Elton John to perform in Russia – will he speak out against gay crackdown?

Elton John just told the Guardian that he’s going to keep his December concert date in Moscow, even though the Kremlin is sure to use the world’s possibly-most-famous gay man as a major propaganda pawn.

Russia, as you might know, is in the middle of a massive anti-gay crackdown intended to bolster President Vladimir Putin’s poor standing in the country at large.  The Russian government needed an enemy, so this time they chose gay and trans people.

Sadly, for Putin, something went wrong on the way to the pogrom.

The world woke up towards the end of July, and suddenly Russia’s anti-gay campaign was getting a lot of really bad publicity that cast a pall on Putin’s G20 summit earlier this month, and even worse (for Putin), the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this coming February.

So all of that plays into Elton John’s decision to sing in Moscow.

Elton John, photo by David Shankbone

Elton John, photo by David Shankbone

Now, there is a healthy debate as to what the best way is to influence Russia’s government, but simply showing up in Moscow and permitting them to use you as a poster-boy of hate is no one’s idea of the best approach.  No one wants to see the Russian government use the world’s most famous gay as proof that they’re really not anti-gay at all, and that their anti-gay “propaganda” law, and the proposed law to take children away from gay parents, aren’t really that bad because, hey, gay Elton is coming to sing!  So what about all the young gay kids getting kidnapped, raped and murdered!

Keep in mind that Elton John has two young sons.  The new law under consideration in Russia would remove his children from him, were he a Russian citizen.

And that’s exactly what’s going to happen when Elton John comes to Moscow.  Unless Elton John figures out some crafty way to make an enormous statement against Vladimir Putin’s draconian anti-gay crackdown.  But will he?

Elton John is not known for taking controversial play dates in order to make important political statemenst.  He famously performed at Rush Limbaugh’s most-recent wedding.  And he also played at South Africa’s notorious Sun City resort in the early 80s when much of the world was boycotting the country’s apartheid system of government.  So, understandably, folks aren’t terribly confidant that Lord Elton will find a way to make a big political statement during his time raking in the bucks in Moscow.

Which is too bad.  Elton John will be performing in Moscow right before the 2014  Winter Olympics begin.  It would be the perfect time for him to make a big statement about the anti-gay law.  But will he?  His statement to the Guardian is less than inspiring:

“I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December,” he says. “I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.”

If he’s “got to go,” then he’s got to make a huge political statement during his concert.

My friend Michael told me years ago that Americans were the only people who thought art should be separate from politics (meaning, the old “why do I want to hear what some movie star thinks about gun control?” argument).  Russian apologist Johnny Weir comes to mind.  In the rest of the world, Michael argued, politics and artistic expression are intimately intertwined.

Elton John isn’t American, he’s British.  So what’s his excuse?

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | 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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