This is as neat an illustration of my previous blog as could be. Without wishing to repeat myself, a few brief points about it:
- As is already typical of this issue, it’s a column written by a Westerner which features absolutely no voices from within Russia. It seems a no-brainer to me that any boycotts (or indeed other action) should not only be informed, but meaningfully led by, activists in Russia. If people in other countries had decided to boycott the UK when it introduced Section 28, without actually speaking to anyone in the country, we would have found them utterly absurd. It’s an illustration of our Western arrogance that we feel completely justified leading on action in a country most of us have never set foot in.
- An ignorance which is aptly illustrated by a series of links to reported events which we still known next to nothing about. The ‘Neo-Nazi skinheads torturing gay kids’ thing is reported on the website of a ‘human rights’ organisation which pretty much no-one had heard of last week. Its ‘base’ appears to be a PO Box in America. It provides almost no actual evidence for its claims and we have no reason to treat it as a credible source. Yet the story has still been reported worldwide. This isn’t to deny that it may be happening but we surely have an obligation to properly look into it rather than indignantly posting some links while demanding our boycotts which it’s clear some Russian activists think are utterly pointless?
- She also posts the Buzzfeed link which everyone has been sharing. A link where you can see some harrowing photos surrounded by links such as “Your Favorite Celebs Decked Out In Lisa Frank”, “20 Signs that Jennifer Lawrence is Your Spirit Animal” and “27 Occasions That Definitely Call For Cake”. It’s cheap and tawdry. Buzzfeed could easily have a) written more than 50 words about the issue and b) linked to further reading. They don’t do either because they want to keep people’s attention and they don’t want to drive traffic away from the site. The fact that the story was apparently their most read of the week explains why they’re doing so many (facile) follow-ups. Seriously, what is this shit?
- Thinking that the IOC actually cares a jot about human rights suggests at best a staggering naivete and at worst an incredulous stupidity. As I previously wrote, the IOC has history both of lending credence to repressive regimes and of demanding authoritarian crackdowns in ‘democratic’ countries which are hosting the games.
- Indeed, it’s somewhat ironic that this author brings up the Nazi comparison and the Jews given that almost no countries boycotted the Olympics when they were held in Nazi Germany in 1936. The UK has never boycotted the Olympics, even during the US-led boycott of the Soviet Union in 1980.
- The point she makes however, that everyone would boycott the Olympics if Russia was persecuting Jews, is a bit of an odd one given that Russia (and indeed previous host cities like China) have a track record of oppression which long pre-dates…last month. The clear implication that the Russian authorities could continue to harass, attack, jail and murder its opponents, feed and use far-right nationalism and racism, crack down on basic human rights and engage in brutal crackdowns as long as no-one was subject to any of this solely because of their sexuality is embarrassing, if not blatantly offensive.
- “Twenty-first century queers aren’t going to wait quietly for a diplomatic solution while each month more of us are tortured and more of us are murdered.” You’re right, not drinking vodka and calling for Olympic boycotts is far more appealing and productive. Yet in the next paragraph she pretty much attributes the end of apartheid to the actions of world governments.
- Which is in itself obviously hugely problematic, completely ignoring the long and often violent struggle which took place on the ground within South Africa. It certainly became an international movement but it was not one which was imposed on South Africans from the West. Plus, Russia clearly isn’t South Africa and its dominance of the EU’s oil and gas supplies is enormously relevant here.
- In short, this is the kind of indignant and ill-informed response which unfortunately seems to be driving this whole thing.