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Jan 23 2014

Hostility from certain political quarters

Luke Brinker at Media Matters wonders if NBC will cover the role of US conservatives in Russia’s anti-gay crackdown.

As the Kremlin launched its anti-gay crackdown last summer, NBC News largely ignored the issue, even as it hyped the upcoming Winter Olympics. NBC’s silence on Russia’s law banning so-called “gay propaganda” - which the Kremlin followed by banning the adoption of children by parents from pro-equality countries – raised the question of whether the network’s financial interests as the games’ broadcaster would outweigh the imperative of informing viewers about egregious human rights violations against LGBT Russians. Still, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus promised that NBC would “acknowledge” the crackdown. Meanwhile, assurances from anchor Bob Costas and NBC’s hiring of New Yorker editor and respected Russia expert David Remnick seemed to indicate a commitment to covering the controversy.

What NBC hasn’t made clear is whether it will highlight the intellectual and political involvement of several high-profile American conservatives in Russia’s crackdown on LGBT citizens. Doing so may well engender hostility from certain political quarters, but telling the story is crucial to fully understanding how Russia arrived at its current point of horrific, state-sanctioned homophobic persecution.

But how can anybody anywhere possibly be expected to do anything that might well engender hostility from certain political quarters? There would be press releases, and angry tweets, and petitions, and call-in shows, and shouting. It’s unthinkable.

According to information compiled by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and provided to Equality Matters, no fewer than 14 American conservative leaders have visited Russia to lobby lawmakers in support of the country’s anti-gay legislation, lend their support to Russian social conservatives, and help plan for the 2014 World Congress of Families (WCF), an annual “pro-family” confab sponsored by the eponymous Rockford, IL-based group and slated to be held in Moscow from September 10 to 14.

Seriously now, how is it the business of American conservative boffins to lobby Russian lawmakers? How is it their job to zoom around the planet urging legislators to be more savage and inhumane to marginalized people? I missed the memo that explains that.

Russia’s anti-gay laws – and the frightening climate of violence and vigilantism they have stoked – are significant in themselves. But the story of Russia’s crackdown extends far beyond Russia’s borders. As the exclusive broadcaster of the Sochi Olympics, NBC has vowed that it won’t shy away from holding Putin and other anti-gay Russian figures accountable. Will the network do the same for the American ambassadors of hate?

My bet is no, it won’t. But we’ll see.

 

7 comments

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  1. 1
    leftwingfox

    The same thing happened in Uganda.

    I wonder if these folks are simply so motivated by their hatred of gays, that they are willing to push the most extreme anti-gay legislation around the world, no matter how horrifying they are? Or is this some political strategy, in the hops that opposing them overseas gives them a political and rhetorical victory in their doomed fight in the US?

  2. 2
    RJW

    I’m sure NBC will “shy away” from any controversy that affects ratings and revenue.

  3. 3
    Francisco Bacopa

    According to information compiled by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and provided to Equality Matters, no fewer than 14 American conservative leaders have visited Russia to lobby lawmakers in support of the country’s anti-gay legislation…

    I’ve been saying “Go Back to Russia!” is the proper taunt we should be yelling at religious conservatives. Now we know that in at least 14 cases it will be accurate in fact and not just in spirit as 14 of them have already been there.

  4. 4
    Allan Frost

    I’ve always loved the Olympics, especially the winter Olympics and hockey. I won’t be watching a second of NBC’s coverage this year.

  5. 5
    Katherine Woo

    This story deserves secondary mention, but honestly it is a trivial detail. The people who passed the anti-gay laws are Russians. They were homophobes before any Americans showed up. They bear complete and absolute moral responsibility for the discriminatory laws they pass and focusing on a tiny handful of Americans just dilutes their shameful guilt.

    It is the same as in Uganda, If the Americans are dominating your thoughts on the situation, then you engaged in racial or cultural paternalism. Someone started squealing the other day when I called them out on that, but it is the harsh truth. A few American ‘lobbyists’ cannot make nations of millions do anything they do not want to do, unless you find postcolonial peoples (after five decades) to be less capable as moral actors.

  6. 6
    freemage

    Katherine Woo: I think that it’s simplistic to suggest that either the lobbyists were the sole cause, OR that they had no affect or influence at all–much like it is simplistic to say that, for instance, the influence of American lobbyists drives all U.S. policy. Somewhere along the line in events like these, there’s a tipping-point. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that that point was passed because of outside interference. It certainly was the intent and hope of the lobbyists that they would achieve that result.

    Furthermore, by highlighting these activities by our fellow countrymen, we can at least stir up greater resistance to them here, which will result in them having fewer resources here.

  7. 7
    zibble

    @5 Katherine Woo

    A few American ‘lobbyists’ cannot make nations of millions do anything they do not want to do, unless you find postcolonial peoples (after five decades) to be less capable as moral actors.

    The Ugandans (Nigerians, etc) are not less responsible for their actions, but they are less wealthy and less competent. In every case, American evangelicals were exploiting native desperation and ignorance with a network of resources (like the Regnerus “study”) that turned latent religious bigotry into a full destructive campaign.

    It’s an extremely important part of the story. It shows this isn’t just some stupid foreigner problem, but an international issue wherein religion itself is the villain.

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