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Hit them where it hurts

Russia under Putin seems to be trying to return to the repressive ways of the Tsars. They have passed a law against “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, which is, plain and simple, an anti-gay law. Obama has canceled a planned meeting with Putin over this issue (or perhaps more likely, that Russia gave sanctuary to Snowden), and he’s also made a strong statement against it.

Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.

So Russia is planning to flout the Olympic Committee’s more egalitarian rules? Interesting. You know what we should do? Listen to Stephen Fry.

An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.

He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, “the banality of evil.” A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milonov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the “values” of Russia are not the “values” of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).

Yes. Shut them down in an arena where the impact on their prestige and their pocketbooks will actually make an impression.

Comments

  1. says

    I think you cut off an important part of Fry’s statement. The very next paragraph reads:

    I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.

    The next logical (sic) step would be for Russia to create special prisons for people found guilty of violating the anti-gay laws; after that….

    In this case, I think a comparison with the Nazis is quite appropriate.

  2. feedayeen says

    But think of the billions already spent on construction, and the billion dollars that they’ll make from tourists? How will that ever be an incentive? /s

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    I wonder who will be the Jesse Owens of 2014.

    Every participant in male figure skating.

  4. borax says

    An American boycott of the 1980 Olympics because of cold war politics? Of course. An American boycott of the 2014 Olympics over a human rights issue? Probably not going to happen. It seems to me that as soon as the Russia allowed free expression of religion, they adopted the Eastern European version of the Republicans Southern Strategy.

  5. doubtthat says

    I think Fry’s argument is compelling, but I’ve heard some arguments against a boycott:

    1) The only people who are actual punished are the athletes. They’ve worked their whole lives for the chance to compete, many people have been involved in getting them to that point, and by boycotting, the athletes lose a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is Johnny Weir’s argument, who wants the chance to compete and make a political statement on the world stage.

    2) The economic harm to Russia won’t be devastating. Perhaps if enough countries get together, there will be some harm, but the economic benefit of the olympics are almost always overstated.

    3) Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, one of the most popular athletes in the world at the time, boycotted the 1968 Olympics to protest the civil rights situation in the US. Tommie Smith and John Carlos competed and made their famous statement on the stand. Which was more effective (I mean that seriously, we remember one better than the other, but in terms of efficacy, I don’t know)?

    4) I don’t like the “Olympics legitimized Hitler” argument. Is there a serious counterfactual holding that history plays out differently if the Olympics in Berlin were boycotted? Perhaps as small part of a worldwide effort to intervene in Germany prior to 1939, but on its own, the importance of those Olympics is drastically overstated.

    5) The last boycott, 1980, was a ridiculous farce. Ironically, we boycotted to protest Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan…sonofa…The reasons for the boycott this time around are certainly more legitimate, but that boycott didn’t really accomplish much.

    I think there’s definitely a good argument to stay away, and I’m not sure if I’m on team Fry or Weir. Best case scenario is a quick relocation, but that doesn’t seem particularly likely.

  6. says

    @doubtthat #7 -

    1 – That is why people are insisting on moving the Winter Games rather than boycotting them.

    2 – But the political fallout against Putin and his regime will be huge.

    3 – Again, the issue here is moving the Winter Games in order to avoid a boycott.

    4 – The anti-Semitism of the Nazi Party was not widely known outside of Germany; many who did know either dismissed it as too extreme to be believable or, sadly, agreed with it. In comparison, video evidence comes out of Russia every day of the depravity of anti-gay sentiment and how bands of thugs are using the law as an excuse to commit atrocities, evidence that is very widely available around the planet thanks to the internet. There is too much to be ignored or dismissed, and the world is outraged in a way that was impossible in 1936.

    In addition, the Games themselves have changed tremendously. The Winter and Summer Games of 1936 were mostly known only through newsreels seen only by people with the money to attend movie theaters, produced and edited in cooperation with the German government to present a very favorable view of the new regime. The ’36 Summer Games were the first to be televised live, but very few people had televisions back then, and the broadcasts were limited mostly to Germany anyway. And back then, the Games were very strictly non-commercial. In contrast, the 2014 Winter Games will be broadcast live over the entire planet, to hundreds of millions of households having televisions. Hundreds of millions more will follow the Games by way of live and near-live streaming on the Internet. Tens of thousands of bloggers will be posting hundreds of thousands of uncensored images and posts, generating millions of comments, and corporations stand to make billions in profits from revenues generated by sponsorships and commercial tie-ins. You are trying to create a comparison that simply is not meaningful.

    5 – Again, the issue here is moving the games to a different venue. I favor Vancouver, as they still have all the facilities. Even the Olympic Torch: I saw that when I was there last week.

  7. Erin says

    I think Fry’s argument is compelling, but I’ve heard some arguments against a boycott:

    1) The only people who are actual punished are the athletes. They’ve worked their whole lives for the chance to compete, many people have been involved in getting them to that point, and by boycotting, the athletes lose a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is Johnny Weir’s argument, who wants the chance to compete and make a political statement on the world stage.

    I feel for them, I really do. I also feel for the gay Russian kids who are being beaten, raped, mutilated, murdered, etc. while police stand by. Also, this isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Johnny Weir (and he has the Olympic committee protecting him, unlike the gay journalists, fans, and, oh, Russians).

  8. says

    I think I’m in the “go and rub their face in it” camp. March into the opening ceremonies with rainbow flags, organize spectators to hold up protest signs, have kiss-ins on the streets of Sochi every day…that kind of thing. I think it would show solidarity with LGBT people who are living under this law in Russia all the time. Go, compete, don’t condone.

  9. left0ver1under says

    An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential.

    Unfortunately, the olympics have only ever been relocated once, and that was because the selected host city, Salt Lake in 1972, chose to drop out. It wasn’t taken away from them.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1976_Winter_Olympics#Host_selection

    Not even the poorly run and overpriced 2004 games in Greece were taken away, though there was talk of relocating them to Barcelona. There was also talk of taking away the 2010 Commonwealth Games from India for the same reasons, poor management and cost overruns. (For Americans who don’t know, the Commonwealth Games are the third largest sporting event in the world by number of countries and athletes.)

    Fry isn’t the only one who has the opinion that the games should be taken away from Russia.

    http://www.towleroad.com/2013/08/george-takei-its-time-to-move-the-2014-winter-olympics-out-of-sochi.html

    It doesn’t have to go back to Canada. If the games are to be in Europe, rotated by continent, then Turin is surely quite capable of doing it again.

    ——————————-

    doubtthat (#7) -

    I don’t like the “Olympics legitimized Hitler” argument.

    How do you feel about the “Olympics legitimized China” argument?

    So-called “democracies”, including my own (Canada), threatened their athletes with loss of funding, forced return home and other harassment if anyone dared mention or protest the PRC’s mass imprisonment and mass murder of dissidents. The Chinese didn’t have to threaten anyone into silence, other countries did it for them.

    The silencing of protests in China most certainly was an approval of the murderous regime’s activities.

  10. says

    Russia under Putin seems to be trying to return to the repressive ways of the Tsars…

    “Trying?” They’re already there, co-opted state church and all. “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality.”

  11. Erin says

    March into the opening ceremonies with rainbow flags, organize spectators to hold up protest signs, have kiss-ins on the streets of Sochi every day…that kind of thing. I think it would show solidarity with LGBT people who are living under this law in Russia all the time.

    Spectators who have no protection from these laws? I find it difficult to propose as the best solution one that requires people who are explicitly in danger of imprisonment under these laws to hold protest signs and have kiss-ins.

  12. says

    There is a difference between this and the Beijing, Berlin, Moscow, and LA Olympics. The difference being the host nation ITSELF and it’s security apparatus are threatening athletes, their families, and the fans. Not random rogue actors. THE STATE ITSELF.

    It’s not about legitimizing a government. In this case it is about the fact that the government of the host nation is violating the Olympic charter and the IOC doesn’t seem to care.

    In fact, the IOC is already showing its’ cards. They will likely crack down on any pro-gay demonstrations.

    I didn’t expect anyone to come to the defense of gays with so much money on the line. Particularly considering the law in Russia in question is the same attitude of the Anoka school district with all their dead gay teens. The same attitude that Tennessee and other southern states keep trying to put into law. Anything neutral or pro-gay needs to be quashed.

    I am, however disappointed in the IOC in actively, vocally deciding to take Russia’s side and will be an arm of the Russian authorities in oppressing the gay athletes and their allies.

  13. =8)-DX says

    @doubtthat #7

    4) I don’t like the “Olympics legitimized Hitler” argument. Is there a serious counterfactual holding that history plays out differently if the Olympics in Berlin were boycotted? Perhaps as small part of a worldwide effort to intervene in Germany prior to 1939, but on its own, the importance of those Olympics is drastically overstated

    Leni Riefenstahl’s film Olympia was one of a number of crucial pieces of art-propaganda that were intended to inspire young Germans to see themselves as heroes and paragons and thus make “victory” seem inevitable. Arguably an international boycott would have been effective as a political tool rather than any protests at the actual Olympics, since this film was carefully cut and choreographed to remove any footage showing Hitler in an even potentially negative light.

    The question shouldn’t be “would WWII have happened with a boycott of the Olympics?”, but “should the 2014 Olympics be a tool for legitimising bigotry and oppression like they were in 1936?” I think this kind of legitimising use goes against the basic principles of the Olympics, but then I admit that’s a rather naive view.

  14. =8)-DX says

    have kiss-ins on the streets of Sochi every day

    Except that police, bystander and neonazi violence are the result of these kinds of activities. I say have kiss-ins on the grounds of the olympics, among the athletes, in the crowd. Somewhere safe with olympics security around, or in the headlights – not on the streets or near Russian police.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    Much as I like and respect Fry, I’d rather listen to what LGBT athletes have to say, and the ones I’ve heard are eager to go. Like speed skater Blake Skjellerup;

    I believe in visibility. I believe it’s much more important to be there in Russia, to show our support for the LGBT people of Russia and to know that we are there, and we are in support of them, and that we’re doing our best, I guess, to try to make things better for them in their country.

  16. says

    Visibility is great. Except, again, there is no security there to protect the athletes who are visible. The IOC has already indicated they are going to be on Russia’s side, not on the athletes’ side. In which case, this is an extremely dangerous situation: the Olympic officials, Russian authorities, AND Russian citizenry are all out to get the gay-friendly participants.

    We all like to pretend that nothing bad will happen to those athletes. Who would dare do anything so visible? I wouldn’t take it for granted that they will be safe.

  17. Erin says

    Much as I like and respect Fry, I’d rather listen to what LGBT athletes have to say

    I’d rather listen to what LGBT Russians have to say. Course, not a lot of them are going to come forward.

  18. davehooke says

    I think perhaps the most pragmatic thing to promote would be activism by the athletes themselves. The Russian authorities will not take action against olympic athletes with the eyes of the world on them. I suggest a campaign to encourage athletes to carry the gay flag/wear a pin badge of it/wear a gay flag t-shirt for interviews (and perhaps medal ceremonies, if they can get away with it) as well as ending tv interviews /press conferences with a simple “support gay, lesbian and transgender rights!”. I know that not every athlete would take this up, but even a few would be highly newsworthy.

  19. Erin says

    @davehooke -

    The Olympic Committee has already said they won’t tolerate political activism by athletes.

  20. Trebuchet says

    Returning to the ways of the Czars? How about the USSR? I actually don’t know how the Soviets treated LGBT issues, and would be glad to learn, but the general authoritarianism of modern Russia is strikingly similar.

  21. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    @doubtthat

    You are missing the point. The point is that allowing the Olympics to take place in Berlin despite full knowledge of the Nazi partys political oppression of the Jews amounted to tacit approval of said oppression. Whether or not the absence of that tacit approval would have meant that the “Final Solution” never happened is an unanswerable question, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to posit that Hitler would have been confident of international approval because of said tacit approval. Fry’s point is that the IOC should not be lending tacit support to bigotry and oppression, especially as it directly contravenes their own stated philosophy. And he’s right.

  22. =8)-DX says

    @davehooke -

    The Olympic Committee has already said they won’t tolerate political activism by athletes.

    Although protesting a law is a political statement, “being gay” is not. Kissing someone you love, supporting diversity and equality through the rainbow flag – these are only political in the broader sense such as “voting while female”, “winning while black” …

    I don’t see how they could deport or disqualify any LGBTQ(-supporting) athlete for those things. Openly decrying Putin or Russia would be a political statement and inappropriate.

    Or is there some specific definition of “political activism” the Olympic Committee uses?

  23. doubtthat says

    @10 Gregory in Seattle

    1 – No, moving the games is one option. Given the way the IOC operates, it’s not a very likely option. It is by far the best option, I agree, but contingency plans will have to be made. In all likelihood it will come down to the question of whether to boycott or not.

    2 – I’m not convinced that the political fallout will be that enormous. It depends entirely on how many countries join up. If it’s the US and the usual suspects (Great Britain, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia), then we’re just back to the bi-polar universe. If France and Germany get on board, it would be stronger. Japan–Brazil and India don’t really do much in the Winter Games -would help things tremendously, but Russia continues to position itself in contrary positions to the US, and the countries they influence as well as China probably won’t give much of a rip about such a boycott.

    I’m not arguing that there will be no political fallout, but again, the 1980 boycott accomplished exactly nothing. Though the cause this time around is infinitely more noble, I don’t see much of a reason to suspect that a boycott would undermine Putin or reduce his influence around the world, and it could very well strengthen him in sensitive political areas. There may be other reasons to justify a boycott, but I haven’t seen a clear explanation of how it’s supposed to humiliate or undermine or weaken Putin.

    3 – Again, that probably won’t happen, so what do we do if it isn’t moved?

    4 – I’m confused here, it wasn’t me who made the analogy to Hitler. I think the argument that Fry presented, in essence, 1936 legitimized Hitler and his anti-semitism, by participating in the 2014 games, we risk doing the same with Putin, isn’t particularly strong.

    You’ve presented a much better case for boycott, but not the one made by Fry.

    5 – And again, I agree completely that this is the best possible alternative. It’s also the least plausible given the institutional inertia of the IOC and the fact that certain powerful countries including China probably won’t be on board. I will support any movement trying to relocate the games 100%, but Plan B has to be considered.

  24. evilDoug says

    The Olympic Committee has already said they won’t tolerate political activism by athletes.

    Hardly surprising that a bunch of old turds would not allow anything that would interfere with the double plus ultra giant big business of the adverlimpichs. The athletes must put their extraordinary privilege, which might actually in tiny part be used for something other than petty amusements, on hold for the duration.

  25. Draken says

    In fact, the IOC is already showing its’ cards. They will likely crack down on any pro-gay demonstrations.

    Because the IOC is a thinly-veiled fascist organisation.

  26. doubtthat says

    @26 Thumper; Atheist mate

    No, I didn’t miss the point. You’ve presented one half of Fry’s argument, the one excerpted in the OP, but he does make the argument that Hitler was empowered by the games:

    The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful Führer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.

    He’s making a pretty clear causal argument that Hitler used the momentum he gained from the olympics to commence WWII and the Holocaust. I don’t find that argument very compelling.

    The portion of the argument you’ve presented is much stronger, and I do agree with the sentiment. I felt that way about China, but again, I’m not convinced a boycott would be efficacious, but perhaps there are reasons for a boycott beyond it merely having a positive effect – simply taking a moral stance is important.

    The best historical comparisons we have were the boycott in 1980 and the protest in 1968. One is definitely more memorable, but was either particular effective? I really don’t know the answer nor how to really answer it. The Civil Rights Movement was already rolling by 1968, and the Soviet Union was already deteriorating by 1980. Both efforts seem more or less irrelevant from a causal perspective.

  27. doubtthat says

    The question shouldn’t be “would WWII have happened with a boycott of the Olympics?”, but “should the 2014 Olympics be a tool for legitimising bigotry and oppression like they were in 1936?”

    First, if you think Riefenstahl wouldn’t have been able to come up with a propaganda film absent all parties present, you’re dramatically underestimating her abilities. Hell, she managed to turn a series of political discussions with various unions into the most damaging propaganda film ever made. She also managed to edit out Jesse Owens, so I think she could have crafted a piece about the superiority of the Germans absent boycotting countries (look, they’re afraid to even compare themselves to the superior race…).

    I will also point out that a boycott by the US, England, France, and Russia, the same countries that Germany viewed as responsible for their humiliation after WWI, could have easily been spun by Hitler into a grievance that would have been equally rousing to the German people. Would the boycott have altered Germany’s relationship with Italy or Japan?

    But yes, whether efficacious or not, there is a damn good reason for the boycott. I hope I’m not implying that it shouldn’t be done or that it isn’t called for. I’m just considering all of the alternatives. Not all members of the LGBT community are pushing the boycott angle.

  28. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    @doubtthat

    I addressed that. You can’t say that a boycott would have meant the Final Solution was never carried out, that question is unanswerable. However I don’t think it’s unreasonable to posit that the tacit acceptance offered by the IOC at the time would have given Hitler the illusion of international acceptance of his policies, if not outright support.

    But still, whether or not it “caused” the holocaust is rather tangential, seing as we agree on the central issue.

  29. AsqJames says

    Hit them where it hurts?

    Individuals have no direct influence on the IOC. Politicians have very little either Politicians also know their electorate may feel strongly about this, but come election time, if voters remember this episode at all, it will be just one of many factors influencing their vote, and probably not one of the bigger ones at that.

    But broadcasters and advertisers pay $billions for the right to be associated with the games. That’s where the real influence over the IOC rests. And every one of those broadcasters and commercial companies advertising with them is in a competitive market where bad PR can be disastrous even over a short period of time.

    If you feel strongly about this, boycott the broadcasters who will be screening the games (NBC, BBC, CBC, etc) and write to them telling them why you will no longer watch their channel(s). If you’re insufficiently outraged to forego watching America’s Got Talent or Strictly Come Dancing, at least tell them you won’t watch a single minute of their expensively purchased and produced Winter Olympics coverage.

    NBC are projecting $800m in advertising sales for the Sochi games. Write to the advertisers and IOC “partners” (Coca-Cola, Atos, Dow, GE, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung and Visa, and any others you can identify) and vow to avoid their products wherever you can – let them know their $millions in advertising spend is going to backfire.

    Ask them all to use their influence with the IOC to get the games moved to a country which respects the Olympic ethos. Do not accept that they have no influence, it’s their money paying for the staging of the games.

  30. Erin says

    Although protesting a law is a political statement, “being gay” is not. Kissing someone you love, supporting diversity and equality through the rainbow flag – these are only political in the broader sense such as “voting while female”, “winning while black” …

    Exactly: they are politically in the “broader sense” of being political. There is no way, in our current world, for being openly gay to not be a political statement. That’s separate from the question of whether it should be.

    Openly decrying Putin or Russia would be a political statement and inappropriate.

    Why inappropriate? Not, of course, that being inappropriate in such a way is a bad thing anyway.

  31. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    I hope I’m not implying that it shouldn’t be done or that it isn’t called for.

    No, I didn’t think you were; apologies if it came across that way.

  32. doubtthat says

    @35 Thumper; Atheist mate

    Sure, I agree with the point you made, I just wanted to be clear that I was addressing an argument Fry presented.

    It’s important to be clear on the distinction between an action that is right for its effects, and one that’s simply the right thing to do. I think a boycott is 100% justified on the latter alone, but I’m not convinced on the former.

    I also see the potential problem of politicians in this country and around the world looking at Russia’s treatment of LGBT folks and saying, “Hey, we boycotted the olympics, what else do you want?”

    A boycott followed up with serious international consequences would be a powerful statement. I think Hitler’s Germany is a poor analogy, but apartheid South Africa may be better (even though they were far less imposing on the world stage than Russia). I suppose the hope is that if the international community is willing to take the dramatic step of initiating a boycott, then they can leverage that cooperation with the implied threat of further action to generate some actual structural change in Russia.

  33. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    @doubtthat

    I see; yes I think I agree with you. I very much doubt that a boycott would have Russia change its laws (assuming that’s what you mean by effects), however I still firmly support moving the Olympics for moral reasons.

    There is also the fact that the Olympics brings in a lot of money and tourism, which frankly Russia no longer deserves. That said, I too would like to see stronger international action taken against them, before they go the way of Uganda and Zimbabwe.

  34. doubtthat says

    @17 =8)-DX

    Got it wrong in my response (your post piqued my curiosity, was doing some reading). Owens does appear in Olympia–his long jump victory is documented.

    Depressingly, here’s what Owens had to say about Hitler:

    “Hitler didn’t snub me – it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.”

    FDR didn’t want to be seen with a black man in an election year. Owens said he was treated better in Germany than at home — which is of course not to argue that Nazi’s weren’t so bad, but to point out how astonishingly, insanely disgusting our nation’s very recent past was.

  35. rq says

    Trebuchet @25
    Considering the intolerance entrenched in society here (post-Soviet Eastern Bloc) and also the acceptance of Putin’s current policies (and him being ex-KGB and all…), I would have to make a wild guess that the USSR wasn’t particularly friendly to the LGBTQ community.
    Last year (I think?), a book about the stories of LGBT people during the Soviet regime was published. Basically, it was a lot of hiding and pretending and being scared, because back then, anything outside of the norm was suspicious and therefore punishable.

  36. busterggi says

    For practical purposes Russia hasn’t changed much for the average Russian since 1980, only the politically connected then have used faux-capitalism to get rich just as in the US.

  37. says

    n fact, the IOC is already showing its’ cards. They will likely crack down on any pro-gay demonstrations.

    I am so done with the IOC. The usual copyright rubbish at London was bad enough, but this is so much worse. Some commercialisation is inevitable, but the IOC have completely lost sight of what the Olympics are supposed to be about.

  38. says

    Trebuchet
    The USSR defined homosexuality as a mental illness. If you were lucky, you could get sent to a mental institution for being caught being a practicing homosexual. If you weren’t as lucky, you’d get branded a dissident on top of it, and disappear into the Gulags. Or just disappear.
    AsqJames

    If you feel strongly about this, boycott the broadcasters who will be screening the games (NBC, BBC, CBC, etc) and write to them telling them why you will no longer watch their channel(s).

    I would, only I don’t watch them anyway. This is a problem I often have with proposed boycotts.

  39. says

    It’s amusing how Obama tries to take the moral high ground and succeeds despite spying on millions of Americans (and also non-Americans). The members of his administration e.g. James Clapper have lied to the Congress and despite that all he does is demonize Snowden. In short, Obama is a hypocrite.

    Talking about gays, only years ago, in 1996, a supposed progressive preident Clinton signed DOMA into effect! Its section 3 was deemed unconstitutional only recently! It should be clear that we need to stop assuming that the US govt is morally superior because it is not. That is not to say that the Western culture isn’t superior to other cultures, but that the government has lost its credibility.

    Demanding a boycott of Winter Olympics in Russia, when our own government is violating the privacy of the whole world’s citizens (the criminality of which far outweighs oppression of gays in a single country) is reprehensible. And don’t tell me that one can do both, because that’s not happening.

  40. says

    That is not to say that the Western culture isn’t superior to other cultures [..]

    Excuse me? I think you might want to qualify that, or strike the second negative or something.

  41. says

    I think you might want to qualify that, or strike the second negative or something.

    No, I meant what I wrote. I don’t subscribe to relativism. Anyways, the point of my comment doesn’t change even if that particular sentence is removed.

  42. hyoid says

    One must keep the people riled up somehow. Mustn’t one? Any guesses on the percent of US Americans that agree with the Russian law in this instance? I’ll bet it’s greater than Tea-Party numbers.

  43. says

    Thanks for posting this. May I egregiously link to my own blog where I talked briefly about Fry’s and Takei’s posts? I’ll just put it down at the bottom.

    Mainly, I have been dismayed at not only the tepid response Putin’s violent, repressive policies have been receiving from the international community as whole, but to see so many of the same apathetic practicalities brought up every time some group is being targeted like this as excuses why we should do nothing.

    Fuck that noise. I am not the only person who hears the echo of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin in all of this, and I dearly hope that the rest of the world responds appropriately this time instead of letting things be for the sake of not stepping on someone’s toes. While a handful of identity groups are being arrested, raped, mutilated, and murdered with the explicit support and encouragement of the state. That’s people, who share certain characteristics, being violently persecuted en mass.

    We know what this is.

    Being a queer western subject (so-called, at least) myself, Putin’s actions frighten the piss out of me, but so do the attitudes of those who themselves have little reason to empathize with the victims–or at least not enough to be able to see around the expense of giving a damn. Yeah, it will cost. Right now, though, LGBTQ people in Russia are being extorted daily and to the point of having to surrender their lives. That is the price they pay for our inaction.

    I didn’t say much more then this in my blog, but I’m gonna link anyway: the historical record is skipping again. I cannot possibly articulate how important I think it is to address what is going on without equivocation.

  44. evilDoug says

    AsqJames reports “NBC are projecting $800m in advertising sales”.
    Ed’s Old News blog reports “The law specifies punishment for foreign citizens, to include fines of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,000 US)…”.

    Now, assuming the event runs for 16 days, 24 hours a day, and NBC’s ad revenue is distributed uniformly over that period, their ad revenue for one minute is sufficient to pay the fines for 11 people.

    It cost Torino about $3.6B (Wikipedia) to host the olympics (if those fuckers want a capital O they can damned well pay for it). One minute of that amount would pay the fines for 52 people. Or maybe do something useful, like pay for the education of hundreds and hundreds of kids in poor countries.

    Double plus extra giant gargantuan super huge big business. Piss on it.

  45. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    Why are the Olympics the go-to sanctions bucket in these cases?

  46. David Marjanović says

    Every participant in male figure skating.

    :-| Do I really need to explain why this isn’t even a good joke?

    “Trying?” They’re already there, co-opted state church and all. “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality.”

    And then there’s the Putin Youth, called Наши (“Ours”, plural). Judging from the documentaries I’ve seen about them, they’re a scary development.

    Although protesting a law is a political statement, “being gay” is not. Kissing someone you love, supporting diversity and equality through the rainbow flag – these are only political in the broader sense such as “voting while female”, “winning while black” …

    Being gay is a political statement in Russia, just like saying “today was the hottest day ever measured in Austria” is a political statement in the USA.

    Kooky, but true.

    Because the IOC is a thinly-veiled fascist organisation.

    Don’t know about fascist, but the tales of its decades-long corruption are epic. How exactly do you think Sochi, a really warm place to have winter olympics in, got the bid in the first place?

    FDR didn’t want to be seen with a black man in an election year.

    *epic facepalm*

  47. David Marjanović says

    Why are the Olympics the go-to sanctions bucket in these cases?

    They’re easiest, and they have the greatest effect on global public opinion – which is exactly why Putin wanted them so badly.

  48. maddog1129 says

    It was too much to hope that the IOC would stick by gay Olympic athletes. 20 or 30 years ago, maybe longer, they famously sued — and won — to prevent the Gay Olympics athletes from having any of their cachet.

  49. heliobates says

    I think that if the IOC is unwilling to make a principled stand, then we individuals should do it for them. I’m willing to publicly declare that I will not watch the games, buy paraphernalia, support the athletes directly, and will personally contact advertisers to tell them that I will not buy any of their products because of their support of international human rights violations.

    I’ve signed the Change.org petition. Maybe it’s time to start a Boycott Sochi Facebook page, or something?

  50. kevindorner says

    @Thumper: You’re welcome. :^)

    The petition is now over 110K signatures, and Stephen Fry is also now listed as a supporter (damn… he has 6M Twitter followers.)

    Like I’ll ever get through to him, but PZ may want to link it in the posting, so I’ll e-mail him.

  51. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    They’re easiest, and they have the greatest effect on global public opinion – which is exactly why Putin wanted them so badly.

    That seems reasonable. What if there were no relevant Olympic Games to use for leverage in this case? I guess I’m thinking that we need to demand more action on the part of our governments (in this case) than the obvious easy thing, rather than attempting to cajole the idiotic IOC or corporations to into doing something. It would hurt a bit for Russia to miss out on the extra income, and be something of a blow to Putin’s prestige (maybe), and the fact that the games moved would certainly reach into the minds of even the thickest viewers. But there should be something deeper, something more.

    Boycotting, as previously noted, does hurt the athletes who have already been constrained to the professional amateur competition circuit (including the Olympics). If the athletes decide to do that, then more power to them.

  52. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Apologies if anybody’s mentioned this, but comedian Adam Hills had a rant about this on his The Last Leg programme and started Twitter campaign to make Putin a gay icon. By the time the programme had finished ‘Putin # gay icon’ was all over the shop (I don’t do Twitter, so my terminology may be a little off).
    The funny thing is, Hills is supposed to be going to cover the Paralympics there. I’ve got a sneaky suspicion his visa will be denied (or, as he said himself, ‘I bet by the weekend I’ll be drinking polonium’).

  53. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    This is an utterly random aside, but can I say that the graphic on the petition of a pair of rainbow-striped matryoshka dolls behind barbed wire is amazing?

    I signed. But I really wish I had any hope of this working.

  54. prae says

    LOL Putin.
    Regarding that, he’s actually being democratic. He might be an evil dictator, but people in Russia do hate gays as well.

    I’ve seen a video by some russian activists once. They spoke about how bad the russian educational system is, how the youth has no future, and how the country is plagued by corruption, drug abuse and homosexuality, and they accused the government of being responsible for that.

    At that point I realised that Russia is a lost cause. It has nothing to do with Putin or whatever, it’s just how the people over there are. I’m glad I’m no longer living over there.

  55. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    It has nothing to do with Putin or whatever, it’s just how the people over there are

    It’s how the culture is over there. Culture can be changed, and the people changed as a result.

  56. prae says

    It’s how the culture is over there. Culture can be changed, and the people changed as a result.
    I doubt any of us will actually live to see that. Even if the next Tsar decides to change things, it will still take a looooong time.

    Also, I found the video in question. http://youtu.be/3nBowe3CMGU for russian-speaking people.

  57. vaiyt says

    The truth is, the IOC (and also FIFA, incidentally) doesn’t like democracy. That’s why they love hosting events in the likes of Qatar and China and Russia now, and why Sepp Blatter made an ass of himself in the recent Confederations Cup event by standing against the civil protests in Brazil.