A response to Katrina vanden Heuvel’s dreadful “gay Russia” oped

Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of the liberal magazine the Nation, had a rather odd op ed in the Washington Post this morning, criticizing the international gay community’s work to date in challenging Russia’s anti-gay crackdown.

I say “odd” because the piece was simply awful, and vanden Heuvel is anything but.

I’ve met Katrina a few times – over a long dinner at a mutual friend’s house, and also once while giving a presentation in her office in NYC.  I was, and remain, mightily impressed by her intellect, grace, and ability to communicate complex ideas in a manner that anyone can understand.  She’s one of the “good guys,” which is why I’m so perplexed that she could pen something so bad.

Photos of Stoli vodka dump at Russian consulate in NYC by ©Scott Wooledge.

Queer Nation/RUSA LGBT Russian vodka dump at Russian consulate in NYC by ©Scott Wooledge

First, let me say, that if I hear one more person tell me that the past month has been an abysmal failure, my head is going to explode.  The story of Russia’s horrific crackdown on its gay and trans citizens was next-to-nowhere on the western radar for at least two years now.  Sure, the gay blogs have written about it, and the NYT had an occasional story, but that was it.  Most straight people had never heard about the issue, most Olympic athletes had never voiced an opinion, and most governments were mum.

Then three things happened.

On July 21, 2013, Harvey Fierstein penned a blistering op ed about Russia in the New York Times.

On July 22, 2013, Matt Stopera at Buzzfeed posted 36 horrific photos of anti-LGBT violence in Russia.

And on July 24, 2013, Dan Savage called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

Harvey laid the kindling.  Matt lit the match.  And Dan poured the vodka and watched it explode into a grassroots and media frenzy, as Queer Nation, RUSA LGBT and others implemented the vodka boycott ground game that got us to where we are today.

As compared to the last two years, the last month has seen more news coverage on this issue, both domestic and international, than we’ve likely seen on any gay issue in the history of the world.

And that ain’t nothing.

Photos of Stoli vodka dump at Russian consulate in NYC by ©Scott Wooledge.

Queer Nation/RUSA LGBT Russian vodka dump at Russian consulate in NYC by ©Scott Wooledge

Not to mention, the very fact that our critics felt the need to, and were given permission to, criticize our effectiveness in the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post only goes to the prove the impact we’ve had.  Those papers don’t permit you to write about things that don’t matter and haven’t made an impact.

At the risk of repeating myself – but clearly, I must – the first stage in any activist campaign is getting noticed.  We can’t energize our grassroots ground-troops if we don’t educate them first.  And we can’t educate them unless we tick them off, while at the same time getting the attention of the traditional media, which then runs stories which further tick off the troops, and so on.  Harvey, Matt and Dan created a perfect storm of anger that got the attention of the media and the grassroots, finally putting this story on the map.

Blog coverage of the Russia gay story

Let’s look at blog coverage alone over the past three months.  Below are two graphs.  The first, a sort of light salmon colored graph, shows the instances of blogs mentioning the words “Russia” and “gay.”  The second graph, in navy blue, shows the instances of blogs mentioning the words “vodka” and “boycott.”

You can clearly see that in June the issue was simmering in the news, but it was only until Harvey (red vertical line), Matt (green vertical line) and Dan (yellow vertical line) weighed in that the issue exploded, and remained in the news consistently.


But let’s go further back than two months.  This crackdown has been going on for a few years now.  So here is the incidence of Google searches on the words “Russia” and “gay” over the past three years (from January of 2011 to today):


As you can see the story blipped up in the news significantly perhaps five times over the two-and-a-half year period before this past month’s explosive coverage.

So let’s put to rest this rather bizarre discussion of how well everything was going on this issue until the “boycott” campaign kicked in.

Now, let me walk through vanden Heuvel’s other major concerns, which included quoting the top 3 stories that were critical of our campaign, yet quoting none that praised it.

We have 34 Russians already working on our campaign, and they say it’s working

Here’s vanden Heuvel:

Yet it’s not all that clear whether today’s clamor, however well-intentioned, will improve the lives and human rights of gay people in Russia.

Well, it’s only been 30 days.  I’m not sure of any campaign to influence a government that expects total victory in one month, let alone one directed at a former KGB head.  But beyond that – no, it’s not clear if we’ll win.  So we should quit?

Vanden Heuvel goes on to say she wants a “more strategic response,” but never explains what that more strategic response looks like.

Reform within Russia is already an uphill battle, yet it will become downright Sisyphean if waged from outside without a careful understanding of that country’s social and cultural history.

masha-gessenYes, it would be good to be working with people who understand Russia’s social and cultural history.  That’s why we already are, and have been, from day one.  The campaign includes nearly three dozen Russian LGBT activists – including journalist and activist Masha Gessen, who recently authored a critically-acclaimed book about Vladimir Putin – and Russian LGBT group “RUSA LGBT,” a group of mostly Russian emigres headed by Yelena Goltsman, who is also a Russian emigre.

And one of those Russians, Masha Gessen, has already said that pressure from the West can make an important difference inside Russia.  Here’s my earlier reporting on Masha’s appearance on the Chris Hayes show on MSNBC:

Masha goes on to say that the reason Russia was able to move so quickly in the direction of homophobia is because no one was watching, the world didn’t pay attention.  Russia figured it could scapegoat gays and get away with it.  And it’s been a big surprise to the Russian authorities that we’ve fought back, and “it’s making them squirm,” she says.

“They’ve really squirmed,” Masha says, about Russia’s position on the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia next February. The Olympics are a big deal for Putin, Masha says, he personally lobbied for them, they’re his big international moment.  He wants the Olympics to go off without a hitch.

Masha adds: “As long as the pressure is on, it’s not going to make them reconsider those laws. But it will possibly make them dial back the campaign of hate, and it can prevent the passage of further laws, including the law on removing children from same-sex families.”

So now those arguments fall too.  (Though I’m increasingly puzzled as to where vanden Heuvel got her information from.  She’s smarter than this.)

Blaming the victim isn’t a strategy for success

Vanden Heuvel then gets into the question of whether gays fighting back against Russia’s horrific crackdown is a “blessing” for Vladimir Putin, who wants to use gays, and westerners, as his personal whipping-boys in order to rally his base of support at home.

First off, yes, we were all already aware of why Putin is doing this, and that by fighting back we temporarily let him pull an “aha!” on us.  So what exactly is being suggested as an alternative?  Doing nothing, apparently.  I’m not sure that’s terribly helpful advice for people facing an imminent pogrom.  And in fact, as Eric Sasson wrote in the New Republic recently, it also smacks of blaming the victim:

Russian vigilantes show off a young gay boy they claim to have abducted and then doused with urine after entrapping him via a gay social media site. Reports from Russia suggest the boy may now be dead.

Russian vigilantes show off a young gay boy they claim to have abducted and then doused with urine after entrapping him via a gay social media site. Reports from Russia suggest the boy may now be dead.

This does not mean the calls for boycotts are useless. Labeling justifiable outrage and calls for justice as useless and counterproductive smacks of blaming the victim. It’s not our calls for boycotts that may cause an increase in violence against the LGBT community in Russia, but rather the law which Putin signed in July—a law that has, in effect, codified Russian homophobia and stripped the Russian citizens of the one way that they could ever expect to effectively combat it.

Next, vanden Heuvel says both an Olympic boycott and a vodka boycott are unproductive.  First, both of them put this issue on the map, and got her to write about it in the Washington Post – when it was getting next to no coverage before – so I think both have already worked in achieving their actual goal: publicity.  Second, again I ask, what’s the alternative?

Vanden Heuvel continues with the staid talking point about Stolichnaya supposedly being a Latvian company. It’s not. Stoli is made in Russia and then bottled in Latvia. Even Stoli says that the bottling in Latvia doesn’t stop their vodka from being Russian, so I think we’ll have to go with Stoli on this one. Here’s Dan Savage quoting Stoli itself:

“And what I really objected to in your coverage on Monday night is you said I called for a boycott of ‘Stoli, which is actually a Latvian vodka.’ Which is Stoli’s argument right now. They’re out there pushing that lie, and if I could read you something really briefly which is, Stolichnaya’s distributor in 2008 to Vanity Fair [said], ‘Stolichnaya as it is sold outside Russia is distilled in Russia and moved from Russia to Latvia where it’s put in bottles. There is nothing added, nothing taken away, no additions, no subtractions from the product that leaves Russia. Stolichnaya is the original authentic genuine Russian vodka brand made with genuine authentic Russia vodka from Russia.’ Period. That’s Stoli talking about Stoli, so it’s a legitimate target of a boycott.”

Another talking point down.

But again, I ask: Who is she getting these talking points from?

And now to vanden Heuvel’s final point:

Trans woman brutally beaten by Russian vigilantes, who filmed the attack and then posted it online.

Trans woman brutally beaten by Russian vigilantes, who filmed the attack and then posted it online.

But in our rush to deplore this horrible anti-gay law, are we asking the right questions? Perhaps a fundamental one, as blogger Mark Adomanis asked, is: “What do you say to ‘be heard’ in a country with a culture that is very different from America’s?”

Doesn’t a truly effective fight for LGBT rights need to be waged in Russia by Russians?

A few things.

One, anyone who actually read Adomanis’ blog post, likely wouldn’t be quoting it. It’s classic Forbes conservative disinformation.

Two, the suggestion that Russians somehow differ from all other human beings on the planet, strikes me as marginally racist.

And, by the way, you know who else has a “a culture that is very different from America’s”?  Everyone.  Arabs. And Muslims. And Africans. And Latin Americans. And Asians. So let’s stop fighting for human rights, for women’s rights, for racial equality, for gay and trans rights, for worker’s rights and for immigrant rights around the world – since all those battles face the same cultural obstacles. Right?

Three, Forbes’ Adomanis worries about how we’ll ever get our message heard.  The thing is, we’ve already been heard – ask Masha.  Ask the various Russian leaders who have been forced to repeatedly respond to the increasingly sour media that Vladimir Putin’s star-achievement, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is now getting worldwide.  That’s not to suggest that the campaign is over, or has achieved its objectives.  But to suggest that we haven’t been heard, after we got the President of the United States to weigh in, at least three times now, is disingenuous at best.

Four, Russians have been our partners in this campaign from day one. But just as importantly, the issue languished for years until last month when our “ineffective” and “counter-productive” campaign was launched, and then all hell broke loose. If this is failure, give me more of it.

As Alexander Abad-Santos wrote in the Atlantic a few weeks ago, “the Russian vodka boycott is working, whether you like it or not.”  I just wish our allies would stop sniping at us, and start actually helping. In the end, that’s what would do the most to help gay and trans people under siege in Russia.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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215 Responses to “A response to Katrina vanden Heuvel’s dreadful “gay Russia” oped”

  1. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    I’m grateful the Russians took Snowden in. Snowden is a great patriot who has done much good.

  2. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” – Will Rogers

  3. Wilberforce says:

    It’s typical for left leaders to praise each other no matter the circumstances. It’s how they stay in the club, the reason we get such mediocrity, and the reason we so often loose.
    But vandel Heuvel is a beast, a traitor who helped to put Bush in office.
    I don’t care about your dinner chat, or whether she likes cats. We’ve got a bit of a recession going on, which she helped to cause. Perhaps you’ve noticed?
    If she is so smart, how could she not know the rules of the two party system, or the basics of third grade arithmetic. I think she even went to an elite University like Harvard.The answer is that she does know but is a corrupt player in the left elite. Like Michael Moore and others. The only way I would have dinner with that beast is so I could tell her off.

  4. Anonymous says:

    He’s gotten worse in the last 12 hours. Maybe he has psychological problems? Schizophrenia?

  5. samizdat says:

    Don’t you mean the Clinton/Bush/Drone-bama ticket?

  6. thank :) That’s what happens when you work all day and don’t go out and enjoy the beautiful city you’re in :)

  7. Why didn’t you bring the dogs with?

  8. I think he’s done some amazing things. But if this is really him, then his time has passed. I know how hard it is to do this kind of work, because no one really supports you. Yes, you get nice emails from time to time, but you get far more hateful ones, probably more often. You get criticized publicly. People question your scruples, your motivations, they all think you’re getting rich when you’re struggling to pay the mortgage every single month, they think you’re getting paid every time you go on tv when you’re not, they think all the ads on your web site mean you’re getting paid a gazillion dollars a month when it’s often not enough to even pay your mortgage, etc. Oh and all the groups get lots of money from Soros and the rest, and you never, ever will see a dime. Ever. It’s pretty thankless work. Add to that living under a virtual police state, and the real threat (and reality) of physical violence, and I can only imagine – or really, I can’t imagine – what that might be like.

    But if it’s really he who wrote the horrible things that were written in his name these past two weeks, then it’s time for him to move on.

  9. Damn it, Wilber, you’ve discovered me. Rather than being a 2,000-word essay in which I pretty much excoriate the woman, you’ve uncovered that this is really a secret paean to my high priestess of evil. Bwah ha ha ha ha ha! (That was an evil cackle, just fyi – we surreptitious sell outs have lots of those. IN addition to secret AIDS rings. And I hate cats.)

  10. tamarz says:

    It’s horrible that the IOC is doing this — something I didn’t know. (we were away most of August and I’m just catching up on current events now).

  11. Or perhaps he knows her, to a degree more than most reading this article, since he did have dinner with her, and then did a presentation at her office, in addition to following her work online and on TV for years, and he’s actually impressed that she’s a smart cookie and often quite helpful on progressive issues we all care about.

    And I think she hates cats.

  12. koralroget7yq says:

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kAgk

    I guess the Paris interlude days are over for a while.

  13. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    I guess I should repeat this here. If you haven’t seen the film Amazing Grace and Chuck, rent it or stream it at Amazon. It’s about an athlete who refuses to play his sport in protest and what happens as a result. It stars Gregory Peck and Jamie Lee Curtis and is well worth your time – especially with the Olympic controversy.

  14. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    The movie to watch is Amazing Grace and Chuck which is actually about an athlete who refuses to play his sport as a protest and what happens as a result. The actors, including Gregory Peck and Jamie Lee Curtis worked for free or for scale to get this movie made because they thought it made a powerful statement.

  15. BloggerDave says:

    Given that both males and females are susceptible to daddy issues, your “sexist observation” is merely your heterocentric assumption that daddy issues are only applicable to females…

  16. Anonymous says:

    Here’s his official statement on Facebook:

    “My 72 years old mum was in terrible condition yesterday after this pogrom in the flat. She has a pension of 400 USD per month. She lost her husband and my dad who died without any medical help from anyone here in Russia. Police even confiscated her old Dell computer. How can someone have no respect at least for her? I am totally outraged and shocked. You want me to stop all my activism? I will, no problem. I never got any money from anyone. I think you will find better activists. But to be called Putin’s envoy will be an insult to me, my mum and the remembrance of my dad. I am tired of that. You won. Fight for gay rights in Russia from
    anywhere in the world. I don’t want it anymore.”

    Since the video shows the damage to the house, I believe it. The police are against him now and he can’t take the stress

  17. BeccaM says:

    Yeah, a sane person doesn’t post stuff like this:

  18. Rob Dowdy says:

    Maybe we should have all the athletes sit down and watch Spartacus before the games (the 1960 movie, not the Starz show with naked Xena).

    As for an appropriate gesture for Putin and his ilk, I’m reminded of the scene from Braveheart where the battle lines are drawn, bloodshed is imminent, and all the Scots turn around, lift their kilts, and waggle their manly backsides at the enemy.

    But that might be a bit overt.

  19. Rob Dowdy says:

    Yes, the Bush/Cheney/Nader ticket did amazing things for this nation. Amazing things.

  20. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Sad but true. Don’t forget what Will Rogers said.

  21. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    A bitch to clean up? The snow would just melt in the spring. Need to be sure we use environmentally friendly, biodegradable dye!

  22. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:


  23. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Actually, I think that if we push really hard on the IOC and they refuse to budge, that will sufficiently outrage a fairly large number of athletes that they will speak out at Sochi.

    There is safety in numbers for the athletes. I don’t know if I would have the courage to be the only athlete to speak out, but if 20, 30, or more did so, the IOC wouldn’t be able to sanction them because the backlash against the IOC would be too great.

    I can potentially see the possibility that one athlete speaks out and gets sanctioned and that outrages a number of athletes who then decide to speak out in protest of the LGBTI stuff and to support the outrageous treatment of a fellow athlete.

    What we need is a hand gesture that athletes could make. Stephen Fry has proposed crossing your hands across your chest. Personally, I’d like something more confrontational, like making a circle with the thumb and index finger on one hand and then moving the index finger of your other hand in and out. Yes, I’m suggesting a sexually-oriented gesture.

  24. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Thanks for that.

  25. karmanot says:

    Exactly, her support of Nader was spot on—enough said.

  26. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    I tweeted support for Alexeyev today on the basis of what he has done and the likelihood that he’s under duress.

  27. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    For that to happen, IOC must back off of their promise to sanction any athlete who speaks out, throw them of their team, revoke their medals, and send them home.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Either they are a concern troll or like Katrina van H they have this pedantic agenda.

  29. Anonymous says:

    It was off-topic in the grand scheme of things, and yes you have the freedom to post, but it would distract with an argument. And btw I don’t disagree with your original statement.

  30. Rob Dowdy says:

    Yes, because we must brutalize or at the very least excoriate everyone with whom we disagree. That’s the best way to bring them and their cohorts around to our way of thinking.

  31. Skeptical Cicada says:

    No apology necessary. Glad we settled it. Sorry to hear the news was getting to you.

  32. Skeptical Cicada says:

    More likely, he sees her as an important player in new media and doesn’t want to offend her for self-interested reasons. He still managed a tough criticism of her column.

  33. Rob Dowdy says:

    Well of course they can, and then — following your own logic — I can express my disagreement, which they may further choose to disagree with.

    Or are you saying that “people” are free to say anything they like, with which I disagree, but I then am not free to say anything I like in expressing my disagreement? In other words, everyone has freedom of speech BUT me?

    I feel so special!

  34. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Uh, I forgot about her Nader support. That’s really enough said.

  35. Anonymous says:

    It’s a widely used expression in our society. Instead of attacking it on here hoping to bring about a change, why not do that on the proper forum? People on here can say things you don’t agree with

  36. Anonymous says:

    Even if she’s nice, she obviously has some idealistic agenda and went off the deep end. Not surprised she supported Nader. She probably doesn’t have an “anti” agenda, but a useless one, maybe even apolitical

  37. Anonymous says:

    Yeah there is no excuse for the “hit” comment, he’s crazy period, but I guess I just believe he has good intentions. Also Russians are still misinformed about the West, apparently they really think Snowden is the top priority here. I was told this in a message from a Russian on here

  38. Wilberforce says:

    Aravosis thinks vanden Heuvel is so wonderful, which is typical of the corrupt left elite. He’s impressed by her intellect and grace. Please. He must have forgotten that The Nation while she was editor stumped nonstop for Nader, which put Bush into the White House for eight years.
    Yeah. She’s a real saint.

  39. tamarz says:

    it’s what the tobacco companies did also. Can’t sell your product in America (whether it be a killer drug or a killer bigotry), find fertile ground elsewhere.

  40. tamarz says:

    well, we know that many of the leaders of anti-gay bigotry moved on to work in Africa (because they were losing here). So it wouldn’t be surprising if they were working their “magic” in Russia also.

  41. tamarz says:

    I think a boycott of the Olympics would be less effective than protests, statements, activism by gay and straight Olympic athletes while they are in Russia; and support for gay rights by people attending the Olympics. That would get much more media attention than a boycott, and also attention within Russia. It would be good for conservative Russians to see people they admire and respect advocating for gay rights.

  42. Rob Dowdy says:

    It’s funny you should say that. I’ve been thinking about dogs a lot lately since it was National Dog Day a couple days ago and my partner and I left our two Corgis with my parents when we moved to Australia for his job. Haven’t seen them in six months and miss them terribly, so, you know, thanks for the reminder!

    I kid, I kid. The work you do here is amazing and is one of the things I depend on every day to make me feel connected to what’s going on back home.

    So, thanks, and know it’s appreciated!

  43. LOL maybe you did. I deal with so many critiques and feedback, that sometimes I find myself responding to the collective criticism, or feedback, more than the individual comment itself. So I might have misinterpreted.

  44. Yikes, I missed all of that. Anyway, glad we all got this settle. Go out and hug puppy :)

  45. Maybe. But when I worked on the Hill, on gay stuff, we employed a technique we called spousal lobbying to get to members of congress via their wives (don’t think we had any husbands). It also worked with other famous people off the HIll – we worked their wives all the time, and it worked. So it may be sexist to wonder if someone’s spouse got to them, depending on why you’re suggesting it, but it’s not necessarily inaccurate.

  46. I thought the RT article was hideous, and incredibly damaging to the lgbt community. Though, again, I still wonder if any of this is really him. But if it is, it was awful what he wrote. Accusing Russian gays of faking persecution to get into the US, and that the US should turn them down because gays aren’t persecuted in Russia? Accusing everyone in the West who is concerned about this issue of being hypocrites and lairs who only care about this because we’re angry about Edward Snowden and hate the Russians, and still think they’re Soviets, so that’s why we’re all writing about this? That’s not complex. It’s not even controversial. It’s f’d up. And threatening to put a hit out on Michael Lewis? I still want to know if it’s really him, and/or if he’s under duress. But if he’s not under duress, if this is really him, then this whole episode over the past week was beyond the pale.

  47. The entire thing is very odd. It’s really not clear if this is him, if this is the Russians trying to smear him, or what. This meltdown, whether real of fake, began last week. I chose not to write about it, but it was out there. it started on Twitter and Facebook, and was bad. Then his FB page deleted. Then “he” went on Twitter and said he was all right, then started posting more nasty things attacking people in the west generally who were concerned about the Russian gay issue, claiming that russian gays aren’t threatened, that they’re lying about being persecuted in order to falsely get asylum in the west, that the propaganda law would never be implemented, etc. It was very weird. Then, “he” penned an op ed for Russia Today, the Kremlin propaganda organ, that was just hideous. That’s when Michael Lucas finally wrote the piece in Out. And if all of these Tweets and Facebook posts and the op ed were really him, then he walked into the buzzsaw willingly. Interestingly, he did pop in a Reuters video about his apartment being raided by the police on Tuesday, she he is alive. But the video doesn’t prove either way if he’s actin under duress or not.

  48. Thanks Luigi. It’s funny what you said, because a friend once told me, a former-republican friend, that Democrats will look at ten proposals for political projects and pick the one they think is best, then fund it, and if it fails, they’ll declare the entire thing a failure and never fund anything again. Republicans will split up the money, fund all ten projects, and then if one succeeds, declare all the money well spent. What you wrote about worrying so much about whether each project will succeed made me think of that :)

  49. Rob Dowdy says:

    You’re right. I think I just read too much depressing stuff this morning (came here after reading about the Chinese kid who’s eyes were cut out of his head, and the anti-gay flyers being posted about Gabby Gifford’s aid, and NM Sen Sharer saying gays should stop “whoring” and marry women and … you get the point). And then I saw that comment just dismissing everything out of hand, him calling her husband her “daddy,” and it pissed me off and so I had my little rant.

    You’re absolutely right, here and elsewhere in the thread, and I apologize.

  50. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I was referring to the twitter meltdown, including his threat to murder Michael Lucas.

  51. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I didn’t say it was acceptable or useful. I didn’t say anything about it at all. In fact, I chose to say nothing for two reasons.

    First, what I think is not useful is a shouting match within the gay community over how nicely or badly to treat a heterosexual intruder who is on a mission to shut down our activism and dictate a strategy that is more to her liking–her biased liking, it would seem.

    Second, I find her patronizing effort to dictate our strategy to be presumptuously homophobic and disrespectful, so I’m not falling all over myself to worry about whether some gay retort to her was sexist. Let her feel a little insensitive blowback for her insensitive crusade. If she objects to sexism, she can be asked to shelve her homophobia.

  52. Rob Dowdy says:

    Oh no, I wasn’t referring to you specifically, but look around the Internet. There are lots of people saying that if gay athletes go participate quietly, if they stay in the closet, it’s some sort of betrayal. And maybe it is, but people need to think about what this competition means. Training for an Olympic sport is not like being on the corporate softball team or in a bowling league, it is their entire lives they are being asked to give up.

    Either that or they’re being asked to upend their entire lives and maybe get arrested to make a (very important) political statement. It is sad that they can’t just go do what they have worked so hard to do.

  53. Anonymous says:

    I read his RT article. What is the big deal? Do people really think the most logical explanation is that he has turned into a pawn? His argument is obviously very long and complex with good points, and controversial ones. He says the anti-gay laws will continue to be fought. He’s a somewhat zany guy, but he didn’t try to write propaganda. He was misunderstood. I must also point out the hypocrisy of Michael Lucas being an “armchair activist” who says Alexeyev isn’t doing enough…

  54. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Absolutely, it is unfair that the the IOC has put Olympic athletes in this position, but sometimes personal sacrifice is required. If you’ve never seen it, watch the film “Amazing Grace and Chuck”.

    Not sure what you mean by, ” and then being told you’re a traitor to your kind” I’m talking about EVERYONE who participates, not just LGBTI people.

    By the way, “traitor” is your word, not mine.

  55. Rob Dowdy says:

    If I had read this sooner it would have saved me some trouble up the thread a ways … Thank you.

  56. Rob Dowdy says:

    It’s not a position I’d want to be in, that’s for sure. Imagine dedicating your entire life to training for something for many years, working your body harder than most people can even comprehend to become the absolute best at something you love, and then being told you’re a traitor to your kind if you put all that hard work to use. It’s so disgustingly unfair.

  57. Skeptical Cicada says:

    He’s having a serious meltdown. https://twitter.com/n_alexeyev

  58. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Given that the IOC says they will sanction any athlete who speaks out, each athlete has to decide for him or herself to either go, take action and risk getting sanctioned; or stay home. Going to Sochi, competing, and keeping your mouth shut is implicit approval of the Russian LGBTI pogrom and of the IOC’s own bigotry and cowardice.

  59. Rob Dowdy says:

    Also, thank you for explaining all that about her past and affiliations, I wasn’t aware and it does seem a bit too pat, just how thorough she was in her article at parroting all the “right” talking points.

  60. Rob Dowdy says:

    Perhaps I oversimplified or misinterpreted, which I tried to clarify below, though I don’t know if I did a very good job. But I tried to do it calmly and rationally. Why are you so angry?

  61. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Yup. I’ve chained myself to the desks in a pharmaceutical company’s headquarters, laid in the street in front of the White House while my friend drew a body outline around me in chalk, marched down 5th Avenue in NYC when the police told us we couldn’t, been tear-gassed in DC, outed closeted gay elected officials, had death threat on my life, and even been arrested on an occasion or three.

    That’s what you do to get attention focused. Most of the above was LGBT, but some of it was for black civil rights and against Vietnam War.

  62. Rob Dowdy says:

    She laid out a list of well-reasoned ideas that he found objectionable so he essentially said, “That’s what some man told you to say, so shut up, you stupid, mindless bit of female genitalia.”

    That’s not activism, it’s misogyny. That’s not discourse. It does nothing to foster or further debate.

    She didn’t “attack” anyone, she attacked ideas and notions with other ideas and notions. He attacked her person, not her ideas. How can you feel that is acceptable or useful?

  63. Rob Dowdy says:

    I agree, but if you re-read your original post you almost make it sound as if we should refuse to engage the cruelty for fear of getting hurt, that we should be the pretty girl who never goes out to have a night on the town for fear of being raped. That’s no way to live. We should strive to create a world where she can go out safely, but until then we have to acknowledge that we aren’t there yet. But just sitting home being quietly afraid is not the answer.

    Sometimes you have to be the one to get a bloody nose so that the world can see what a bloody nose looks like and realize they don’t like it.

    I’m not sure how to explain it, and now I don’t feel I’m making myself clear, but the tone of your post just didn’t sit right with me, it sounded like appeasement disguised as concern, so I think it’s a case of us not communicating (to each other) exactly what we mean, although we more or less agree. Judging from the replies to your post below mine I think I wasn’t the only one …

  64. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. We’ve all taken a feminist theory course. Get that chip off your shoulder.

    Your analogy doesn’t even make sense. The feminist objection in your scenario is to blaming the victimized woman for her own assault. The feminist objection is not about whether other people who enable the attacks should also share in some blame. In fact, much of feminist theory is devoted to criticizing the other forces that enable the assaults. I’m not aware of any feminist theorist who would say the only person who should be blamed for the rape is the rapist himself. If you don’t even understand the feminist theory you’re hawking, maybe you shouldn’t be smugly “correcting” people.

  65. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Get off your sanctimonious high horse. This is no abstract debate. This is activism, She has made herself the anti-activist by running about attacking anybody proposing a boycott and trying to shut down that movement. If you think this is all an intellectual exercise, check out some photos of brutalized Russian gays.

    Her rhetoric on this subject, moreover, has always had an odd hypersensitivity toward criticisms of Russia. While she was busily presenting herself as just a concerned straight liberal with no particular stake in the matter, that wasn’t true. That was posturing. So it’s hardly any surprise that we’d discover that she’s married to a Russian expert who is a rabid Putin apologist, whose defense of Putin she promotes in her own publication. We now see a fuller picture of her as not merely taking an intellectual interest in the matter. We’re starting to understand that there’s more to her agenda that rational discourse and see why her rhetoric has had a weird tone of wistfulness for the Soviet Union.

  66. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Yeah, that would really shove it in the faces of the bigots wouldn’t it?

  67. Anonymous says:

    What is going on? His Twitter is blowing up right now. He says he wants to sue Out.com for damages and he is quitting gay activism “because of the article.” Wtf?

  68. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    I thought I was adding credence to what you wrote.

  69. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    If you participate at #Sochi2014, you are putting a stamp of approval on Russia’s anti-gay pogrom – just like the IOC has done by telling athletes that if they speak out for LGBTI rights while in Russia, they’ll be thrown off their team, have their medals revoked, and sent home. If that’s not approval of Russian hate, nothing is.

  70. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Aravosis has some credibility on boycotts: http://stopdrlaura.com/

  71. Skeptical Cicada says:

    You’d be more persuasive if you spared us the intelligence-insulting spin.

    The Russian law is not like any law enforced in any U.S. state because the freedom to express unpopular ideas is guaranteed by the First Amendment. If you’re referring to criminal sodomy laws, the vast majority of those (along with fornication laws) applied to straight sex as well as gay sex. Moreover, they were virtually never enforced against private consensual sex–and the lack of enforcement was one factor cited by the Supreme Court in striking down the last remaining ones.

    Nor is the Russian law remotely comparable to Section 28 in Britain, which was a regulation of what government-run schools could say to children.

    Your grasping pathetically at nonexistent analogies.

  72. Rob Dowdy says:

    That is an incredibly offensive and sexist observation that poisons the discussion.

    It reduces a complex human being no different from yourself, who may be quite misguided in this instance on this issue, to a simpering vagina doing whatever her big, strong penis tells her to do.

    I strongly disagree with her on the substance of the issue, but I fully credit her ability to assess the same evidence as me and come to a conclusion quite different from mine but fully as credible and reasoned. That is the basis of discourse. Done correctly, everyone learns something even if all sides ultimately choose to part in disagreement.

    I don’t need to make acerbic comments on her personal circumstances or reduce her to a vapid caricature of her sex in order to respond to her and neither do you.

  73. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Maybe your next alias should be “No one,” as in no one is persuaded by your apologist trolling for Putin.

  74. Rob Dowdy says:

    What is happening in Russia right now is far beyond an erosion of rights. It’s the declaration of a hunting season.

    There’s a lot of ground between “Should gays be able to get married? Adopt? Be safe from being fired for being gay?” and “Should they be able to walk around in broad daylight in the presence of normal humans without punishment? Should they be humiliated, urinated on, jailed, or beaten to death?”

    Gay people are being publicly, openly savaged in Russia, essentially at the urging of the Russian political and religious establishments. I would like to think we are beyond that in the US.

  75. Rob Dowdy says:

    Yeah, we should all be more aware of cultural differences and how what we feel here to be just and proper isn’t the only just and proper way.

    I mean, look at Iran. We should be more mindful that jailing/beating/killing rape victims isn’t EVIL, right? Or that publicly humiliating and hanging young gay men in the town square is not a sign of a twisted, violent, systemic societal disease, it’s really just a little quirk of the Iranian culture. It’s something to be quietly frowned upon, sure, but let’s keep in mind that they aren’t American and who are we to say that they are wrong! Their culture is different, that’s all, and we should couch our criticisms in the proper amount of respect and deference to the proud, ancient traditions that make acceptable to Iranian culture the public shaming and physical assault of rape victims and the public execution of homosexuals.

    And don’t even get me started on that whole ridiculous War of Northern Aggression!

  76. Rob Dowdy says:

    No, the backwards cretins who do violence to others will have blood on their hands.

    What you are suggesting is no different than saying pretty girls shouldn’t go to nightclubs because they’re probably going to be sexually assaulted. And then doesn’t the designer of that pretty little red dress that makes her so alluring now have blood on his hands? The bartender who served the drinks to her assailant? The cab driver who drove him to the bar?

  77. Ouch. The sad thing is, I watched the Twitter and Facebook meltdown. And it wasn’t pretty. And that Russia Today piece mentioned in the article could have been written by Jerry Falwell, it was so hateful, and anti-gay.


    Nikolai Alexeyev: The Kremlin’s New Pocket Gay


    “…This week, the “new” Alexeyev published a long piece in the Russian Times that is full of misdirection, anti-Western smears and outright lies. “Russia’s ‘horrific laws,’ which are being used by a growing number of Russians to secure asylum and a better life in the West, are actually rarely applied,” he argues. The West should stay out of Russia’s business and patiently let the situation play itself out. Russia, he insists, will surely bow to the international court decisions that have declared its laws illegal — even though the most odiously antigay Russian national laws (against so-called “gay propaganda” and against adoption of Russian children by anyone in countries where gay marriage is legal) were passed just months ago, in complete defiance of those same court decisions.”

    Alexeyev also tries to discredit other prominent Russian activists, such as journalist Masha Gessen, accusing them of “claiming that the Russian authorities are taking children from their homosexual parents, which of course has nothing to do with reality.” In fact, as he well knows, it has everything to do with reality: Russian lawmaker Yelena Mizulina, who chairs the Duma’s Committee on Family, Women and Children, has openly stated that the Russian parliament is “looking into the possibility of creating a legal basis for taking children out of families that are de facto gay marriages.”

    Having spent years seeking foreign interest in his cause, Alexeyev now says foreigners are an intrusion on Russia. Having bragged continually of his many interviews in the Western media, and built a large part of his career on them, he now rails against that same Western media. Once the most vociferous public opponent of Russia’s ugly antigay laws, he now says their dangers have been exaggerated by “the West.” It is indeed a remarkable change.


    It could not be clearer to me that the Kremlin is up to its old tricks — and that somehow, it has gotten to Alexeyev.

    We can’t know for certain how exactly that happened. Perhaps he was threatened: Mizulina and another Duma member have brought criminal charges against him for nasty remarks he made on Twitter, and he was officially interrogated on August 14. (Mizulina, somewhat ominously, said that she hoped his punishment would be served “somewhere where he can’t be involved in gay propaganda, like in a morgue van.”)

    Or perhaps he was simply bought off. It is amazing, in modern Russia, what money can buy.

    But in the end, it doesn’t matter why Alexeyev has betrayed his former cause. It matters only that everyone now knows he can no longer be trusted as an advocate for LGBT Russians. Stick a sickle in him: He’s done. The Anti-Zionist Committee didn’t work, and neither will this latest Kremlin subterfuge.”

  78. Badgerite says:

    Well, it is a very good post.

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  80. BeccaM says:

    What “reeks of prejudice and xenophobia” is the Russian government’s irrational anti-gay pogrom. A pogrom motivated as it has been in public statements by government officials and in the Russian media by outright lies about sexual orientation and what it means to be gay, lesbian, or transgendered. Not to mention how often Russian leaders refer — either directly or obliquely — as homosexuality as something coming from the West, akin to a social disease, and not at all an intrinsic human condition. Gays are not pedophiles, yet this is the lie coming out of the mouths of Russian leaders every single day.

    Lesbians, gays, and transgendered Russians can’t have their rights “set back years” because at present they have no rights. With what’s being proposed — government-sponsored sexual orientation reparative therapy, proposals openly floated to take children away from gay and lesbian families — the momentum is already hurtling headlong in a negative direction.

    We’ve been down this road many times before, in dozens of different historical contexts, and invariably it ends in mass imprisonment and genocide. Russian leaders and media figures are already flirting with eliminationist “Final Solution” rhetoric.

    Our goal, simply put, is to draw worldwide attention to this atrocity and to put a bright spotlight of shame on what Russia is doing and proposing to do to its LGBT citizens, and to foreign visitors who happen to be LGBT and/or supportive of gay rights. Judging from the flood of overwrought concern-troll responses coming from folks like yourself, I’d say it’s been rather effective. Defensiveness like this means those with an interest in continuing to ratchet up the oppression going are feeling threatened — and that’s terrific. It means what we’re doing is working, so thanks for that particular feedback.

    As John points out, LGBT Russians already cannot speak out about anything other than to say, “Yes, this new oppression of us is wonderful, I totally support it.”

    So it’s up to us to say what Russia is doing is wrong, evil, and morally indefensible. There’s no “Yes, but–” in there. It is wrong, period.

    Anyway, it’s a really sleazy rhetorical trick — a Tu Quoque fallacy — to say something like “your country recently oppressed gay people” — and use it as a blunt instrument to suggest therefore we shouldn’t object to what Russia is doing now, today. How is it any different from arguing “You held black people as slaves for hundreds of years, therefore you shouldn’t object to racism in any other country that is currently practicing it”?

    By the way, argumentum ad baculum, the ‘appeal to the cudgel’, is also a mendacious debate tactic. What do I mean by this? These constant pleas of “Don’t protest what Russia is doing, otherwise those LGBT people over there will be punished.” We’re not buying it.

    Yeah — our country has oppressed LGBT people. We’re in the process of putting a stop to it. And our activism and sense of altruistic morality doesn’t stop at our borders.

  81. Tom Chicago says:

    Putin’s Pogrom.

  82. Brad says:

    All great points. Good work.

  83. All the things being done started happening after Harvey, Matt and Dan exploded the entire thing. Sadly, as a friend of mine once explained, the media (and I’d argue people in general), love to be second. Meaning, they love to join in a battle, report on a story, AFTER everyone else has deemed it worthy. We helped everyone deem it worthy :)

  84. We have been focusing on the IOC from the beginning, thus the reason the IOC and the USOC keep issuing panicked, confused, and contradictory statements on a regular basis. As for sponsors, you don’t start with those, so we didn’t. We are focusing on them now. Today there’s a Coke demo in NYC, for example.

  85. Oh yeah :)

    Just like all the op eds. Every time there’s an op ed in the NYT, Wash Post, New Republic, Forbes, or any other MSM publication is means we must be doing something right or they’d never be concerned enough to write about us in the first place.

  86. BeccaM says:

    Nice sleuthing, Mod3.

  87. Badgerite says:

    I guess the Paris interlude days are over for a while. Damned.

  88. uhhuhh says:

    It also tells us the kind of crowd she runs with–far lefties who still think Soviet Communism was some kind of progressive ideal.

  89. BeccaM says:

    I’ve noticed, John, that you keep attracting a particular type of troll-swarm every time you post on this issue.

    I think it means you’re doing something really right, otherwise they wouldn’t be going nuts like this.

  90. caphillprof says:

    Look at John’s graphs above and then rethink your thought.

  91. samizdat says:

    One only has to look at how the pro-choice and pro-environment advocates sat down, relaxed and looked on while the fascist right in this country has taken back nearly everything they fought for to see the truth in what you say.

    And speaking of pro-choice, I will note John’s comment about men being scrupulously excluded from recruitment into the cause over the last thirty years, as if reproductive rights were only a one-way street.

  92. caphillprof says:

    First, thank you. Second, am I the only one that is so tired of newspapers (particularly the WaPo) printing op eds from folk but somehow failing to note either who they work for or who they sleep with. Over the years, the WaPo has published numerous “letters to the editors” from supposedly individual citizens, who via Google one finds that they either work for a company with a pecuniary interest in the issue or have a spouse or housemate with a pecuniary interest.

    For example, Andrea Mitchell on NBC is really Mrs. Greenspan. It’s disingenuous to call her anything else. So here.

  93. caphillprof says:

    I wish nation after nation would enter the olympic arena in Solchi waving rainbow flags. Otherwise, they should be ashamed to be there.

  94. caphillprof says:

    Obviously the boycott of Russia and Russian products is hurting somebody, somewhere very very much.

    I think we can dismiss out of hand the odd notions that (1) you must always boycott or (2) you must never boycott. As John has stated, a boycott is only a tool and sometimes they work (Russian vodka) and sometimes they don’t (Chick Fil-A). This boycott is working very very much.

    I think we must begin thinking in terms of the very long term, hard fought campaign against Apartheid in South Africa. Boycotts were one of the tools. Corporate disinvestment was another. Daily demonstrations at the embassy. Civil disobedience–almost anybody who was anybody in official Washington took turns getting arrested to protest Apartheid.

    The alternative is to cheer Jesse Owens at the 1936 “Hitler Olympics” and turn a blind eye to the outrage that was Nazi Germany.

  95. Jim says:

    Good Job John! Beat the drum long enough and loud enough, and eventualy they will hear it!

  96. caphillprof says:


  97. Badgerite says:

    You must be getting to somebody over there.

  98. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Your comment made me think of the movie, “Bent”. Chilling, and it could happen again.

  99. GarySFBCN says:

    I believe that it is nothing more than Katrina being lazy, not doing her homework.

  100. Doc Marten says:

    I’m sure the Nazis said ‘life is unfair’ to their Jewish VICTIMS while they were beating them to death. You one of those morons in Nashe? Your argument sure is moronic.

  101. Sorry but you didn’t understand what I wrote above. We have had boycotts, lots of them. But boycotts are only as smart, or as dumb, as the people calling for them. Generally speaking, people call for boycotts because they’re not very smart about politics, and do it in sort of a knee-jerk way because they don’t know what else to do. That’s why I’m only for boycotts when it’s smart. In this case, the proof is in the pudding. The tool isn’t per se bad, it’s just over-used. Kind of like Holocaust analogies. Over-used, but that doesn’t mean always wrong.

  102. And Ill say it again, we’re already working with several dozen Russian advocates and activists so you’re already hearing their POV and needs :)

  103. Actually that’s really interesting. God that would be a bitch to clean up

  104. Though a sports-concern troll is novel, at least.

  105. Oh trust me honey, we’re not confused as to who you are :)

  106. I still worry that it’s someone gay who’s either off his rocker, bought off, an egomaniac, or all of the above. And thanks :)

  107. Thom Allen says:

    I think he’s throwing in some “teh gayz might not all bad” just so he doesn’t come off as a total pro-Mother (f*cker)Russia troll.

    He clearly has no concept of what is going on with the gay “propaganda” and gay “terrorism” laws. Boycotting would ruin the image of LGBTQs? How much more can our rights be set back? Instant execution in the streets? Boycott companies that are specifically anti-gay? Like Visa, Coke, Proctor and Gamble, McDonald’s, Samsung, by supporting this travesty of the Olympics AREN’T being anti-gay? That the IOC, ignoring its own Principles of Sport document and policies isn’t being anti-gay? Do they need to have “Kill the Gays” banners with five interlocking rings to be classed as anti-gay?

    I don’t think he’s drunk. He’s just been made to make a (terribly bad) case that supports Russian repression.

    BTW, great job of demolishing him.

  108. Actually, you know nothing about America, politics, or gay activism if you think that the changes in America’s perception of gay peolple did not occur in large part due to gay activism. What do you think ACT-UP was? And Queer Nation? It was gay activists who forced the media to more fairly cover us and our issues. It was gay activists who forced politicians, starting with Democrats and now moving on to Republicans, to treat us as equal human beings. It was gay activists who forced TV studios to more fairly portray us on TV, and to add more (non-crazy) lgbt characters to mainstream tv shows. I’m sorry, but you know very little about the United States if you think the way we won on gay rights by acting like tame little kittens who didn’t risk pissing the public off.

    I’m going to quote Eric Sasson’s amazing piece he wrote in the New Republic, as he directly addresses this bizarre argument that you’re making above:



    Ioffe’s assertions that American attitudes towards LGBT rights have only recently changed is true. In fact, the change has come at an astonishing pace. What she fails to mention, however, is that this change only happened because of gay visibility, starting with more and more gays and lesbians coming out to their friends and families. Prominent celebrities and politicians revealing their sexuality, along with LGBT characters in movies and on TV, helped de-stigmatize the gay community in the eyes of so many Americans, who began to see us less as predators and AIDS victims and more as neighbors, cousins, coworkers.

    This is precisely what the Russian propaganda bill denies its citizens. By criminalizing speech advocating “non-traditional sexual lifestyles,” Russia has denied its LGBT citizens the same path toward progress that so many societies in the West have taken. Look no further than the many reported cases of Russians who spoke out against the ban before it was ratified and who were later fired from their jobs. This is the reality on the ground. And if the gays there cannot speak for themselves without fear of imprisonment, it is up to those of us outside to speak for them.

    Ioffe’s attempt to draw parallels between Western efforts to protest Russian policy and America dragging its feet on DADT and same-sex marriage seems, at best, misguided. (Also, were Canada and Europe screaming at the U.S. to pass gay marriage and end DADT? If so, they should have screamed louder. I must not have heard them.) If Russia were only denying its citizens the right to marry or serve in the military, I doubt many people would even consider a boycott. What Russia is doing is denying its people their only recourse to counter anti-gay stereotypes and prejudice. This law, along with the banning of pride parades and gay adoptions, smacks of a growing intolerance that many of us worry will only escalate.

    In the history of the fight for civil rights, it was crucial for those who felt they had a moral imperative to speak up in the face of injustice not to be dissuaded by arguments that their actions may be counterproductive. Certainly in many states in the South, the fight for African American rights was counterproductive in the short term. The argument almost always rings hollow.



  109. What concerns me is that this almost sounds like a pro-gay Russian, who unfortunately has lost it, or been bought off.

  110. Well, now I’m rather confused. First, the charge was that we weren’t working with “any” Russians. Now it’s that we’re working with the “wrong” Russians. So which one is it?

    As for Russian journalist Masha Gessen being “fringe” – hello? – have you ever met a gay activist?! LOL And I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the other activists on the letter (of 33 LGBT activists supporting our effort) are Masha’s friends. Every big successful campaign I’ve ever done has been done with my friends. Timothy McVeigh/AOL, StopDrLaura.com, going after Microsoft and Ford and AOL, the work Joe Sudbay and I did on the DOMA brief, our work with GetEqual on DADT, and now this – all were done with our friends (we should be working with our enemies?). Now, sure, it helps when my “friends” are great people like Joe Sudbay, Dan Savage, Mike Signorile, Nancy Goldstein, Robin McGehee, Kerry Eleveld, Pam Spaulding et. al. But to suggest that because those folks are my “friends,” they are therefore not amazing, and important, gay activists/advocates, is, well, odd. They are my friends because they’re amazing.

    As for your next point, now we’re getting the meat of things – the part where you admit that most Russian advocates can’t speak up freely about what they really think:

    “Furthermore, most Russian LGBTs have enough common sense to understand that supporting a blanket boycott of Russian products because of this law would completely destroy their image in the eyes of the Russian majority and set LGBT rights in the country back YEARS. It would paint them as traitors and gain them nothing.”

    I’ve worried from day one that any advocate in Russia would be putting their life in danger – unless they were bought off by the powers that be. But again, I’m confused. You’re saying we’re not working with enough Russians, or the right Russians, or not doing what they want us to do, but then you say that the right Russians aren’t able to say what they really think or want because of the potential for domestic backlash and being branded a traitor. So that would mean we don’t want to do what they say publicly, right? Since you just claimed that what they say publicly is tainted by a very real fear of persecution. Again, I’m getting awfully confused by your argument.

    Then you note: “And, believe it or not, most Russian LGBTs actually work for Russian companies, so how is this nonsense supposed to help them?” I’ve already explained that the purpose of this effort was initially to get publicity for the over problem, in order to educate, engage and enrage gay and trans people around the world, and to catch the attention of the media, which helps to further educate, engage and enrage. And it’s worked. For the first time in the numerous years this issue has been out there, it’s exploded internationally, with the media and every day citizens. Look, every good activist knows that that’s the first essential component of any successful advocacy campaign is publicity. Then you take that publicity, notoriety, and channel it in specific directions that help further the overall campaign. I didn’t expect the initial 30 day push to get the law repealed in just one month. I expected, hoped, that it would explode in the media, and amongst concerned citizens around the world, in order to up the pressure on the Russian government and those who can influence the Russian govt, including the IOC and big corporations. And we’ve done just that.

    Then you get a rather odd point:

    “That’s why the entire campaign reeks of Cold War prejudice and xenophobia. That’s how 99% of Russians see it.”

    It’s interesting you note that, as it’s the same point a Russian activist made the other day during a rather odd meltdown he was having on Twitter and Facebook, in which he also accused a number of western lgbt activists of being pedophiles right before posting a nude picture of himself on his Facebook page (it was really to bad, as he’d done some great work in previous years). He claimed that the only reason any of us were concerned about this issue was because we were ticked off about Russia giving asylum to Edward Snowden, and this was some kind of Cold War retribution or something. And I have to tell you, probably 99% of the people commenting here think Edward Snowden is a god. Yet, oddly, thankfully, they’re still extremely concerned about Russia’s anti-gay and anti-trans crackdown. Most of us to the left of the John Birch society got over the Soviet Union in 1991.

    Now, that’s not to say that 99% of the Russian people “don’t” think we’re all anti-Soviet nutjobs. Let’s face it, 88% of Russians support the hideous anti-gay “propaganda” law. So I’m not surprised if the overwhelming majority also think we’re martians with 2 heads. It’s not like the Kremlin-controlled news media is reporting the truth about us or anything. But I’m not sure how the fact that most people don’t like us is supposed to change our campaign. That’s kind of the point, or at least the given, in human rights advocacy campaigns – that the majority isn’t on your side, and believes all sorts of horrible things about you. I just kind of feel like you’re stating a platitude. Which is fine. It’s just not terribly helpful for guiding future action.

    Then there’s your final point, where sadly I think you’ve done yourself in:

    “When Texas and half the Unites States had sodomy laws until a few years ago, you weren’t boycotting everything from those states. Why not? It didn’t even enter your mind to do such a thing.”

    So, now your point is that we’re hypocrites and we “shouldn’t” be trying to help Russia’s lgbt community. That makes you sound like you were bought off by Putin or Stoli. As already noted below, if you read up on your American gay rights history, we’ve quite often launched boycotts – when necessary – against companies, cities and states that have crossed us, including Florida orange juice, Coors beer, Colorado, Cincinatti, and more. I even toyed with a boycott of Utah following the Prop 8 debacle in which the Mormons screwed us. Of course, everyone knows you don’t launch boycotts willy-nilly as they don’t often work. You have to wait for the right boycott, the right campaign, before you go ballistic. But regardless, this definitely isn’t our first time at the boycott.

    And as for our feelings about southern states with sodomy laws, you clearly don’t read this blog if you think I have any sympathy for the South!

    That was fun. Now go get sober and do something useful.

  111. Thom Allen says:

    The topic here is not laws elsewhere, the topic is the RUSSIAN law and it’s consequences to LGBTQs everywhere.

  112. Thom Allen says:

    Glad to see that one of the official spokesmen for the Russian Anti-Gay Trolls (RATs). has posted. Let’s see, a well-known, published Russian author becomes a member of the lunatic fringe because, well because the RAT says so. And, naturally, with all of the freedoms available for the Russian masses (/sarcasm, RAT), we would certainly expect them to have a large footprint in Russia on social media, in newspapers, on TV and radio, on internet blogs and elsewhere. Destroy their IMAGE? You motherless imbecile. They’re having their faces beaten in because they’re so popular right now. IMAGE? Take your head out of your ever-widening anus and look around.

    Get real, you may believe the gavno that Rats Putin spews, but don’t expect others to. You need to post your clueless ramblings on the right wing MurikaBlog where those of your kind would eat it up.

  113. Someone says:

    No they don’t. Believe it or not, [email protected] is not my real email address. I don’t think it’s their real email address either.

  114. Someone says:

    The homosexual propaganda law in Russia is not substantially worse than many of the laws that were on the books in many US states until very recently. And yet, like I said, you weren’t boycotting all these states – because you knew better. People wouldn’t understand, to put it mildly. When Britain passed Section 28, did British gays support a blanket boycott of British companies, whether or not they had anything to do with this law? Obviously not, because they had common sense.

    You are not going to fix the problems in Russia with protests and boycotts. You should at least understand the context of the situation. In terms of attitudes towards gays, Russia is roughly where the US was about 30 years ago. No one wanted to hear anything about gay marriage then. You didn’t change these attitudes in a month or a year, it took decades. And all this change didn’t come as a result of aggressive protests but rather the much less glamorous daily job of painstakingly explaining things to people, convincing them one by one that gays aren’t so bad.

    That entire process spanning decades basically didn’t happen in Russia. Instead, after the USSR collapsed, all of a sudden open homosexuality is legal in Russia. And many people now associate it with the economic collapse, the surge in crime, poverty, prostitution, drugs, etc. that followed the collapse of the USSR. That’s just the way it is. And you should understand that Russians will not respond well to being told what to do from abroad. I don’t think Americans would respond well to it either.

  115. ckg1 says:

    John: In re point 3, that website IS a right-wing site. There is no “apparently” about it.

  116. Moderator3 says:

    Do Joe Schmoe, Commentator, Anonymoose, Anon, and pease ring a bell? If not, someone else is using your email address. It’s really too bad. I thought Anonymoose was a very clever username.

  117. Someone says:

    Nope, the only username I have ever used on this blog is “Someone” – go ahead and check again. You can even tell by my style of writing, I am not to be confused with anyone else.

  118. goulo says:

    I see a lot of this Russian nationalist anti-west paranoia that the protests against the anti-gay law are just some insincere pretext for Cold War Russia-bashing.

    Are you seriously unaware that gay activists have protested violence and legal oppression of gay people in their own countries and in various other countries?

    I can’t figure out if most Russians actually believe this anti-west paranoia and sincerely can’t imagine that lots of people really do believe it’s wrong for people to be legally oppressed and physically assaulted merely for being gay, regardless of where it’s happening …

    … or if these kinds of nationalist comments are just a cynical ploy to get Russians united behind the Russian government’s asshattery (“Look! Decadent foreigners trying to make us look bad!”, analogous to the US government’s using “Look, terrorism!” to get US people to comply with all sorts of asshattery by the US government).

  119. Moderator3 says:

    You have used six different usernames on this blog. That makes me very suspicious of your motives. Please use this username whenever you post.

  120. BloggerDave says:

    Her husband is a professor emeritus of Russian studies at N.Y.U. and Princeton University. He is also 21 years older than her so daddy apparently looms large in her life…

  121. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    “you weren’t boycotting everything from those states. Why not? It didn’t even enter your mind to do such a thing.”

    I guess the orange juice and Coors boycotts were a figment of my imagination.

  122. XKCD says:

    That’s exactly why Americans who communicate with them need to pass on their messages so their identities aren’t revealed but we can hear their POV and needs.

  123. Someone says:

    Aravosis, the claim that you are working with Russians on this campaign and “have been from day one” is absolutely preposterous. The “nearly three dozen Russian LGBT activists” you speak of are just a bunch of Masha Gessen’s friends that she got to sign this letter she wrote. Some of them don’t even live in Russia and all of them other than Gessen herself are completely unknown in the country. There is not a single prominent person among them.

    You should also understand that Masha Gessen represents a lunatic fringe. The Russian LGBT community never appointed her as anything.

    Here is the entire Google footprint for the Russian version of this letter:


    As you can see, there are almost no results at all for it. The average Russian LGBT doesn’t even know this letter exists.

    Furthermore, most Russian LGBTs have enough common sense to understand that supporting a blanket boycott of Russian products because of this law would completely destroy their image in the eyes of the Russian majority and set LGBT rights in the country back YEARS. It would paint them as traitors and gain them nothing. And, believe it or not, most Russian LGBTs actually work for Russian companies, so how is this nonsense supposed to help them?

    It would be one thing if you were to boycott companies that were specifically anti-gay but that’s not what this is. That’s why the entire campaign reeks of Cold War prejudice and xenophobia. That’s how 99% of Russians see it. When Texas and half the Unites States had sodomy laws until a few years ago, you weren’t boycotting everything from those states. Why not? It didn’t even enter your mind to do such a thing.

  124. XKCD says:

    If you think this article focuses on Russian activists, you’ve proven my point.

  125. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I totally forgot about that. It is something everybody needs to be reminded about every few day. I know a lot of people around here have a problem with religion, but sometimes I hope it’s true. Those people deserve to spend an eternity in hell.

  126. BeccaM says:

    Yep. Or check out my debut post on AmericaBlog.

    It’s not just Russia. It’s also France. And in Africa. And lots of other places. The same players are involved in all of them.

  127. News Nag says:

    Pay attention to the article you supposedly read.

  128. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    You need to have a talk with Straight Grandmother. She’s connected all the dots.

  129. News Nag says:

    Yes! Though I think your Ivy League reference is a non sequitur or just off base. They aren’t the problem, just another aspect of the problem.

  130. News Nag says:

    He was just another concern troll, John, insincere as always.

  131. News Nag says:

    Modern political sports history is FULL of examples of activists very successfully using the following strategy: 1) Annoy first. 2) Win later. In fact, it’s the ONLY way any progress has EVER been made.

    For example, Muhammad Ali was widely vilified, almost crucified, back in his early boxing days, even imprisoned; now Muhammad Ali is almost universally beloved and greatly admired for standing up courageously for human rights as an athlete during his time. Also in sports, those two African-American track athletes in the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico, who raised their fists from the winners’ platform to assert human rights, were widely and hatefully denounced, and now ESPN has done many stories praising them for their courage and foresight, and people today realize that their cause was correct and their actions justified. Jackie Robinson was vilified and his playing caused a sustained vitriolic reaction among most ballplayers and most fans, and later when still playing became greatly respected and loved, and today he is honored and venerated like no other athlete.

    And how in hell do you not remember the United States of America under President Carter boycotting the Soviet Union’s Olympic Games in 1980, after its invasion of Afghanistan? And then the Soviet Union’s boycott of the United States Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984 in retaliation? Those were sports boycotts! You really need to actually know your basic facts before putting your raw opinions out here. I mean, really, and you’re asking for examples? How can you not know these things? I mean ALL of them. They are the backbone of modern sports history. You call yourself a fan?

    Anyway, the list of such brave stands taken by individual athletes and their supporters is long and proud. If you’re too scared to stand up for your own rights, no one else will. To put a sports fan’s petty feelings ahead of human rights – using whatever supposed concern you have that it will only hurt their cause of human rights – shows that you need to drag your thoughts further out of the cave than you already have. If you’re not interested in learning, then fine, then at least I’ve tried to educate someone to help him grow from having an opinion to having an informed understanding. You can lead a horse to water, but I can’t make you drink.

    And later in your comment you say, “If that’s the goal, great. I’m all for it.” Well, Johnny, great, because that’s exactly what’s happening, and it says so in this very article you supposedly read. So why did you make your pathetic excuse of an argument in the first place? Just one pathetic thing after another in your comment, your limited understanding, your ignorance, and your self-homophobic fears of offending bigots.

  132. Monoceros Forth says:

    Was this ever merely a Russian issue? The timing is odd: not longer after GLBT rights win several important victories in this country and the forces of anti-GLBT bigotry in the U.S. very much on the defensive, Russia embarks on a very loud and public campaign against its GLBT citizens.

    There’s some collusion going on here between American and Russian bigots, I’m halfway sure of it. Russia’s not just working in isolation; they’re opening a second front.

  133. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    You are a god!!!

  134. News Nag says:

    True, even us progressive radicalized liberals, if we’re heterosexual, are conventional by design and definition. It’s truly like the parable, “then they came for me and there was no one left to defend me” – that’s largely us liberal heteros. Sadly. And that’s why agitation and campaigns are effective. It rousts us to lift our heads from grazing the Kool-Aid (thank you, thank you) long enough to notice more clearly what’s going on.

  135. News Nag says:

    Rainbow snow angels!

  136. Monoceros Forth says:

    The modern-day Olympics are sodden with corruption and stinking of dirty money. You fear the disruption of the games? I will not weep if they should be disrupted. I will not weep when–as ought to have happened years if not decades ago–they wither and die altogether.

  137. News Nag says:

    NBC is owned by totalitarian corporatocracy. Close enough?

  138. News Nag says:

    Good find, S. Cicada. Still, I’d still be surprised to find her so weak-minded to be influenced by anyone, even a partner, though I guess weak-kneed may be more like it.

  139. News Nag says:

    A large part of the U.S. is still very relative about gay rights. The support for gay rights in the U.S. is actual but not very deep. An aggressive and elected opposition could erode rights exactly like women’s rights have been eroded rather than strengthened, and in a very short time. The pressure for human rights has to be continued, because the pressure against human rights never relents. Never relents!

  140. News Nag says:

    So….are you saying compete or don’t compete, boycott or don’t boycott? Don’t compete, and the neo-nazis win. Compete, and the neo-nazis have to slither out from under their rock on the world stage. Don’t boycott, and be a direct enabler. Boycott, and you’re not doing nothing, which is almost like actually doing something, and better than doing nothing.

  141. News Nag says:

    Right, even during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and even now, the opposition can only whimper, “Can’t you do it more quietly. You’re embarrassing us. Do you have to talk about it and stuff? Now let me say something completely inane, in an attempt to sound eminently sensible, against HOW you’re going about your life’s work.”

  142. Badgerite says:

    Amnesty International has always made the same point as you do. That for people battling against human rights abuses within their own countries, support from the international community is a lifeline that they hold onto to continue to fight. To do otherwise than to kick up a storm about that law would be to acquiesce in it. To abandon them to face the repression alone. They need to know that they have support. That the world does not accept this. And if the Sochi Olympics and Russian Vodka are important to Putin, then those are the things to target and poop on, so to speak. If the US still had Jim Crowe enshrined in the law I’m sure we would here about it from abroad and from Russia, and justifiably so. Human rights is a universal concept. Give ’em hell!

  143. grayzip says:

    Two thoughts:

    1. Minimizing and even trying to quash LGBT issues has always been low-hanging fruit for centrist progressives trying to look serious.

    Circa John Kerry for prez it was ‘are we really going to let gay marriage cost us elections? Those single-issue divas have to get real.’

    On May 22 Chris Hays did half a show about how LGBT-ers had to bow to Linsey Graham’s (Linsey Graham’s!) insistence on removing LGBT-positive language from the immigration bill. Hays knew he would be doing whole shows about gay marriage starting the very next day so it was an easy way to look serious.

    Now this. She’s welcome to think these thoughts but what cause exactly does she imagine she’s furthering by voicing them?

    2. The Olympics aren’t a strictly-Russian thing, they are global. Boycotting South Africa was in part a means of leveraging change there, but not wholly or just that; it was also a way of standing up for and racial equality here at wherever home is to you. It’s the same with the Olympics only moreso. I don’t want America to go in part because I think it would help bring things to a head for Russia’s LGBT population. But I also don’t want my country to tell me that tobogganing is more important than our civil rights.

    And what the hell, 3:

    Sometimes boycotting something just feels good. And actually that should be enough. Don’t question the end game, apprehend the outrage. Maybe even be glad an oft-slighted community has found an outlet for their anger. But again, literally take time out of your day to oppose it? Why?

    Stoli will survive.

  144. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    As far as the athletes are concerned. We know that gays will be bashed in Sochi during the Olympics by the Neo-Nazis because it’s a platform for them to promote their movement.

    Life is unfair, but by competing at Sochi 2014, the athletes will be enabling that platform for the Neo-Nazis. So, won’t the athletes, as well as the IOC, the sponsors, the fans in Suchi, and those watching around the world all have blood on their hands when the inevitable gay-bashings and murders occur during the Sochi Olympics?

  145. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Dye the snow pink.

  146. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Don’t you think it’s the combination of all the things being done and devleoping – many of which are listed above?

  147. KingCranky says:

    I don’t get the point of the whiners, as staying silent and doing nothing NEVER advance human rights for the oppressed, the bullies they’re battling can’t be appeased into doing the right thing.

    If anything, staying silent gives the impression of approval, making social justice even harder to achieve.

    How does vanden Heuvel not get that about the horrific abuse going on in Russia?

  148. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    I was going to write a serious response, but then I decided, screw this, you’re not worth it.

    I’ll bet your support for human rights is so thin that if a black family died in a car crash creating a traffic jam that made you two minutes late to the massage parlor where you get your teeny-weeny jerked off with a pair of tweezers by a prostitute, you’d start voting Republican. – If you’re not already a Republican, which is highly likely.

    To put it more succinctly: Screw you.

  149. Houndentenor says:

    Exactly. If individual couples had waited for the gay “leaders” to move on gay marriage…well it still wouldn’t have happened. And here we are. We don’t have any leadership to speak of. Just some brave couples who got sick of being denied equal rights under the law. Fortunately in America we have a mechanism for making a case for your own rights. Russian gays can’t do that without being jailed. Some activists have just disappeared. And we’re not going to protest that? I’m disgusted by these leftists.

  150. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    I’ve already blocked NBC on the TV’s in our home. You can too using the parental controls on the TV’s menu. I did this so I wouldn’t watch NBC by mistake.

  151. Houndentenor says:

    I believe in universal human rights. Everyone is entitled to the same rights regardless of where they happened to have been born. Anything else is revolting to me. Do gays in Africa and the Middle East deserve to be executed because they weren’t lucky enough to be born in Europe instead? How disgusting to even suggest excusing human rights abuses based on “culture”. Shame on these moral relativists. Especially you Katrina vanden Heuvel.

  152. Houndentenor says:

    The Russians being affected cannot speak out without being jailed for doing so. A few have spoken out from safety in the west. Also, I don’t know where you get your news but the boycott is also taking place in several European countries and the athelete who painted her fingernails rainbow colors was Swedish. This isn’t just an American thing.

  153. Houndentenor says:

    Moral relativists would rather make excuses for human rights abuses and even genocide than get off their pampered Ivy League asses and actually do something about it. fuck ’em.

  154. Houndentenor says:

    The fact that it’s getting this much public attention means that the vodka boycott served a purpose. There was nothing that could be done until the public at large started paying attention.

  155. Houndentenor says:

    Ugh. Moral relativism. “A culture far different from our own”. What a load of crap. So Russians are somehow excused from basic human rights standards for having a different culture? I find the entire concept infuriating. I’m all for respecting other cultures and I’m happy to take off my shoes when entering a home or learning to eat with different utensils. But culture is not an excuse for violence and human rights violations. It’s not an excuse for beating the crap out of people for being different. Or violating people’s right to free speech. What garbage and to hear it from otherwise intelligent people is just baffling.

  156. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    My thoughts exactly.

  157. VictorG says:

    Thanks for a thoughtful & well researched piece.
    I think it’s time we called for a boycott of NBC-TV for hosting both the Miss Universe Pageant in Russia in November and the Winter Olympics in Feb. 2014. What does NBC have to gain by supporting this totalitarian regime…besides a lot of money?

  158. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Katrina does have a tiny point. The reaction thus far seems disjointed. We need more focus. – But that’s true of every protest movement and Katrina knows this.

    Let’s use Sochi 2014 to promote the on-going Russian pro-LGBTI efforts that are underway, get them better financed, more-effective, and make sure they’re gaining power and influence in Russia.

    Since Katrina has brought it up, she should take on the task of educating herself on the issues and the actions mentioned in your piece and propose something effective, creative, and fabulous that no one has thought of.

    Perhaps, we should be picking vulnerable sponsors and telling them we will boycott them unless their Sochi advertising is explicitly pro-gay. Panasonic comes to mind. They are having severe financial problems and a boycott could push them over the edge. Pick one Procter and Gamble product and boycott it.

    Also, we should be focusing on the IOC to comply with their own rules and rescind their statement that they will sanction any Sochi 2014 athlete who speaks out, revoke their medals, and send them home. If the IOC continues to side with Russia, the outrage generated is likely to give athletes and fans the courage to take action during the games. It would be really great if thousands of fans and 100’s of athletes spoke out during the Sochi games. Neither Russia nor the IOC would dare take punitive action faced with such large numbers.

    I’d love a boycott of Sochi2014 so that literally no one attended and Russia was sitting there with empty venues and no one to play with, but we all have to admit it’s unlikely to happen, so we need to be creative about how we apply pressure.

    I can’t wait to see someone dye the snow in Sochi pink.

    If we can stop Russia from passing their new reparative therapy bill, that would be a major victory.

  159. tomtallis says:

    You can take your sports and shove them where the sun don’t shine. Shit ass.

  160. Skeptical Cicada says:

    She has to double down because her little acolyte Chris Hayes is now in full retreat after trying to shove this line down our throats. This is exactly why the gay rights movement had to sever itself from these arrogant New Left heterosexuals 40 year ago, and it’s why our movement will be absorbed into some mass of straight-dominated, left-wing movements over my dead body. We don’t take our activist marching orders from condescending, self-important straight liberals.

  161. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Shorter you: “Get your faggot asses out of the way when I’m watching my sports.”

    Fuck you and your faux “support.”

  162. XKCD says:

    Just wondering since nearly all articles in the media focus on American activism and things in the U.S, but you don’t get much from the Russians being affected. I’m yearning to hear more from their POV. But keep doing what you’re doing. :)

  163. BeccaM says:

    Why do you think I’m focusing so much on New Mexico marriage equality news lately? ;-) I need an antidote for the discouragement.

  164. Well, my banning them might have had something to do with the drive-by nature :-)

  165. As I’ve already said, we’re already collaborating with nearly three dozen Russian lgbt leaders. And it seems to be going quite well. So already doing what you asked.

  166. Or perhaps we have considered that, and dismissed it.

  167. BeccaM says:

    That’s why that save for national emergencies where lives are immediately at stake games and sports shows are not interrupted.

    I see. So your position is “Don’t mess with the bread and circuses.”

    Sorry, but I don’t think so. I’m being redundant in saying, “Your concern is noted.”

  168. BeccaM says:

    Indeed. The People’s Front of Judea needs to discuss the issues some more before assigning a committee to study the problem and issue a blue-ribbon report, at which point Loretta will consider motions to bring the debate to the floor.

    Or, in another real-world context, “Why are those black folks hurting these poor white business-owners with all the shop boycotts and rude lunch-counter sit-ins? Don’t people realize it’s just annoying the racists? Tolerant, sympathetic whites will get angry with them, because they just want to have some lunch and those uppity types are getting in the way!”


  169. Thom Allen says:

    “If there is a statement to be made about this during the Olympics it
    should be worked out with willing gay athletes and activists in Russia
    willing to work with them to make a statement during the games in
    Russia.” And just how can such a statement be made with the Russian “gay propaganda” law unless all of the athletes are willing to be beaten and/or be jailed?

    Your evidence that moving the Games would cause sympathetic people into closed minded opponents is what, exactly? And you think that boycotting the Olympics, or interfering with someone viewing them would remake them from sympathizers into opponents? That one thing? So these sympathizers are so shallow that they’ll turn on equal rights because they can’t see the Olympic curling competition? Really? I think that your reasoning is, at best, spotty.

    If the Olympics DO go on in Sochi, how will we be interrupting them? Those large flocks of gay militants marching on the ice hockey rinks?

  170. BeccaM says:

    Reading comprehension isn’t her strong suit.

  171. NCMan says:

    there are ways to allow all the winter Olympic athletes to compete in
    other locations and just deny Russia the spotlight of hosting. There
    may not be ONE location that the Olympics could move to and still go on
    when it is scheduled. Certainly a lot of it could be moved to Canada
    which held the event in 2010. But, you could move the events to
    multiple locations around the world and allow all the competitions to take
    place for the athletes. Yes, there would be no opening and closing
    ceremonies. But, is that what it is supposed to be about? Or, is it
    just allowing those athletes to show off their skills for which they
    have spent all their lives training?

  172. karmanot says:

    8 comments record: drive by concern troll.

  173. karmanot says:

    Your name says it all.

  174. karmanot says:

    No but their D grade South American cabochon emeralds are hot.

  175. docsterx says:

    Perineal one-stage operative pull-through (POOP) – surgically having the head pulled through the ass (not exactly, but close enough in this case).

  176. karmanot says:

    Ah,—– the never ending complexities for cautious collaboration.

  177. XKCD says:

    I just think that a lot of these articles dismiss our Russian allies as “oh, well, they’re there too, see?” when the reality is that the American protests would have zero credibility if not for them.
    This is about them, after all. I think that American LGBT protesters with name recognition and power should focus 100% on communicating with the Russian LGBT community and doing what they believe will be most helpful.

  178. mirror says:

    If it is just sports, then, first thing, the IOC and the countries involved, and those who profit off it should stop pretending it is something else.

  179. mirror says:

    (sheesh, , literalist, moralist, quaker types… love ’em but man… mumble.. mumble…)

  180. What John Aravosis and all those calling for action against Russia regarding the Olympics are missing is whether or not its a smart move to make a stand in the “sports” context.

    It doesn’t matter what the issue is, or how moral, justified and right.

    Raising positive awareness or at the very least NOT dramatically increasing negative feelings in response to a message means avoiding certain contexts where any interruption of the event results in ENDURING negative feelings

    Interrupting a sports fans enjoyment of his sport or the enjoyment of millions the world over who love the Olympics to deliver your message is certain to garner far more animosity, close far more minds than do the opposite.

    One thing you should never do is try to force someone who loves sports to listen to you while their “game” is on.

    You’ll only succeed in doing the opposite.

    That’s human nature, and it’s not just true for gay issues, it’s true for all issues.

    That’s why we rarely see calls for boycotts related to sports for any issue.

    That’s why that save for national emergencies where lives are immediately at stake games and sports shows are not interrupted.

    Can you recall more than one or two in the last couple of decades?

    The rare times it happened ask those fans what happened and they remember it like it was yesterday with strong emotions sill seething about it.

    Can you recall any that were called successful in doing what the proponents of an Olympic boycott are calling for in raising positive awareness of the issue.

    It will raise awareness all right, but in a very shallow, selfish mean way among the Olympic fans.

    If there is a statement to be made about this during the Olympics it should be worked out with willing gay athletes and activists in Russia willing to work with them to make a statement during the games in Russia.

    If that’s the goal, great. I’m all for it.

    To disrupt the games by demanding they move would only turn a lot of likely sympathetic people into closed minded opponents who only can remember one thing when they think gay, and that is they made it impossible for them to enjoy their sports, and that’s counter-productive and stupid.

  181. mirror says:

    It is cross-published on the Nation website and her legitimacy derives from her editing of the Nation. All her op-ed pieces for the WA Post are cross published
    by the Nation. She is an editor of the Nation, not the Post, etc. I guess as editor she could disavow her own piece in the name of the Nation, but that would be pretty weird, and, in fact, The Nation puts it on the front page of their site.

  182. Perhaps simply stupid. Fair enough.

  183. There have been 1001 things that have happened since the Big 3 in late July got the ball rolling. And Masha has been working with us from the beginning, so yes she deserves, and gets, a lot of credit.

  184. BeccaM says:

    ‘Get the attention of policy makers’ how exactly? You have as yet not offered anything even in the same ballpark as constructive suggestions.

  185. XKCD says:

    I hadn’t seen the Buzzfeed images and was honestly myself skeptical about the Vodka boycott when Masha Gessen’s article in The Guardian was published. It was her work that made me truly outraged for the first time, and she deserves just as much credit (if not moreso) for being able to put an actual Russian face to this issue and describing what LGBT Russians experience in a way that no American can.

    Without Russian faces supporting American activism, it is very easy for people to dismiss that activism as Westerners who mean well but don’t know what they’re doing.

  186. BeccaM says:

    I have to wonder. Still, if paid, you’d think they’d be more clever than to call themselves ‘poop.’

  187. Yes, if we could only get the mainstream media to cover this story! LOL Buh bye troll.

  188. BeccaM says:

    Off-topic but still gay-related news: Late this afternoon, another New Mexico judge ordered Taos county to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

    That brings us to six total now, and roughly 56.5% of the state population now living in marriage equality counties.

    Continuing to update this post here with new information as I get it.

  189. Yes, that’s why the quote you quoted says “in the Washington Post.”

    Are you okay?

  190. Indigo says:

    Exactly. That sums it up. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m feeling discouraged.

  191. BeccaM says:

    So we’re talking Chronic Concern Trolling, rather than merely Acute.

  192. Three things to consider, posted without comment:

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_F._Cohen

    2. http://www.thenation.com/blog/175648/katrina-vanden-heuvel-obama-ceded-anti-russian-lobby#axzz2dDO5YR8c

    Katrina vanden Heuvel: Obama Ceded to the ‘Anti-Russian Lobby’
    Nation in the News on August 7, 2013 – 4:16 PM ET

    In the wake of the announcement that Russia had granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, President Obama cancelled plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September. In doing so, Obama not only gave in to the anti-Russian lobby in Congress but also empowered the anti-American, anti-western lobby in Russia, according to Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel. Earlier today, she spoke on a panel on MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner to debate the reasons for and consequences of Obama’s decision and where Edward Snowden, the 2014 Olympics and LGBT rights fit into the picture.

    3. This is apparently a right-wing site, so take with a grain of salt:


  193. poop says:

    Getting something in the news doesn’t help people. I also have not seen or heard of a Stoli boycott anywhere but gay media sources, and facebook and twitter. Might I suggest that a better way to achieve a change is to get the attention of policy makers and squeeze it out of them.

  194. Unless the Stoli boycott – aka the Russian vodka boycott, isn’t about “hurting” Stoli – and was intended to get publicity, and it did just that. In that case, it would be fucking brilliant :) So if that’s what you mean by “terrible,” I agree.

  195. poop says:

    “Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of the liberal magazine the Nation, had a rather odd op ed in the Washington Post this morning”

    “in the Washington Post”

    the op-ed is not in The Nation.

  196. BeccaM says:

    ‘Her username’ then.

    You clearly still don’t understand anything about boycotts or how they’re supposed to work. The primary purpose of a boycott is to get an issue into the news — and as John amply proved in his charts and graphs above, the Stoli boycott accomplished exactly what it was supposed to do.

  197. BeccaM says:

    Yeah… “The cops have stopped raiding OUR bar, so why should we care what happens in (insert other city / country name here)?”

  198. poop says:

    Not boycotting a private company that can just change their name and move to a different country. Hurting Stoli’s revenue doesn’t hurt Russia. Boycott Obama attending the G20 summit, or maybe smear ads directed at Russian tourism. Seriously? You can’t think of anything better on your own? Is this real life?

  199. Julien Pierre says:

    If you ever read the Nation, you would know that it has extremely limited amounts of advertising. Certainly none from Coke.

  200. Indigo says:

    I’ve been hearing similar arguments from local gay activists, or so they say they are, apparently. I get the impression that two factors are in play: 1) they don’t have solid information about what’s happening and 2) they don’t see the Russian laws affecting them in any way.

    After all, those athletes trained really hard and deserve the chance to complete and besides, the Russians aren’t really going to do anything to the athletes. They wouldn’t because they value their reputation internationally. Seriously! That’s what I’m hearing from our own people. Something got clogged in the pipeline and think it’s the urge to conform to the acceptable social paradigm. Gay people don’t get involved, they’re respectable.

    We’re being trashed from within. From my perspective, it sounds like the Alpha-Gay-Quislings of San Francisco who refused to support Harvey Milk. What they’re really saying is, “I’ve got mine, the heck with you.”

  201. scottrose says:

    For our oppressed LGBT brothers and sisters abroad, and here, we MUST show solidarity and speak for them when they can not speak for themselves. We need to be more Peter Bergson and less Stephen Wise. Stephen Wise was a Reformed Rabbi who feared antisemitic backlash in the US and so convinced other Reform Jewish leaders not to demand rescue for Jews in Nazi Europe. Peter Bergson, by contrast, showed courage, and fought and fought and fought until finally, the US State Department set up a war refugees department. It is estimated that Bergson’s efforts saved 200K lives. Bergson himself said that had he gotten cooperation earlier, 700K lives would have been saved. Don’t be Stephen Wise; be Peter Bergson for our LGBT brothers and sisters.

  202. BeccaM says:

    I guess this goes to show that even allies can fall prey to an attack of Acute Concern Trolling.

    I mean, really, to conclude with an argument that essentially says, “It’s Russia’s problem, and up to their people to do something about it if they want to. We can say what they’re doing is wrong, but we mustn’t be rude about it or give any impression that our objections will in any way lead to actions. We mustn’t upset them.”

    Y’know though, John, we’ve seen the same thing in LGBT rights. “Don’t sue now because we’ll just harden the opposition.” “Don’t agitate for your ‘pet’ causes, because you’ll derail far more important stuff.” “Don’t criticize the Dems for failing to act because you’ll only help the Republicans.”

    What I think is any time there’s action or progress or media impact on social issues, there are invariably those who disagree with the methods, regardless how effective they’ve been. The part I find ironic and fascinating at the same time, in this case, is how often detractors like vanden Heuvel completely misunderstand how boycotts work.

  203. I really don’t want to ascribe that kind of motivation to this, as I’ve never had anything but the best impression of those guys. But this piece was bizarre, not just in its nastiness, but in the odd way that she hit every opposition talking point, and even included the top 3 (or 4) nasty articles/blog posts that attempted to hurt us the most. Quite a coincidence :)

  204. BeccaM says:

    Judging from his chosen username, I think we can safely assume he has nothing useful or constructive to contribute to the discussion.

  205. mirror says:

    Then what “intelligent” alternative are you advocating that will be more effective?

  206. mirror says:

    I find this very upsetting. Whose toes are you stepping on that has her motivated to write this? It is not as if there is a powerful group already working on this issue from whom you are diverting donations. Does the Nation have a sponsorship deal with Coca Cola or something?

  207. poop says:

    Please, spare everyone. This is terrible. The Stoli boycott is just not intelligent.

  208. I found her op ed very strange. It contained every talking point our enemies are using against us. Every single one. It was too perfect – even though it was wrong, and debunkable.

  209. Will Dollinger says:

    One of your bests posts John, spot on. I just wonder where this is coming from, she can’t be clueless about this, right?

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