Brosplaining Russian Anti-Gay Oppression.

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    To clarify, again, I think it’s a both/and issue. There are people protesting Russia for the right reasons and people protesting Russia for the wrong reasons. I’d estimate an 80/20 to 90/10 split in favor of the former. My issue is with the latter. When my conservative FB friends are suddenly up-in-arms about Russia’s treatment if gays after opposing the “gay agenda”, I’m going to call bullshit.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      But please don’t worry about warring with me. I’m all for it. 🙂Report

    • I guess I’m just not seeing the same phenomenon that you are, Kazzy.

      All the people I’ve noted as stridently objecting to the Russian anti-LGBT “propaganda” laws are people I know to have been vocal in their support of LGBT causes for some time. Obviously your circle and mine aren’t going to overlap perfectly, and you are going to know different people than I do. If there are typically anti-gay people suddenly clutching their pearls at these laws, then I would call bullshit on that, too.

      But I don’t think that kind of person comprises any significant portion of the crowd decrying these laws. I think the overwhelming majority are broadly pro-LGBT, and this is simply one more manifestation of that attitude.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Like I said, I think it’s 80-90% legit effort. I probably failed to make evident how narrow my criticism was. But I’m frustrated with the very real bullshit artists I come across on this issue. And certain folks on the right who suddenly want to take up the cause of women or PoCs or LGBTQ folks when their target is convenient. Some segment of conservatives don’t care about sexism until it’s Katie Couric interviewing Palin or racism until it’s Joe Biden at the NAACP or gays until the Russian Olympics. Ugh.Report

      • I think it would help immensely if you could provide an example of one of these johnny-come-latelys.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Right. I think if we had a link, and @kazzy was saying, “Look! This guy is being a jerk!” then we could all look and go, “Yep. That there is a jerk.”

        I mean, what purpose is the conversation serving?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        The purpose? The PURPOSE? We don’t need no stinkin purpose.

        OK, you’re right. We do. I think the purpose is to find out what the heck Kazzy is talking about. I know I’m confused.Report

      • @kazzy ,

        I know others have asked you for an example of the “BS artists.” I guess I do, too, but I’d accept your word that it’s an acquaintance or set of acquaintances, perhaps with an explanation of how they rationalize their about face on these issues.

        For the record, I do think it’s at least plausible that the phenomenon you describe is taking place, although I haven’t witnessed it personally. (And for what it’s worth, I don’t buy Nob’s suggestion that your position is that the protests “are simply another reclassification of anti-Russia bias.” There’s nothing simplistic about your argument, and that’s to your credit.)

        One final point. To the extent the phenomenon you’re describing is a thing, then maybe that’s a roundabout indicator of progress, however hypocritically it’s expressed. If people who have no personal sympathy for gay rights decide to bait the Russian government for its anti-lgbt agenda, then maybe they’re inching toward such laws being unacceptable in a similar way that people have inched toward Jim Crow being unacceptable. Maybe that’s no great triumph for human rights, but it could be a glass half-full sort of thing.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Having to deal with whether people are doing the right thing for sufficiently good reasons is a good sign for how far we’ve come, I suppose.

        If I were thinking about, say, ending the drug war and I was dealing with a lot of people who were yelling that we needed to end the war on drugs because… I dunno. Because they thought that it’d humiliate Obama (or something completely unrelated to why the war on drugs is bad), I suppose I’d be irritated at the thought that these “allies” were very likely to abandon their position a couple of days after the election or something… but they’re adopting a policy position that is a policy position that I think will help a lot of folks over the long run even if their reasons are unrelated at best.

        I think that maybe I’d have reason to be upset if, say, I thought that their support for ending the war on drugs would do more to prolong it than end it… but that requires some weird hypotheticals.

        Maybe they’re bad people in general and I want to avoid the whole “lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” thing but we’re back into the hypotheticals (how will their being an ally harm anything, for example).

        The reasons behind doing something are important, of course, but they’re part of the long game important. The short game, at this point, involves (among other things) trying to get Russia to change in response to social pressure.

        Hey, there’s even an upside. Maybe one or two of these folks will vote for such things as SSM rights the next time the issue comes up on a ballot. Their reasons for voting for that sort of thing tend to be beside the point, at the end of the day when the ballots are counted.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        All fair critiques. I will say that what turned into my final piece started as a comment on Burt’s piece. As it got longer, I thought, “I should just make my own piece.” And with a dearth of feature ready stuff, I threw it up there. Which was probably in error on my own part. It didn’t get the attention it probably deserved and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve heard things on the radio and seen clips on TV, all of which are hard to track down and vet and impossible given what I’ve got going on in the real world. And I’m not going to put friends on blast for what they say on the internet.

        So to the extent that I might be overblowing the case and/or tilting at windmills, I’ll have to take that on the chin. And, if in the process of doing so, I offended anyone for the implications that what Russia is doing is anything but awful OR sincere outrage over the matter was something other than that, I apologize profusely.

        I don’t know if the number of apologies I’ve written this week is a sign of growth as a person or regression as a writer. Something to ponder…Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I guess I’m just a bit skeeved more generally by the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing. I’m seeing that play out in a number of places right now in my life and it is sitting really poorly with me. Which might be why something that might not be as big a deal as I think it is is sticking in my craw.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If you see it as “enemies of my friends have picked a new enemy”, it’s much more pleasant.Report

      • Avatar Zane says:

        I had just posted this in the other thread, and I see it’s more timely here:

        Kazzy, I hope this is not too late for you to see it. I know from reading your very thoughtful essays here that you do not condone what’s happening in Russia (or Nigeria or Uganda or where ever). Your posts about teaching, in particular, show a rare sensitivity to how kids who are seen as “different” are treated.

        The problem with your original essay is that you appear to bring together two arguments. The first is that some people appear to be Russia-haters, maybe of long-standing, and these people are using the controversy to stick it to Russia. That in fact, this set of people seem pretty silent on the issue of LGBT issues except as it gives them an anti-Russia angle. You don’t exactly say who these people are, but seem to hint that they are people you’ve conversed with. Some responses argue that many folks who had been Cold Warriors are actually all cozy with the Putin exactly because of this issue, and maybe there isn’t as much overlap as you see.

        Only the first and last two paragraphs of your OP address that first argument. The bulk of the essay takes a look at the legal status of LGBT people in Utah in 2002 and Russia today. Even though you note that you aren’t trying to establish an equivalency, you actually have made the argument for an equivalency. Inadvertently or not, you’ve made at least part of a case for “maybe things aren’t as bad in Russia as people think”. I know that’s not your intent, but it is the result.

        Things are bad in Russia and every indication seems to be that after the Olympics things will get worse. Whether some subgroup of protesters’ motives are problematic is really of the smallest concern to those facing violence, discrimination, family disruption, and silencing encouraged by the Russian state and church.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        Thanks for your comments, here and elsewhere. My original essay was not what it should have been and I apologize for that. I set out to do one thing and did another thing and that other thing was pretty bad. Insinuating that the very real threats to the mental, emotional, and physical safety of LGBTQ people in Russia are no big deal was wrong. I appreciate comments like yours for helping me to see that.

        I do think we need to keep a careful eye on international reporting. If someone took the worst stories about America’s failings with regards to race or gender or sexual orientation and oversimplified them, we could be made to look just as bad as Russia or worse. I believe the example I used was the Trayvon Martin killing. So when I see a video that shows Russians beating a gay man, I’m not necessarily comfortable immediately jumping to the conclusion that Russia is a nation of state-sanctioned gay basher. I could probably find a similar video from America. However, having said that, it was also unfair of me to assume the opposite. I really should have taken the time to develop a more detailed and nuanced understanding. Instead, I looked to push back against the idea that Russia is the worst place ever for gays by putting forth an equally preposterous position, namely that Russia is no different than Utah. I failed in this regard and will use it as a learning experience to do better next time.

        And thanks for your kind words. You should be commended for being able to see through my flubs.Report

  2. Avatar zic says:

    Indeed the reflexively anti-Russia crowd actually seems to rate Putin rather highly in his effectiveness. Romney (to keep beating the dead horse) praised Putin’s abilities as being superior to that of President Obama. Their objection, it would seem, is really more stemming from the fact that Russia’s not in US orbit. Putin’s his own bastard, rather than their own.

    My sense is that the timing here — a ban on free-speech rights if the speech relates to anything gay — was timed too coincide with and generate protests during the Olympics. It may be policy. It may be a lot of other stuff. But it’s definitely propaganda to garner support for Russia amongst social conservatives outside of Russia.Report

  3. NobAkimoto NobAkimoto says:

    As a general note, I probably shouldn’t have singled out Kazzy like that. I’ve seen a bit more of the Peter Lavelle variety and then there’s also people like Marc Bennett, who, despite being critical of Russia, feel that there’s a lot of hyperbole being lobbed about that’s unhelpful and driven by more of western perceptions of Russia than accurate reporting.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      No worries, Nob. It was a sloppy piece on my account and probably better to leave the international stuff to the people who understand international stuff.

      In general, I’m uncomfortable when, “I’m going to offer a specific critique of an specific act,” morphs into, “I’m just going to shit on the entirety of this group of people because I don’t like them and some bad behavior gives me an excuse, too.” I felt similarly about how the Amanda Knox trial inspired some people to denounce the entirety of the Italian justice system and, in some cases, Italian people. Not only is it unfair to those who aren’t guilty of whatever they’re being accused of, but it waters down the legitimate critique. If criticisms of Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws morph into “Let’s laugh at Putin in his karate outfit,” well, we’ve lost focus.Report

  4. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I think the activists protesting Russia are sincere.

    I think the media harping on the anti-gay-propaganda laws in the same breath as complaining about Sochi toilets and minor malfunctions at the opening ceremonies are just looking for things to pick on. People picked at Vancouver for issues with the Games, especially in the first week, but nobody used the mess-up on the Olympic torch during our opening ceremonies to conclude that Canada was a fundamentally dysfunctional country. In contrast, every minor issue that comes up at Sochi is treated as archetypal of everything wrong with Russia.

    I’m also highly skeptical that the national governments making an issue of this actually care about the conditions of Russian gay people rather than being out to score political points. If a country sent its leaders to the Beijing Olympics but is boycotting Russia over human rights issues, then their boycott has everything to do with political posturing and nothing to do with human rights.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      I think you make a good point. How much of this outrage against gays, etc. would be reported if 1) it wasn’t for the olympics 2) the olympics being in Russia?

      On the other side of things, I have great difficulty getting all riled up about the doings going on in a country on the opposite side of the world where we have little to zero influence (nor should we) unless they start bashing on gay US citiczens.Report

    • Avatar Nicholas Costo says:

      “In contrast, every minor issue that comes up at Sochi is treated as archetypal of everything wrong with Russia. ”

      Because many so-called ‘minor’ issues are evidence of the issues plaguing modern Russian society: cronyism, corruption, decaying infrastructure, disregard for human rights, disregard for the labour force, disregard for elementary rules of contract.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I severely miss Blaise P at moments like this. He’d have something eloquent and yet cutting to say about Russia.
        All I can offer is Russia seems to have more plagues than she has blessings right now.Report

  5. Avatar Zane says:

    Really nice essay, Nob. Thank you.Report