Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Putin’s Thug State

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2013

Scott Long dug into Russia’s social media to uncover the story behind the stories of neo-Nazi gangs abusing (and perhaps killing) young gay men and posting their videos on VK, Russia’s version of Facebook.

Maxim Martsinkevich is probably the place to begin. Nothing about the 29-year-old would-be architect’s page at VK, Russia’s answer to Facebook, suggests a particularly distinctive skinhead. He goes by his nickname, “Tesak,” variously translated “machete,” “cleaver,” or — my favorite — “slasher.” He likes steroids, protein shakes, pointless displays of masculinity (three videos show him having a tooth pulled minus anesthetic), and Adolf Hitler. Yet he’s quite innovative as Nazis go. Early in the Putin years, he was the driving force behind Format18, a violent group that called itself the “armed wing” of Russia’s National Socialist party.

Format18 regularly assaulted immigrants and dark people. Its creativity lay in deciding that visibility — movie cameras coupled with social media — was not its enemy, but its friend. It filmed the attacks, turning them into imitation music videos that went viral on YouTube and VK. Google “Format18″ and “funny” and you’ll figure out why: their savage sense of humor. “Lol, I love those videos,” one European neo-Nazi says. “It’s funny when they beat people up then burn their passports.” Some of the videos showed murders.

Still from a video of a 12-year old (R) being threatened and abused in Tambov; faces not blurred in the original. (Via Scott Long)

The neo-Nazi’s call themselves “Occupy Pedophilia,” in accordance with the mindset that equates homosexuality with pedophilia. While many of the victims in these videos are in twenties to fifties, some of those so-called “pedophiles” appear to be quite young. In fact, the thugs really don’t care about the distinction, but they’re happy to play up the confusion. It’s all a trope to stir hatred against pretty much everyone:

In Kamensk, the online news source Lenta.ru interviewed Occupy Pedophilia members. “Homosexuals are almost sacred in this country,” one leader complained. ”We are against pedophiles, but we also do not like homosexuals. I don’t know why homosexuals protect pedophiles.” He added:

Some representatives of homosexuals came to my home recently … They said we mock people. They asked why we hate them. They said they feel oppressed. It just happened that they both somehow jumped into the garbage cans.

“If you see two young men walking down the street and holding hands, what would you do?” the reporter asks. The answer: “Interrogation. And then it all depends on them.”

That slippage between gays and predators is a common enough prejudice, in Russia as elsewhere. On the other hand, when Western activists redefine the men simply as “gay” victims, they should be aware they’re just reinforcing a widespread Russian belief that gays are identical to pedophiles. They need to note the nuance and stress the difference, not just confirm the belief.

Some may argue that these neo-Nazi groups are criminal fringe groups and in no way represent Putin’s Russia. But that argument evaporates when we see Dmitri Kisilev, the anchor Vesti, the most popular news program on state-owned Russia 1, say that the “gay propaganda law doesn’t go far enough:

YouTube Preview Image

“I think that just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough. They should be banned from donating blood, sperm. And their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”

Comments

POST COMMENT | COMMENT RSS 2.0

Odie
August 12th, 2013 | LINK

Given how many Russians were killed by the Nazis in the “Great Patriotic War” as they call WWII over there it amazes me that neo-Nazi groups would be allowed to exist at all in Russia let alone be able to operate so openly. The Nazis considered Russians and other Slavic people to be sub-human, yet this garbage is tolerated by the government?

etseq
August 12th, 2013 | LINK

Jim,

I am guessing you don’t know who Scott Long is and how damaging he is to international gay rights. He used to work for Human Rights Watch but was fired for his bizarre attacks on western NGOs and gay activists, Peter Tatchell in particular, as “western imperialists” and other such nonsense. He actually defended Iran over the hangings of the gay teens (he parroted the Iranian propaganda that they were child molesters). He defended Ahmadinejad’s comments about their being no gays in Iran because he is an extreme social constructivist and actually believes that gay identity is a product of western capitalism.

In the article you link to, if you read it closely it isn’t really about homophobia in Russia so much as a screed against western media and activists for being racist neoliberal imperialists. As he always does, he ends up claiming that western protests are the real problem and that we will only make things worse, especially since we are all hypocrites anyway because America, you know, is a greater threat to international gays than foreign homophobia.

http://www.queerty.com/disgraced-human-rights-watchs-queer-director-scott-long-quits-after-blinding-effusion-of-white-light-20100823/

Here is a comment I left (which he replied to calling me a “Homonationalist” – which a epithet the queer theorists use against those who do not meet their ideological purity tests – mainly on Israel and in conjunction with “Pinkwashing”).

As if on cue, Scott Long pops up to bash the evil capitalist,
imperialist, neoliberal, white “western gays” for criticizing human
rights abuses abroad, which is a prerogative he reserves to himself
and others who meet his ideological purity tests. How dare they fail
to condemn racism, sexism, classism, lookism, etc. before they
meekly raise homophobia! And lord forbid they dare to impose a
“western gay identity” (even if they identify as gay, homeosexual,
etc.) on anyone as that apparently is a form of cultural imperialism
much worse than foreign homophobia. Those smug western gays
only care about bourgeois marriage anyway which somehow means
they are class traitors and hypocrites who have no right to criticize
foreign homophobia.
If one did not know better, one would think this blog was actually a
parody of some extreme left anti-imperialist cultural relativist. But we
know this isn’t a parody because you have always attacked other
activists for not meeting your absurd litmus tests. That is why you
were fired from HRW and forced to give an apology to Peter Tatchell
over your appalling conduct over the Iranian killings.
Your views are anathema to the vast majority of LGBT and
liberals/leftists but you must enjoy the attention. I can’t fathom why
you put so much effort in making life worse for sexual minorities here
and abroad. By pitting minorities against each other, you are make
the world
worse for all but yourself.

etseq
August 12th, 2013 | LINK

Here is his nasty reply…

http://paper-bird.net/2013/08/11/truths-behind-the-gay-torture-images-from-russia/#comment-2212

PS – It’s not like I am some right wing log cabin gay – I consider myself a social democrat but I absolutely detest the ideological factionalism of the marxist and anarchist Left. The british Left was virtually destroyed in the 70 and 80s by the machinations of SWP and other Trots who thought their real enemy was the Labour party instead of the Tories. Even as late as the last decade, a faction of the SWP formed a third party called Respect in the UK that was so anti-war they actually allied with extreme islamists and sided with the Iranians. Subsequently, they attacked gay rights activists in the UK as agents of western imperialism and islamophobia. Thank god we don’t have to deal with that in the US…

Jim Burroway
August 12th, 2013 | LINK

I’m very familiar with Scott Long. I’ve met him personally and I know his work. I find most of your attack on this post to be ad hominen, not substantive.

The concerns that he raises, I share. I share his concern that we in the west can be guilty, despite our absolute best intentions, of writing about LGBT issues in cultural contexts which we do not understand. I have learned from rather painful personal experience that we can, however well intentioned we may be, make things worse for LGBT people in other countries, not better. I have also learned from rather painful personal experience that when we spread stories that turn out to be false, we can bring harm to local LGBT advocates on the ground who must then scramble and respond to our failures. And that when we do these things which reveal our own ignorances, either of culture or of fact, that we hand a hefty weapon to our enemies who can turn around and say that it is we (and local LGBT advocates, by extension) who cannot be trusted.

And so this time, when I received several emails asking why I didn’t write about the reported death of a victim of one of the Russian neo-Nazi gangs, my response was that I was still looking for confirmation. None was forthcoming. To me, this was deja vu, from when anti-gay activists in Uganda tried to spread a similar story so that they could then reveal the hoax and portray LGBT advocates as untrustworthy liars. I bought it, posted the story without checking for confirmation, and local activists had to deal with the aftermath. This time, I refused. Pink News, on the other hand (and others as well), against all good journalistic practice, decided to spread those stories without receiving proper confirmation. That’s not to say that people aren’t being murdered. I think it’s safe to say that it has probably happened, just not in this case. When I have confirmed evidence of specific instances, I will post it. But I don’t think anyone needs to condemn “racist neoliberalist imperialists” in order to uphold the importance of getting the story right. Nor do I see where Long has done so. All he seems to say in this post is the very same concern that I share: if you’re going to write about it, make sure you get it right.

You are creating a strawman when you characterize Long’s post as saying “we are all hypocrites anyway because America, you know, is a greater threat to international gays than foreign homophobia.” I don’t see where you get that at all. Pointing out where we Westerners might be missing some importance cultural nuances isn’t the same as “blaming” Westerners for making things worse. Russia’s homophobia is perfectly bad enough. However, I have learned from past experience that we can make things worse when we get the story wrong or when we carelessly ignore cultural blind spots which we may be unaware of. I’ve learned first hand from past experience from elsewhere that not knowing what we don’t know can cause real harm to people on the ground.

And by the way, I have learned, independently of Long, from conversations with others from around the world that different cultures do envision and construct identities which do not fit neatly within what we call gay, bisexual, transgender, etc. “Gay” is culturally defined, and always has been. Even in America, the meaning of “gay” and “homosexual” has changed over the past 100 years — even the past 50. Experiences that used to fall under “gay” no longer do so, and some things that were not considered “gay” then, are now. This is just within our own country’s history. And all you have to do is go south of the border, and you will find that those boundaries and definitions will shift again. I’m not aware where Long claims that “gay identity is a product of Western capitalism.” But what I will say is that what we call “gay” in America often does not translate very easily into other cultural expressions of gay, and vice versa. (Although, for the record, I’m not aware of any differences between American and Russian understandings of what being gay means.) That’s just the way it is. There’s no need to hold it up to a political litmus test to recognize the truth of it.

As for the long-running quarrel between Long and Taschel, I’m staying out of that.

etseq
August 12th, 2013 | LINK

Jim,
I am literally in shock – I have lost such respect for you. You are obviously friends with Scott and I suppose that is blinding you to the real damage he did when he was at HRW. You cannot be so naive to not know this history.

I now understand why you always downplay scientific evidence about homosexuality and how in the past you have hinted that you do believe that some gays can change to straight. It all makes sense now – you do believe that culture controls over nature. Amazing!

So, by your theory, society defines the categories so there is no innate sexual desire outside of culture?? Do you deny that same sex desire is universal? How do gay men – sorry homosexuals (is it ok to use that word or is that a function of western design as well) – differ in Africa or Russia besides homophobic repression? My point is of course repressive societies restrict gays and lesbians into the closet or heterosexual marriages but do you really believe that once a society becomes more tolerant that homosexuals will somehow choose to still marry women? Do you believe in some sort of universal bisexuality?

I agree that “gay culture” is unique to each society but to go so far as to say that actual sexual practices and romantic feelings are determined by culture is absurd. Do you honestly think liberated gay men are still going to have sex with women?

I respect the work that you do but I hope some young gay person doesn’t read this and think that his innate sexuality is just a fluke of culture. Wow….

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Also, has it never occured to you that our definition of gay doesn’t translate to other culture because of homophobia and the closet? or sexism?

Are you really such a relativist that you won’t agree that living out of closet and in a tolerant society is the best “model” for being gay? And that if all societies were as tolerant as western europe and some parts of the us that gay people would pretty much live similar lives?

If by down south, you mean the model where the “active” partner is considered straight and the “passive” partner gay, I hope you are not justifying that pattern because it is just another manifestation of homophobia and sexism. In fact, in our past that same “model” was prevalent but we would never say that it was a great time to be gay.

Also, what about all those married men who cheat on their wives with men and still claim to be straight? Is that ok in the US? I hope you would say no – honesty is a universal value I hope you would agree. Well, that model is certainly present in many islamic cultures. Should we respect that as a legitimate identity? Maybe it’s superior to our limited parochial gay identity.

This is the insanity that is social constructionism. It’s bad theory, its bad science and its bad history.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Finally, do you also agree with Scott and Ahmadinejad that there are no “gays” in Iran because their “culture” insists that they don’t exist? It is certainly true that Iran, much like the US a 100 years ago, prescribes very strict gender roles and arranged marriages. Is that the only criteria you use to determines if there are gay people in Iran? Do men not have sexual and emotional desire for other men that they would act on if they weren’t oppressed?

I am just befuddled that you don’t believe gay/homosexual is part of a universal human nature no matter whether a culture has recognized it or named it.

Where are all these other equivalent or superior cultural constructions of sexuality?

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

etseq

I can see that the way you COMPLETELY mischaracerize what I wrote, that it is very easy for you to do so when your imagination or passion runs away with you.

I don’t know where you get where I have ever downplayed scientific evidence, or suggested that gay people can change.

Find one example.

You can’t.

But what I will repeat is this: say “Gay” in Mexico and see who that includes and who that excludes. (here’s a hint: in many parts of Mexico, tops aren’t considered “gay”). Say “Gay” in Africa and see who that includes and excludes. Here’s another hint: in many parts of Africa, transgenders are “gay” regardless of the gender they are attracted to. In our own history, “gay” used to include pederasty, a definition that used to be embraced among some in the gay community. We don’t now (and rightfully so!), but those are simply the facts. Not to recognize it is to be blind to a whole range of human history.

I’m sorry I’ve touched a nerve. Sexual desire is universal; how it is interpreted and labeled isn’t. The fact that you don’t respect me doesn’t bother me one bit. The fact though that the whole world’s vast array of experiences must fit into your definitions does.

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

“Do you honestly think liberated gay men are still going to have sex with women?”

I’ve known liberated gay men who have had sex with women and wouldn’t rule it out again. Like I said, I’m very sad to see your very narrow categories that everyone must fit in.

But I must say, you’re being blinded to the forest by the weeds. There have been some very false reports about what is going on in Russia. That can be damaging, just as it was damaging in Uganda. To me, that is the bigger, far more important picture.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

I guess next we will have recognize ex-gay as a valid cultural construction of sexuality. We obviously have to take them at their word – just like we would if they were from another culture, right?
Who are we to judge?

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Exactly. Everyone has the right to live their lives as they wish. They don’t get to claim that they have changed their sexual attractions when they haven’t. But if they want to live whatever they want to call an “ex-gay” lifestyle — whatever that may be — then yes, more power to them. It’s no more and no less than what I expect for myself.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Well there you go…You don’t think sexism and homophobia has anything to do with the top/bottom distinction? How are two men supposed to form loving and equal relationships when one is considered the queer and one isn’t?

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

“How are two men supposed to form loving and equal relationships when one is considered the queer and one isn’t?”

I’m happy to let them work it out.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Yes Jim, I am the narrow minded one because I judge those poor ex-gays and their constructed identity is just as valid as mine.

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Well good! We are in agreement.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

I’ve known liberated gay men who have had sex with women and wouldn’t rule it out again. Like I said, I’m very sad to see your very narrow categories that everyone must fit in.

-They are called bisexuals

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

I now realize both you and Timothy are really both libertarians – you value autonomy over everything else. What about justice and equality? structural sexism and homophobia make pure autonomy impossible.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

I love it – narrow categories. How dare gay men take pride in their identity – we are being close minded because we rule out sex with women.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

You never answered my Iran question so I guess you are with Scott on that one…

How dare we smug westerners project our silly values like freedom and equality onto other cultures….

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

I guess we should respect racists and sexists as well and not judge their lifestyles either – I mean more power to them!

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

If you insist in arguing against what you wish I wrote and believe versus what I ACTUALLY wrote and believe, then I am just going to have to let you argue with yourself. When you have the courage to actually engage with what I wrote, I’ll engage you.

You might want to look at the comments policy one more time. I’m not answering any of your strawman questions. Keep posing them and I’ll put you on moderation.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Do you reject any normative definitions of sexuality? Every argument I make, you reply with pure descriptive rebuttals and then claim I am being narrow minded for making a normative argument! As if one exception disproves all categories…

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Fine – this is my last comment. You are the one calling me narrow minded, judgmental, naive, and that I am small minded because I don’t appreciate all the variety of experiences in the world.

I explained that of course I recognize the variety of culturally enforced roles in the world but most of those roles are not the result of autonomous choices but oppressive norms. I want to replace those with other norms of autonomy tempered with equality and justice. In a culture with those norms, stable sexual identities emerge – LGBT – regardless of other cultural influence.

You seem to think that entirely new identities will form that are distinct from our western categories LGBT but all you have given me are descriptions from cultures that are still heavily sexist and homophobic. I do not see the evidence for this given the universality of human nature.

Unless you subscribe to some sort of postmodern anti-normative queer theory, I don’t understand your reluctance to make normative responses.

Daki
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

I don’t know who is Scott Long, but I think that his article (part of which is quoted in this post) is fair and accurate. Those who think otherwise should quote part of the article with which they disagree, instead of making ad hominem attacks against the author.

As for cultural differences, I don’t think there is much difference in the perception of sexuality and sexual identity between Russia and the West. “Gay” in the West has the same meaning as “gay” in Russia. In fact, many consider Russia a Western nation, so the problem is not “cultural”.

Sorry for grammar mistakes, English is not my native language.

Timothy Kincaid
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

etseq,

nope, I’m the libertarian, Jim’s the liberal.

And as for the rest, Jim said “There have been some very false reports about what is going on in Russia.” After a while at this, you do get a bit of a sense about what’s real and what’s a bit too convenient. I think Jim’s instinct in the Russia story is spot on.

etseq
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

Jim is apparently an extreme cultural relativist and social constructivist like his good pal Scott Long. He apparently talked to Scott after my comment because Scott indicated in his reply on his blog that he knew who I was – along with calling me a coward and a “Homonationalist” – another far left insult that Queer Left loved to throw around. Apparently, they hate the US so much that any enemy of their enemy is their friend.

Why was Scott fired for HRW if he was such a great gay rights advocate??

Why is Jim so willing to sing Scott’s praises but then says he won’t get into the matter about Tatchell. Scott’s abuse of international gay rights NGOs and Tatchell in particular and his failure to issue any negative reports on Iran for several years was the reason he fired from HRW.

Scott, and Jim apparently, is an example of ideology trumping common sense.

Jim Burroway
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

I have not been in communication with Scott Long in eleven months. etseq, it’s time you took your meds.

Nathaniel
August 16th, 2013 | LINK

OK, I get the problem of ‘diverse cultural definitions’ vs. ‘oppressive definition enforcement’. However, the question of “what would their definition be without anti-LGBT stigma in the culture?” is unanswerable. There has yet to be in any nation a generation of LGBTetc. people who haven’t had to deal with stigma. One need but look an current college students in the US to see the borders of LGB and T being questioned, prodded, and even eroded. I recently read an article about the growing alphabet soup of orientation and gender identity labels being tried on like new pairs of shoes. Kids, growing up in a freer (but not totally stigma-free) culture, questioning the meanings and boundaries of words etseq would have us think are immutable as they dissect out the complexities of sexuality, orientation and gender identity. “Bi-gender” and “demi-sexual” were probably once inconceivable. “Cis-gender” is gaining important ground as people embrace that everybody’s experience is different. Ultimately, how can we question any individual’s experience? They can’t know any more than what life has given them to know, and dismissing their experience because it comes from a background one sees as oppressive is short-sighted, if not heartless. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make the world a better place, just that we can’t do it by denying an individual’s rights to self-definition.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required)
(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.