19 August 2013

The Chauvinists at it Again

No Latvian vodka for us please

The Western-liberals are at it again. Between the NSA surveillance scandal and the American-supported government crackdown in Egypt the hip, right-thinking crowd in the West has its panties up in a bunch over, wait for it... gay rights in the Russian Federation. You could not make this stuff up.

Obviously there can be no obligation upon anyone to care more about one event than another, and there are bound to be differences of emphasis between sincere people, but let us be serious here. When your government is drone-bombing Yemen, occupying the nation of Afghanistan, fueling the civil war in Syria and filling up its prisons with blacks, yet you spend your August crusading (posturing) against mistreatment of gays in Russia your credibility suffers. You come off as either dishonest, or too dull to be worth listening to.

What is more, the letter which spearheaded all of this is a glaring piece of national chauvinism:
"He may claim that the “values” of Russia are not the “values” of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately)."
Yep, Stephen Fry, the British comedian who jump-started the Russia-frowning meme for this summer outs himself as an anti-Russian chauvinist in the very same text he wrote to complain about the horrendous political incorrectness going on in Russia.

Fry insists the religion Russians practice is "bigoted". What is more their bigoted religion is one of the two components that creates a "toxic mix" which grips the Russians. It is incredible how unattuned the Western peddlers of synthetic moral outrage are to their own bigotry. Socialist Yugoslavia was a secular state, one which discouraged religious practice and was dedicated to promoting atheism. Yet even there proclaiming somebody practiced a bigoted religion would result in that person rightfully being seen as a mouthing-off chauvinist.

It is also cute how Fry qualifies his chauvinism by letting it slip he nonetheless loves Russian music, literature and drama. Like every anti-black chauvinist has one black friend, every liberal anti-Russian chauvinist loves Russian literature (but not culture). What is more, for some the very genius of Russian writers is more proof of Russian barbarity:
"Only Russian barbarism, I believe, was capable of giving rise to a literature of such phenomenal power and depth, one in which the primal emotions are opened like wounds from a knout."
Anyway, Fry's moronic and pompous letter actually breathed life into a mini-movement of sorts. Inspired by him gay clubs in San Francisco decided to dump Russian vodka in the streets. Only it turned out the vodka in question is actually made in Latvia by a company with a seat in Luxembourg. Similarly, the Italian cities of Milan, Turin and Venice joined in the anti-anti-gay outrage to break off their arrangement with their Russian twin-cities. They remain twinned with cities in Senegal and Iran, however, where homosexual activity is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment or death. So maybe not so outraged?

His Imperial Majesty, Barack Obama, himself weighted in on the matter to say the Russians were violating "basic morality" and he had no patience for that kind of thing all the while he (over Russian objections) delivers firepower to Islamist rebels in Syria who, of course, are famous for their lenience toward the LGBT crowd, the appreciation of Stephen Fry and the intention to turn Syria into a mecca for gay tourists.

Fry himself committed a ridiculous blooper in his celebrated open letter, where he called on the Russians to stop with this anti-gay stuff and be more like their countryman Peter the Great instead. It turns out Peter the Great introduced the first legal ban on homosexuality in Russia. So maybe Russians should be more the opposite of Peter the Great after all?

It is important to note that we are talking here about people who do not know anything. The crowd that takes up Western-liberal causes is convinced of its superiority, particularly intellectual superiority, but its absorption with itself comes with a price: intellectual laziness. These are essentially brain-dead people. There has not been a redneck born yet who can match the sheer, utter lack of curiosity for the truth of a smug Western-liberal.

Seeing they have failed to say anything of substance (that was factual) on the Russian anti-gay law that they protest against, it almost seems beside the point to talk about it. Nonetheless, I will say it is an unfair and repressive law that should have never came into existence. Actually, I do not think the Russian Duma should exist, or has any right to pass laws to begin with, but that is another matter.

It is a law that has been transparently drawn up for one purpose only. It has been passed so that the legislators can try to score points with the electorate. It is a nod from the Russian state-elite to Russians, their way of saying: "Do not worry, on this we are on the same page with you." It is patronizing and reveals how little the Russian legislators think about their constituents. (As if a culture needed the aid of a parliament to enforce its norms.) But it is mainly a gesture. The practical implications of the newly-added Article 6.13.1. against "propagating homosexuality to minors" are very few. It does not change the existing conditions for gays and gay activists in any major way.

Seeing it is a bad law the Western-liberal crowd would normally have to be congratulated and commended for bringing it to attention... if they did not simultaneously misrepresent the facts and engage in bizarre hyperbole complete with the references to the rounding up of Jews and the Holocaust. I mean, let us get some perspective here. The prevailing attitude in the West is that a homosexual act is something that is value-neutral and that therefore reflects neither poorly nor positively on the person engaging in. In Russia, however, homosexuality continues to be seen, as it has been throughout most of history, as a vice. Now, since there is no way of objectively establishing something as vice, virtue or neither, it is pointless to argue about it. It is a matter of aesthetics. The Russians are entitled to their own subjective way of looking at it same as everyone else.

Now, that does not mean the Russian Duma has any right to legislate against homosexuality, or the defense of thereof. There is no justification for any state to legislate morality and to wage war on vice. But again, let us get some perspective here. Do not all states in fact continuously pass laws against perceived vice? Is anti-gay legislation any worse than legislation against alcohol,
cigarettes, prostitution, soft drinks and fast food? In fact would not many of the Western-liberals who are outraged at the Russians otherwise be in the forefront of the campaigns to ban the advertising of tobacco and junk food in their own countries?

Russian state campaign against "gay propaganda" is ugly and repressive, but you know what? Its campaign against drug users is far worse. And nobody bats an eyelid. Nobody reckons locking up people for doing drugs by the thousands is an echo of Nazi Germany circa 1936. Why the double standard? In part because the Western-liberals agree drugs are a vice. But also because in the West it is held that being a homosexual is more than a sexual preference, it is en entire identity. Being a homosexual is not thought of as being just one of many characteristics of a certain person, but instead makes one into a member of a wholly separate tribe, a member of the oft-persecuted "LGBT community". On the other hand nobody reckons being a drug user makes one into a member of a much maligned "Heroin Nation" (for example). It is as if rights for the Western-liberals may only be claimed by tribes, but not by mere individuals. The "LGBT community" is entitled to fair treatment, but a single individual drug user is not, because it is not held that his preference for banned substances make him a cultural alien among his countrymen.  

Yet seen at the level of individual rights it is all rather unspectacular. Think of it this way. You can not have a Gay Pride parade in Moscow, like you can not have a Marijuana March in rural Texas, or an Oktoberfest in the United Arab Emirates. Repressive, but hardly cause to start invoking the Nazis. (Whom, by the the way, the Russians had done more than anyone else to defeat.)

Why then the overreaction? And why is it that anti-gay laws in say, Saudi Arabia, fail to throw Western-liberals into a similar frenzy? Or why even expend so much energy on this in light of real politics? In light of actually historically significant events like the wars in Afghanistan and Syria and the growing national-security state in the US? Because well, the Western-generated hysteria surrounding it actually has nothing to do with the issue supposedly at hand. The state of "gay rights" in Russia is simply the current foil for the Western-liberals in their continuous culture war which they wage against cruder, more vulgar folk than themselves, such as the Russians. If it would not be Stephen Fry and the Article 6.13.1 it would be something else.

Actually the frenzy has everything to do with the desperate Western need to find identity and validation by contrasting themselves with the people who are exactly like them only without all the things that make themselves so super. Since these include enlightenment and progressiveness those they compare themselves to must necessarily be, or be made into, the opposite
retrograde barbarians one step away from sliding into Nazi thuggery. It is an attempt to describe themselves in terms that are not a matter of mere geography, but to add moral, cultural and civilization worth to them.

Now why exactly it is the Westerners thirst to contrast themselves with Russians rather than say the Chinese, the Saudis, or the Africans is another matter. It is pretty clear, however, that, if the target of their judgy gaze were in the third world instead, their chauvinism would be transparent even to themselves. Certainly Stephen Fry could not write the religion practiced by Iranians was bigoted without raising eyebrows, nor could he insist Senegal's anti-gay laws put it outside "the civilised world" without being subject to ridicule and a legitimate suspicion of bigotry.

2 comments:

  1. The practical implications of the newly-added Article 6.13.1. against "propagating homosexuality to minors" are very few. It does not change the existing conditions for gays and gay activists in any major way.
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    bullshit. it means that if you are open with who you are you can be prosecuted. If you change your facebook status to "in a relationship" with someone of the same gender, if you mention your same-sex partner, if you are in any way public with the statement, "it's ok to be gay", you are in violation of the law



    Think of it this way. You can not have a Gay Pride parade in Moscow, like you can not have a Marijuana March in rural Texas, or an Oktoberfest in the United Arab Emirates

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    Being gay isn't illegal in Russia. Freedom of assembly is a right that either everyone has or no one really has it. If you start picking and choosing who has the right of assembly, then no one really has it. We're talking legal things here, not a cannibals' picnic

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    1. An identical law had already been in place in Ryzan (2006), Arhangelsk (2011), Kostroma (2011) and St. Peterburg (2012). A considerable number of gays in Russia then have already been theoretically subject to an Article 6.13.1 equivalent for years. In all this time the Russian anti-gay laws have been used six times (three times in Arhangelsk, twice in Ryzan and once in St. Peterburg), leading to two convictions for 50 dollars in Ryzan. Both these victims of the local law appealed to international courts and have yet to actually pay the fine issued.

      This all from this piece from Nikolay Alekseyev who reckons the consequences copying the law for the federal level will "mostly be social not legal" and will actually have a net benefit for the situation of gays in Russia by giving their fight a boost.

      It would be interesting to know if Alekseyev's prediction from five months ago, when I was writing this, is coming true. Seeing the first fine under the federal law has been issued out only last month (to the aforementioned Alekseyev and several of his colleagues) it would indeed seem the law is not being widely applied and will indeed mostly have a social, not a legal, impact. (As you would expect from a bill passed by parliamentarians intended on pulling a gimmicky populist move to demonstrate to the society at large that they share its values and its disgust for homosexuality, but have no appetite for a real and comprehensive war on gays and gay activists that they would surely lose.)

      The passing of Article 6.13.1 has represented an incremental, rather than an earth-shattering, change for gays in Russia. They have gone from being subject to largely symbolic and rarely applied local laws in certain jurisdictions, to being subject to a largely symbolic and rarely applied law throughout the Russian Federation. Is it an unwelcome and repressive move in the wrong direction? Yes? Is it an earth-shattering move that is likely to have drastic legal consequences for thousands of Russian gays? No. It is an incremental move, that is unlikely to have many practical legal consequences for anyone, and that Alekseyev at least has no doubt the "LGBT fight" in Russia will succeed in getting repealed.

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