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. Which is?

  10. 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.)

  11. 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).

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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…

  17. 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

  18. BeccaM says:

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

  19. 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.

  20. Rob Dowdy says:

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

  21. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

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

  22. 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!

  23. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:


  24. 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.

  25. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Thanks for that.

  26. karmanot says:

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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. Anonymous says:

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

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. Skeptical Cicada says:

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

  33. 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.

  34. 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!

  35. Skeptical Cicada says:

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

  36. 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

  37. 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

  38. 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

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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!

  44. 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.

  45. You go girl :)

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

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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 :)

  51. 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.

  52. Skeptical Cicada says:

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

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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…

  56. 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.

  57. Rob Dowdy says:

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

  58. 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.

  59. Skeptical Cicada says:

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

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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?

  63. 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.

  64. 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?

  65. 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 …

  66. 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.

  67. 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.

  68. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

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

  69. 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?

  70. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    I thought I was adding credence to what you wrote.

  71. 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.

  72. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

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

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

  75. Skeptical Cicada says:

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

  76. 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.

  77. 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!

  78. 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?

  79. 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.”

  80. Badgerite says:

    Well, it is a very good post.

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  82. 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.

  83. Tom Chicago says:

    Putin’s Pogrom.

  84. Brad says:

    All great points. Good work.

  85. 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 :)

  86. 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.

  87. 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.

  88. What do you mean?

  89. BeccaM says:

    Nice sleuthing, Mod3.

  90. Badgerite says:

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

  91. 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.

  92. 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.

  93. caphillprof says:

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

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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.

  97. 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.

  98. Jim says:

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

  99. caphillprof says:


  100. Badgerite says:

    You must be getting to somebody over there.

  101. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

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

  102. GarySFBCN says:

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

  103. 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.

  104. 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.

  105. 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 :)

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

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

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

  109. 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 :)

  110. 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.

  111. 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.