Russia update: Savage & Fierstein on MSNBC, Brits & Swedes weigh in, Miss Universe pageant snafu

Dan Savage appeared on Chris Hayes’ show to talk about the Russia anti-gay/anti-trans crackdown. See video below.

Chris doesn’t seem to understand the point of the vodka boycott, unless he’s seriously playing devil’s advocate – which is his job, though I didn’t get the sense he was as devils-advocate-y with the two women the other night who criticized our protest movement.  Chris did a broadcast the other night that left a lot of people rather unhappy.  Fortunately, he made up for it by having Dan Savage, and then Harvey Fierstein, both on his show last night.  Chris has been – is – a strong advocate for us, so keep that in mind.  (Meaning: He’s not a bad guy, he’s not the enemy, he simply needs someone to lay this out for him in more than a 4 minute segment.)

In talking with Dan and Harvey, Chris expresses concern about going after the wrong target by going after vodka, because the vodka companies aren’t the problem, Putin is.  Yes.  And the only reason Dan and Harvey are on Chris’ show talking about this issue – the only reason the world is talking about this issue – is because the vodka boycott galvanized the world’s interest, and support.  This story was getting comparatively little coverage – no, make that “little coverage,” period – before the vodka exploded the story, and the world’s interest.

Chris needs to talk this through with someone who can explain the rationale for the vodka boycott, for the protest tactics overall, and who can more generally explain how effective advocacy works.  There’s a reason we’ve employed the tactics we have the past 3 weeks, and they’ve worked for achieving what we wanted to achieve: media, outrage, education, and the beginning of the destruction of Brand Russia – all of which are geared towards the longer-term goal of repealing the law, but also teaching Russia and the world not to f with us.

No one thought we’d win this in 3 weeks.  We did hope we could get the world’s attention – a necessary first step in creating change – and boy, we sure did.

Harvey Fierstein also appeared on UpWithChris on MSNBC.  Harvey has been amazing in helping to blow up, and then keep the focus on, this issue, starting with his amazing NYT op ed that helped blow this issue wide open.

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Richard Socarides does a great job discussing Sochi on Anderson Cooper’s show.

UK LGBT human rights charity on why the Stoli boycotted mattered:

What is your view on the vodka boycott?

We are supportive of the vodka boycott. I completely agree that by itself it won’t change the Russian laws and consumer boycotts have a problematic history at best. You also have to be careful when you’re trying to target companies that may ostensibly appear to be Russian but are actually transnational and operate in a number of different territories.

Where the boycott has been incredibly successful is in raising the profile of the issue. If it hadn’t been called for it would be unlikely that we would be discussing the problems and unlikely that it would be appearing in national newspapers or that Obama would be talking about it on late night television.

Bingo.  You can’t win if no one is even talking about your issue.  Of course, this has moved far beyond the Stoli boycott at this point – and really, anyone still worrying about the wisdom of that tactic has either been asleep the past three weeks, paid off by Big Vodka, and/or seriously doesn’t understand how to conduct effective advocacy on a global scale.  As Richard notes in the Anderson Cooper piece, this may very well be – it already is, really – the biggest international gay rights story in history, in terms of its worldwide coverage. It’s no longer a question of the wisdom of the boycott – it’s now a question of where to channel that success.

Funniest damn thing I’ve seen in a while:


Why academics should take a stand against Russia.

The Onion: “2014 Olympics to be held in 19th Century”

Putin a Rainbow:


Swedish athletes stand up to Putin in Moscow.

Openly-gay Bravo star Andy Cohen turns down emcee job for Miss Universe because it’s to be hosted in Russia.

TIME: For Sochi’s Sake, NBC Can’t Ignore Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws

NBC will face increasing pressure to cover this story extensively, and report critically on the IOC, its business partner. Will the IOC accept such a discriminatory law? In the Olympic Charter, the sixth “fundamental principle of Olympism” states that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.” Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter also bans political and religious demonstrations at Olympic venues. So the IOC does not like discrimination. But athletes cannot speak up about a law that is clearly discriminatory. “We always say to our athletes, ‘We do not want any demonstrations in one or the other direction,’” Gerhard Heiberg, an IOC member from Norway, told the Associated Press. “‘Please, you are there to compete and behave. Please don’t go out on the Net or in the streets.’” NBC will have to question, and criticize, this glaring IOC hypocrisy.

Russian anti-gay crackdown possible precursor for wider human rights abuses (USNWR):

But what human rights lawyers fear most about the recent spate of ill-defined restrictions on homosexual propaganda is that the provisions are a mere precursors to wider, state-sanctioned crackdowns against gays and lesbians. Most of the bills, for instance, are not formulated with sufficient clarity to allow individuals to act – with any degree of certainty – in conformity with the law  Leaving key terms such as “propaganda,” “promotion” and “negatively influence” undefined will have the double-edged effect of deterring potentially lawful forms of expression and allowing for arbitrary enforcement by police and prosecutors.

The 2014 Olympics provides the international community a platform to restate its commitment to promote and protect all individuals’ – dancers and hockey players included – right to freedom of expression and assembly by calling for the repeal of prohibitions on homosexual propaganda.

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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52 Responses to “Russia update: Savage & Fierstein on MSNBC, Brits & Swedes weigh in, Miss Universe pageant snafu”

  1. skwcw2001 . says:

    thank you very much for the info

  2. olandp says:

    Yeah… two so far!

  3. grayzip says:

    I believe that is the position Nazi Germany took toward the Jews

  4. grayzip says:

    I like to see Dan Savage on TV almost as much as he does, but let’s perhaps pause to notice he’s on the defensive now. No, he’s saying, we’re NOT comparing this to Holocaust, all we’re saying is… etc etc

    Perhaps you see the problem?

    To whatever extent this debate becomes about whether Russia today is or isn’t like Nazi-era Germany it becomes that much less about what Russia is doing to its gays now. Let us not give people such a gift-wrapped way to make us look stupid and do nothing, shall we? No? Well it was worth a shot.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There are some groups in Russia you can donate to, like Deti 404 which is helping gay teens with depression. You can also talk to politicians and push for refugee status for gay Russians, which Canada already offers. If you find other ideas, post them on here and eventually people will catch on.

  6. skwcw2001 . says:

    Hey john,

    I am loving that your paying this issue attention, but what actually can we do as far as the gays in russia? I mean what programs or efforts are being made to help them directly to protect or get them out of their like a gay underground? We are witness to something I have only heard about in my life, we are actually in 2013 starting to see signs of how germany manipulated the population and then page by page step by step them and the church created propaganda, and deflected the ills of a state, to be able to blatantly start the final solution. I as well as all of you are actually seeing the first steps we are seeing how it was able to happen in the first place. People keep bring up the olympics and hilter and how owens showed them up, well fine but after he leaves we along with all other countries stand by and let over 6 million folks be killed so it really isnt a good or valid argument. I am hearing from many elite gays that we need to not punish the atheletes… what? Ok just because we want to see the young cute folks in tight outfits we overlook brutality against our brothers and sisters? Are we that shollow now? They are promoting the violence against our people, unlike all other groups we are of every group, every religion and region so it makes it harder for us to have a centralized system to protect ours. Russia is using a play book of evil, they are going to mark my words, they are going to start saying they must separate the gay prisoners once incarsirated from the general populations to not spread their disease, then these “camps” will be torture slash death camps, no open records of it, no reporting. People not even gay but political enemies will be put in them, many straights being informed on by their enemies, and the gays that are there will face death and rape and destruction, all this will happen I have no doubt of it, but we in this country are saying that there is a debate if we should go there, a debate? A debate has two sides of a different issue, murder isnt a side, imprisonment of people just for existing isnt a side.

    So it leads me back to my question what, or who can we talk to and start a movement to protect or get them out of the area, if we cant and wont help them then we cant call ourselves a people or a community. A community pulls together when attack at all cost.


  7. jomicur says:

    As a blissfully happy non-subscriber to cable, I only get to see this stuff when there are clips on the blogs I read. I’ve been wondering what Maddow has been saying about this (but I’ve been admittedly too inert to check MSNBC’s site) and I don’t think I’m to surprised that she’s been silent on the subject. I learned very early in my (weirdly checkered) career how powerful corporate pressure can be on employees. But there was a time when I would have thought better of Maddow. I’m reminded once again of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “year”: a period of 365 disappointments.

  8. Bill_Perdue says:

    NBC and Comcast are playing a double game here.

    MSNBC, which incessantly and falsely tries to identify the Democrat party as a supporter of GLBT rights does occasionally feature material supportive or our communities. But, like the Democrats they shill for, they can be backstabbers.

    They’ve known all along, as they ramped up their plans for profit gouging, that the Putinistas we intent on implementing a draconian anit-LGBT offensive. As the Huffington Post revealed, NBC was fully
    aware of the progress of the Russian bigot law as early as 2006: “Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that before Sochi was chosen for the 2014 games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other stakeholders, including American multinational sponsors of the Winter Olympics, as well as NBC Universal, which has the broadcast contract, carefully tracked the path of the legislation… .”

    NBC, Comcast, the IOC and their sponsors are enablers of Putins mad dog bigotry. Boycott and divest.

  9. Hue-Man says:

    The media attention arising from the vodka boycott has brought new political pressure. The first is from today’s CTV Montreal’s noon news:”Gays flee Russia, seek asylum in Canada” Interview with immigration lawyer who describes what happened in Russia to his gay clients and the changed environment due to news coverage (Video 4:21 !)

    And from CBC Vancouver:
    “Maxim Zhuravlev is staying at a homeless shelter in downtown Vancouver, but says the conditions are far safer than what he faced in Russia.”
    “”It is considered an honour for a Russian to harm or even kill a gay person. They will be honoured by society and tell everyone, ‘I killed a gay person.’ Everyone basically will be proud of that.””

    Canada has about 20,000 refugee claimants each year with almost ZERO media coverage; this coverage will influence the Refugee Board members who decide each claim.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m curious, though, whether this is grounds for arrest…

  11. karmanot says:

    Maddow is gay and regularly mentions her spouse on the show. Don’t get any hopes up about leaving comments on her blog. The blog Nazi’s who run the works censor any negative Rachel commentary. Maddow is an MSNBC sell out on this issue.

  12. karmanot says:

    Silent protest against the anti-gays laws is called COLLABORATION.

  13. karmanot says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Lawrence O’Donnell, however, has done an excellent job of covering our issues. Rachel Maddow hasn’t said a peep except to make condescending jokes about it with her fan boi Chris Hayes. John is wrong on this Chris Hayes is no fan of gays.

  14. AnitaMann says:

    Yep. It matters less what Chris or any other host does as long as a guest is allowed to speak the truth.

  15. Anonymous says:

    BTW, Swedish runner Moa Hjelmer did the same because of Tregaro:

    Isinbayeva said: “If we will allow to promote, do all this stuff on the streets we are very afraid about our nation. Everything was fine, this comes from history. We’ve never had these problems in Russia and we don’t want to have it in the future.”
    (Everything was fine? Lol…)

  16. Anonymous says:

    “Not by wrath does one kill, but by laughter.” -Nietzsche
    Keep the Putin pics coming.

  17. Rambie says:

    I’ll look it up.

  18. Naja pallida says:

    It is kinda like claiming that Coca Cola isn’t an American company because the syrup is shipped to other countries and bottled there. Stoli has spent its entire existence trying to profit off how their Russian heritage makes them a “real” vodka. It’s only been the last few years that they’ve been distancing themselves from that image.

  19. jomicur says:

    The documentary PARAGRAPH 175 gives an excellent history of the Nazi’s anti-gay measures. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

  20. AnitaMann says:

    I think the money has to be a factor. I haven’t seen the CNN coverage–no cable, and CNN gives me hives–but if they’re giving it more coverage, as long as it’s fair, that’s a pretty big indictment of NBC/MSNBC. Though I don’t think it matters that Hayes was doing his “devil’s advocate” thing. Harvey and Dan pushed back hard enough and got their points across. I think they were loaded for bear anyway.

  21. jomicur says:

    Hayes comes off not only clueless but willfully so. I agree that he’s always been pretty good on our issues in the past, but Harvey and/or Dan really needed to bitch slap him in hopes it would knock some sense into him. I wouldn’t like to think he’s trying to minimize the issue because of NBC/Comcast, but the only other explanation I can think of is that he has turned into a gaping moron for some reason. I can just hear him in the 50s bleating that protesters shouldn’t target lunch counters because the real problem was racist laws.

    I have dealt with Comcast in the past, both as a journalist and as a member of the city’s cable commission, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are a ragingly homophobic company. Hayes wouldn’t be the first Comcast employee co-opted into toeing the corporate line.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Emma Green Tregaro, another athlete doing their part. Thanks for sharing.

  23. “The gay community has in our history been attacked in every way you can attack a group. There is nothing that the human race as thought up to tear down other people that hasn’t been used on us.”
    If Chris Hayes did nothing else in that segment, he gave Harvey Fierstein a national stage on which he could make that one horrifyingly true statement. I think it’s easy to forget that our existence as a community is incredibly new and our ability as glbt persons to be honest and open about who we are and our lives is also incredibly new. And incredibly fragile.
    What’s happening in Russia is very old – scapegoating and attacking a minority to avoid dealing with real problems. It’s the same old enemy of civilization.

  24. Anonymous says:

    The government already abuses workers in Sochi. And neo-Nazis target foreigners and brown/black people almost as often as gays.

  25. Houndentenor says:

    I don’t know him personally. Perhaps you can offer a different explanation. MSNBC has covered this story FAR less than CNN. And the media as a whole ignored the topic until the boycott. His questions seem out of question (and beyond the typical “Devil’s Advocate” type). I’m happy to hear an explanation from him. He’s not that ignorant of gay issues. NBC must be freaking out over the possibility of a boycott. They got burned on the 1980 games. That was a long time ago, but surely the suits are aware of the potential financial risk of that happening again.

  26. NBC possibly, but I doubt Chris would do it even if asked.

  27. Well, anti-gay laws were on the books forever, so not sure. But they did tighten them in the 1930s since we were a threat to the master race as well, not breeding and all. And probably have bad genetics in their eyes.

  28. askanew says:

    Link is to Guardian article “Yelena Isinbayeva condemns Emma Green Tregaro’s rainbow gesture”

  29. Rambie says:

    “Russian anti-gay crackdown possible precursor for wider human rights abuses (USNWR):”

    Didn’t Hitler use gays as a target before going after the Jews?

  30. emjayay says:

    Escaped me too.

  31. emjayay says:

    I think Dan Savage summed up the Stoli-Russia connection pretty well. Besides, it’s the visibility and publicity boycotting Stoli that matters at this point, as has been pointed out, and it worked. It’s not like I can redirect my bulk purchases of magnesium to other suppliers.

  32. emjayay says:

    Good question. I mean, she’s all about leftish politics and I have the distinct impression that she might possibly also be gay. No relevant topic on MaddowBlog either. But you can certainly post a comment there anyway. It’s the only way I know of getting a message to them.
    Unfortunately MaddowBlog only allows comments using your Facebook registration. I do not understand why any blog – including Charles Pierce – do that. Some sites of course allow Facebook or Yahoo or other registrations for comments, or Disquis, or just their own. Are they paid off by Facebook in order that Facebook can sell itself and you as an individual to more advertisers, or what? What other reason could there be?

  33. nicho says:

    It’s all in the eye of the beholder — very similar to the anti-gay laws we had for a decade concerning members of the armed forces. We, of course, didn’t jail them — although sometimes they were beaten up and, in a few cases, murdered. The government, however, could ruin your life and your livelihood — and often did. And sometimes, they ignored you.

  34. uhhuhh says:

    Chris Hayes has shown again and again that he’s a little privileged straight boy who quickly recites patronizing boilerplate about gay rights and then wallows in homophobia with panel after panel of straights-only guests. He doesn’t get it and is too fucking straight-liberal-arrogant to ever admit that he doesn’t get it. As a straight liberal, he knows exactly what is right for gays, and he will shove it down our throats without even letting us express a view. Fuck him. His ex-boss at the equally straight-arrogant Nation is the same way. They’re still too busy trying to defend Soviet Communism.

  35. DastiusKrazitauc says:

    At the end of the Dan Savage clip, Rachel Maddow chuckles about heated it got. Where has she been in all this? How has her coverage been?

  36. chris10858 says:

    I forgot to mention… great article, John!! Thanks.

  37. chris10858 says:

    I have noticed time and time again that media often recites the erroneous message that Stoli isn’t really Russian and therefore should not be boycotted. I listened to the interview with the head of the company on Mike Signorile’s show a few weeks back and he mentioned that they produce over 100,000 bottles of Stoli a day AND they do get their grain from Russia where it is first distilled into alcohol before being shipped to Latvia.

    That’s a heck of a lot of grain to produce that many bottles of Stoli. So, boycotting the product DOES have an effect on Russia’s economy. Plus, our larger effort is to boycott ANY Russian products, not just vodka.

  38. Houndentenor says:

    Chris Hayes is not as stupid as he comes off in that clip. Someone higher up at NBC is pushing the news division to ignore or discount the story as much as possible. Will the boycott directly affect any change in Russia? No. But the news media almost universally ignored the story of how gays are being treated in Russia until the boycott. That’s a lot of effect. Hayes should be ashamed of himself MSNBC is acting like Fox: Shilling for positions even they have to know are unsupportable.

  39. Bj Lincoln says:

    I hope this is the start of a global movement to treat all people with dignity. The boycott got us on the news and the Olympics is the next step in teaching the world that LGBT people are being abused and killed in Russia and other countries. The good people of the world will fight for us.
    In the US, people are changing and lies have been exposed. Lively is being charged and WILL be found guilty of spreading lies that have created a dangerous environment in Uganda.
    We need to keep pushing the issues and showing the world the danger we are in thanks to ignorant leaders listening to lies.
    When humans are being beaten, kidnapped, tortured, and killed with the support of the law, it is about human rights.

  40. Ninong says:

    “Homosexual propaganda,” according to the Russian government, is any statement that does not support their official position that homosexuality is a “mental sickness.” They copied St. Petersburg’s ordinance but changed “homosexual relations” to “non-traditional sexual relations.”

    So now it’s the law throughout all of the Russian Federation. Anything that contradicts the official position that homosexuality is a “mental sickness” is a violation of the law if it is exposed to any persons under the age of 18. The Russian government does not accept the position of modern medical science that homosexuality is an innate sexual orientation and simply a variation of human sexuality and not something that is acquired by being exposed to it at a young age.

    Like Iran, Russia hopes to eradicate homosexuality by not talking about it, other than to say bad things.

  41. Ninong says:

    Vladimir Putin has a very strong personal interest in Stolichnaya, Russian Standard and the other 43 brands of Russian vodka that Yuri Sheffler bought for only $300,000 in 1997. Putin has been personally involved in the legal battle to void that sale and return the rights to all Russian vodka to the government of the Russian Federation.

    During the years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, a lot of ordinary Russian government functionaries managed to make out like bandits while Yelsin simply stayed drunk all the time. They got loans to purchase government assets at what turned out to be absurdly low prices and became billionaires before they turned 35. Putin got even with one of them — I can’t remember his name right now — and he’s now in prison. Putin’s favorite tactic is to charge them with tax evasion.

    Anyway, Putin has been fighting to get Stoli and the other Russian vodka brands that used to be part of the Soviet Agriculture Ministry returned to Russia. A Moscow court agreed with him way back in 2002 and the Hague Court of Appeal agreed with him just last year. Yuri’s company, SPI — which used to be part of the Agriculture Ministry — has been fighting this since 2001.

    So boycotting Stoli and all of the other Russian brands of vodka hits Putin where it hurts because he has been closely associated with the success of Russian vodka and the fight to get worldwide distribution rights returned to the Russian government.

  42. Indigo says:

    What is “homosexual propaganda”?

  43. Jim Olson says:

    S’ok, Olandp. Everyone has one major character flaw…

  44. Jim Olson says:

    ooh. Gay hockey players.

  45. LOL sorry, I’ve never referred to him as George before :) Now, Sulu…

  46. olandp says:

    Who are you and what have you done to our Sci-Fi nerd John? He would know George Takei.

    And I never really liked Star Trek (prepare the down votes.)

  47. Agree. Who is George?

  48. olandp says:

    I agree with Harvey, “I’ll eat anything of Dan Savage’s.”

    We truly have wonderful representatives, Harvey, Dan, Stephen, George and all of our people!

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