stoli's parent company is now trying to dodge the bullet by claiming that Stoli is not Russian but Latvian. This is not only cowardly & untrue but an insult to my Latvian heritage as well.
posted by scalefree at 2:02 PM on August 12, 2013


Sticking It to Sochi: Russian LGBT Activists on What Works. Appeasement and rainbow pins won't stop Putin's witch hunt

I'm getting an Access Denied message on that page. Here's a cache link.
posted by rtha at 2:10 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Olympic Committee Could Punish Athletes For Speaking Out Against Russian Anti-Gay Law
posted by homunculus at 4:39 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Olympic Committee Could Punish Athletes For Speaking Out Against Russian Anti-Gay Law

Sounds like a prefect set up for numerous athletes to engage in visible non disruptive shows of solidarity and protest. If the IOC responded with a heavy hand it would be a PR nightmare for both Russia and the IOC.
posted by edgeways at 6:17 PM on August 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Starting local conversations about the possibility of pooling resources to assist an LGBT Russian refugee...
posted by Theta States at 8:12 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"MOSCOW, August 12 (R-Sport) – Russia's Interior Ministry, which controls the police force, confirmed Monday that the country's controversial anti-gay law will be enforced during the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

[...]

"The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully," said an Interior Ministry statement issued on Monday.

It warned against this approach being mixed up with discrimination against gay people."
posted by rtha at 10:15 AM on August 14, 2013


Courage.

("Russian television anchor Anton Kraskovsky has been fired from his job after coming out on the air.")
posted by Etrigan at 12:31 PM on August 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Eight Horrific and Uplifting Stories About Being Gay in the New Russia
posted by homunculus at 2:04 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


American Runner Wins Silver Medal In Russia, Dedicates It To LGBT Friends
posted by homunculus at 8:12 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Good! I hope this is a trend. I hope this anti-gay legislation remains an ongoing national embarrassment for Russia.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:36 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Russian gold medalists kiss on medal stand at world championships to protest anti-gay laws
posted by homunculus at 1:54 PM on August 18, 2013


"One of the reasons many LGBT sports leaders are against a boycott of the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is because more can be accomplished by LGBT athletes and their allies standing atop the medal stand with pride."

Yes.
posted by misha at 3:17 PM on August 18, 2013


Russian attackers upload video of violent attack on trans woman by five men
posted by Nelson at 10:56 AM on August 20, 2013


Painting of Vladimir Putin in women's underwear seized by Russian police
posted by homunculus at 12:05 PM on August 28, 2013


Russia Raids Gay People's Homes
posted by Nelson at 12:28 PM on August 30, 2013


From Nelson's link: "You can easily become a target of homosexual propaganda. There is one step from being homosexual and to start propaganda of homosexualism and molesting decent people."

Christ.
posted by rtha at 12:39 PM on August 30, 2013


Late Weimar as shit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:10 PM on August 30, 2013


Russian lawmaker proposes bill that would deny gay parents custody over children. "homosexual 'propaganda' had to be banned not only in the public space 'but also in the family.'"
posted by Nelson at 8:07 AM on September 5, 2013


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