It’s one thing to be outraged by the Russian anti-gay law that was passed unanimously by Duma in June and signed by Putin the following month. The law bans “homosexual propaganda” to minors, public manifestations of gay lifestyle and voicing support for the gay community. 88% Of the “citizens” of the country whose president runs sexed-up campaign ads approve of the bill.
Although some wide-eyed Americans think that the ban means something very narrow, like no more gay pride parades, we can realistically expect the law to be applied in whatever manner pleases the Kremlin. All the while Nazi homophobes across the Russian Federation (and I mean Nazi homophobes*) feel emboldened. In the wake of the law’s passing violence against sexual minorities skyrocketed.
Innocence: Russian teens beating up on a propagandist of “non-traditional sexual relations” around the time of Duma’s signing of the anti-gay law
Politics of Russian homophobia work in not so mysterious ways. The increasingly unpopular Putin needs a scapegoat which he found in the increasingly unpopular sexual minorities (some attribute populist homophobia to weak masculinity). Russia is dying, its birthrate is low, for which desperate elected officials blame homosexuals, which makes perfect sense considering that gays comprise about 1% of the total population. Dear friends, “homosexual propaganda” must be the reason Russian women abort more than a million children each year (if we believe the likely conservative official number). Westerners find it hard to imagine, but this one million figure represents a sharp drop from the Soviet-era highs. And, oh, in the Soviet times homosexuality was criminalized.
Foreigners and their decadent news organizations are subjects to the same penalties as Russian nationals plus deportation. A group of Dutch filmmakers arrested for interviewing a 17-year-old homosexual about his view of gay rights in Russia. But did you hear about the 50K sex trafficking victims in Moscow? (For some reason it feels very satisfying to sprinkle my post with statistics in re Russian moral degeneration). Many of said prostitutes are orphans Americans can no longer adopt. I’m sure this whole mess has something to do with the said group of Dutch filmmakers.
With the 2014 winter Olympics coming up, Putin found himself in a sensitive situation. Exception will be made for the Sochi games (or not). I look forward to watching Putin maneuver between whipping up homophobia at home and needing to attract the Olympians and the spectators from abroad. A side drama: the IOC having to coddle every petty dictator (and Putin is by no means a petty dictator) on one hand and appease the Western Left on the other. Wow! Pass the popcorn.
The reaction of the Western “LGBT” community was predictably inane. Egged on by the likes of the eternal teenager Dan Savage, they came up with a novel idea — boycott something. Something like vodka because vodka is a Russian word, you know. And so gay bars across the US and Canada made a public spectacle of “dumping Stoli”. Curious: Did they purchase some extra bottles in order to “dump” them?
And why Stoli? Stolichnaya sold in Russia is a government-owned. But Stolichnaya sold elsewhere is manufactured by a privately owned international corporation with only tenuous connections to Russia. The company sponsors gay pride events worldwide, and, I’m tempted to think, it’s the overexposure that landed the vodka on community organizer crap-list. The brand is so ubiquitous, it was the first thing to pop into activists’ minds.
Even if Stoli was made in Russia, private enterprise is not what’s wrong with the country. Heritage Foundation puts Russia at number 139 of its 2013 Index of Economic Freedom worldwide. It’s notoriously corrupt, the bureaucracy is vast, the laws are applied capriciously, capitol is hard to come by. Only 22% of gross domestic product of Russian Federation is generated by small and medium size businesses. Half of the country’s economy is the government, with natural resources comprising 17% of the GDP. Former Russian sub-president Dmitry Medvedev correctly saw the public sector dominance as a problem. (And how pathetic it is that 20-some years after the Soviet collapse there isn’t even a Russian consumer product for the West to boycott?)
In their latest video, Russian punk collective Pussy Riot attacked Russian Federation’s omnipresent oil and gas industries likening Russian Federation to Iran and UAE. Most compatriots don’t share Pussy Riot’s views, of course. They think of the state as a benevolent provider and redistributor. According to a December 2012 poll, nearly every other Russian dreams of working for Gazprom, a major state-owned natural resources company. The number of aspiring Gazprom employees rose by more than 10% over three years.
This is not going to end well. Technological advances made drilling possible just about anywhere — in North Dakota, Australia, Israel — you name it. The prices of fossil fuels are declining, and Russian economy is about to go in a tailspin. This is the reason for rising opposition, and for the need to scapegoat gays and lesbians. Empowering the individual to take care of his economic destiny is one way of addressing Russia’s problems. Empowering the individual will also create a more tolerant society. But I’m not holding my breath.
For the record: Gay Russian Neo-Nazis exist. Everything Neo-Nazi exists in Russia.