The farce that is international gay “support”

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2013

Ya know, you reach a point where you realize that it’s all just words, that the defense of gay rights has become less about gay people and more about the chance to pat yourself on the back. And nothing has illustrated this more to me that the recent “controversy” over Russia’s horribly oppressive anti-gay laws.

Oh, the international community is Raising Concerns. And leaders are Talking Sternly. And the International Olympic Committee is having meetings and getting Assurances. And everyone is oh so very very very concerned that Russia not … well, let’s not be too specific about what they’re concerned about.

It doesn’t seem to be free speech rights. The IOC is very clear that they don’t want to change Russia’s law. And every newspaper – other than gay media – uses the word “propaganda” or “youth” every paragraph so as to make sure that everyone knows that this is perhaps a tiny bit concerning but not really all that unreasonable. Because propaganda and youth, you know.

And they’ve heard our concerns and, goodness gracious, we can’t have conflict. Conflict is bad. And the Olympics is a time of coming together and getting along and setting aside differences.

So maybe it’s just best that we shut up.

The corporate sponsors of the Olympics have become concerned that their name and product will be associated with civil rights violations. And they’ve expressed concern to the IOC, who passed that on to Russia. And the response: (msnbc)

A senior IOC official said Monday that sponsors, especially U.S. sponsors, are concerned about the law and are “afraid” of the potential fallout at next year’s Olympic Games. “I think this could ruin a lot for all of us. We have to be prepared,” marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg said. “We can see many ways this could happen. I heard a lot from the sponsors, especially the American sponsors, what they are afraid of could happen.”

IOC President Jacques Rogge allayed any fears of possible demonstrations in Sochi and said the committee will remind athletes to refrain from protests or political gestures during the Games. “The constitution of the Russian federations allows for homosexuality,” Rogge said. “And we have received strong reassurances that this law will not affect participants in the Sochi Games.”

And so what is the official position of the IOC? That which Russian assigned them.

The head of Sochi’s organizing committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, said that the law which bans “homosexual propaganda” would not affect the games as it would not apply to Olympic athletes, fans and media. He said the law has been misinterpreted by protesters and activists, and urged the IOC to communicate the message to “those who are still trying to speculate on this very transparent and very clear topic,” that Russia does not ban homosexuality.

“It’s very important to have your support to stop this campaign and this speculation regarding this issue,” Chernyshenko said.

We’ve been told that there are no reasons for concern. No one will be arrested… unless they break the law. Unless they, as Olympians, make any statements of any type, verbal or otherwise, that express anything other than contempt for gay people or gay rights.

And that is far far more inclusive than the mainstream press is emphasizing.

Take, for example, the arrest of Dmitry Isakov, who held a sign “Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!” Not exactly the most radical statement, but in Russia that’s propaganda.

But the real interesting part of Isakov’s arrest was not the message. (Buzzfeed)

Police filed the charges on the basis of a complaint from a teenager in the northern Arkhangelskaya province who had seen Isakov’s protest online.

Oh yeah, the internet is fair game. But we have nothing to fear. No sirree, we can rest assured that as long as an athlete has never, ever, made a statement in opposition to, say, beating gay people that can be found in the media or online, then they have nothing to fear.

And Russia need not even be the bad guy. The IOC will happily punish any athlete that makes a “political” statement, because of Rule 50: “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted”. Ah, there’s that lovely word again, “propaganda”. And the IOC has made it very clear that Russian President Putin gets to define that term.

Oh, and our “allies”, the representatives from enlightened nations to the IOC, they have our back, right? Nope. (USAtoday)

Dick Pound of Canada weighed in on the issue a bit more pointedly. He called the law “disgusting” but said athletes need to respect their status as guests in Sochi. Pound said national Olympic committees should warn their athletes about the consequences. “You say to your kids, ‘If you screw around with this we’ll send you home.”

And if an athlete challenges such a mandate? “If there have been lots of warnings, there’s no excuse for it,” Pound said. “Then it becomes a provocation.”

Yes, yes, it’s horrible that the official position of a nation is that your existence is illegal – and let’s be honest, any law that makes declaring one’s existence to be illegal is nondifferentiable from one that makes one’s existence illegal – but just be good little faggots and shut up. Don’t rock the boat. We have big important international cooperation here and a mutual congratulatory event and don’t you dare raise any issues which might disprove our display of consanguinity.

Hey, if you just be invisible, we’ll let you play.

Oh, and look at how wonderful we are for raising your little issue. See what an advocate of civil rights we are and such firm negotiators too; We convinced Putin to give “assurances”. You should pat us on the back!

And the US rep is no better:

American Anita DeFrantz, who was elected to the influential executive board on Tuesday, said punishment for small statements such as nail polish sounds a bit much. It also raises complicated questions. What if someone’s rainbow pin is just a good luck charm?

Surely we can allow a good luck charm, so long as it isn’t in support of the humanity of an oppressed minority. Cuz if you support humanity, then it’s only reasonable to send you home.

And meanwhile at the United Nations, a symbolic statement has allowed politicians another chance to look wonderful while doing nothing whatsoever.

There is a tradition at Olympics time for the host nation to write Olympic Truce, a resolution calling for friendly competition and the cause of peace. And this year Russia included a clause promising to include “people of different age, sex, physical capacity, religion, race and social status”.

It was pointed out that there was one group missing from that list, people of different sexual orientation.

Well there was no way – no way at all – that Russia was going to include people of different sexual orientation. So our “allies” brokered a solution; the language was changed to “promote social inclusion without discrimination of any kind.” And we can all pretend that this includes gay people, even though we know with absolute certainty that it does not. (NYTimes)

“I think it’s a very good outcome, and I think the Russians want to have a consensus to adopt this,” said Iakovos Iakovidis, a Greek representative to the United Nations, who was one of several officials in support of revising the statement. “I think people will be happy with this.”

No, Iakovidis, I’m not happy with this.

It’s bovine manure. It’s a bogus make-happy effort to do nothing while pretending to say something. It’s zero, nothing at all.

Meanwhile Bach and Rogge and Heiberg and Pound and DeFrantz and Iakovidis haven’t gotten around to noticing the latest Russian legislative proposal, taking away the children of gay parents. And when that passes, and it will, we can predict the result. “We are very concerned but Putin has given “assurances” that no athlete’s children will be seized (if they leave them at home). So shhhh, don’t rock the boat. We have a mega-billion dollar industry, ummm sporting event, to put on here and we really don’t give a flying fig about what Putin does to your type of people.”

But we Raised The Issue. And gosh, maybe we should get a medal for being On Your Side. And for Looking Out For Civil Rights.

Gene in L.A.

September 15th, 2013

Nice mood piece, all true, so what can we do about it? I share your disappointment, frustration and anger. It’s clear who’s to blame and who’s enabling the situation. Other than writing as you’ve done, or writing to our representatives and the USOC and the IOC, or calling them directly to voice our displeasure, as I hope many of us have done, what more is there to do? I hope and think there will be protests in Sochi, however much Russia and the Olympic Committees may wish otherwise, by brave athletes who find ways to do it; but that’s not going to change anything either. What will?


September 15th, 2013

The sad fact of the matter is that if Danny Boyle directed the opening ceremony for Sochi and included the lesbian kiss, the gay anthem, the cross-dressing child and the clips from Billy Elliot that he put into the London opening ceremony, then he would be arrested.

Put another way, the opening ceremony for the last Olympic games would be illegal at the next.


September 15th, 2013

You wrote, practically verbatim, everything that I’ve been thinking. It’s like the IOC and nations around the world have been given 20 SEPARATE AND DIFFERENT opportunities to stand loud and proud and firm on the side of justice and each and EVERY time they FAILED. They on numerous occasions seemed to have gone out of their way to be unhelpful and even offensive to GLBT people and our concerns. They couldn’t even remove the very vocally anti-gay Russian pole vaulter from her position as a youth ambassador. I would say that they have done the very LEAST they could do, but they haven’t even done enough to warrant such praise.


September 15th, 2013

The Olympic Games is a behemoth that only pays heed to matters of human rights to the small degree that it might upset some sponsors.

They went ahead with Berlin (1936), Moscow (1980) and Beijing (2008), despite very real human rights concerns. I doubt the plight of LGBT folk (among others) in Russia are any more than a bothersome distraction to the IOC getting on with business as usual.

The take home message from the IOC is quite clearly, “shut up!”

I feel sorry for the athletes that they’ve been convincingly sold the marketing hype over the years that this massive festering turd should be the pinnacle of their sporting ambitions.

Gene in L.A.

September 16th, 2013

Was the London Olympiad a “massive festering turd”? Athletes spend a lifetime working and practicing and perfecting their games because it’s the only place where so many countries come together to compete; and not knowing more than 5 years in advance where the next games will be held, I don’t think athletes have any obligation to drop out when it turns out the IOC has created another Berlin, Moscow, Beijing or Sochi. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

There should be some way for the international community to better control the IOC’s standards of acceptance. The old ideal that sport is somehow elevated and separate from the politics of its members clearly hasn’t worked.


September 16th, 2013

Whoever thinks that the Olympics is anything more than a cash cow for corporate powers is a fool.

The Olympics were held in China. China, North Korea’s favorite neighbor.

And when it comes to making money, you sure as hell aren’t going to jeopardize profit and networking opportunities over 5% of the population.


September 16th, 2013

IOC members never do anything to stop their own personal gravy train. In the unlikely event the organized bribery has been reduced, they continue to benefit from benefits usually reserved for the 1% – travel to the finest locations in the world, presidential suite accommodations, 5-star food and drink, and “inspection” tours of possible Olympic sites. How bad was it? Here’s the corruption that went into the 2002 SLC Olympics bid process.


September 16th, 2013

The IOC is probably the ultimate manifestation of the 1%: the creme de la creme, who can’t be bothered with the concerns of the little people. If anything, they are upset that someone has dared to intrude on their little bubble.

And don’t forget the money.


September 16th, 2013

Please, Cher deciding not to even consider playing in the opening ceremonies – and you just know some PR idiot came up with that idea as a way of diffusing the situation “you can’t say you’re gay, but …CHER!” – was a more powerful statement than any of the entrenched IOC/Olympic interests’ lukewarm comments to date.

There is no way that the private, money-making conglomerate that is the Olympics is going to pull out at this point – their only concern right now is minimizing the impact on their bottom line from any unpleasantness. The good news is we are getting support, more tangible support, from real allies; it hasn’t been just LGBT people out there protesting. And the lukewarm response of all concerned is only going to make the situation worse. Have you noticed no one from the IOC even seems to realize the issue is NOT the law impacting the athletes, it’s the law’s real impact, right now, on real Russian people?

The IOC is basically guaranteeing continued protest, continued attention on the law – and any future worsening of it, like the custody proposal – and a guarantee of some kind of issue during/at the Games themselves. There are simply too many young people – athletes and their friends/fans – who care about their LGBT loved ones to keep wholely silent. Even if they stay quiet during the Games, there isn’t any way to keep them quiet after they return home.

Ben in Oakland

September 16th, 2013

So, what the russian government has done is this: pass laws against freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of information. At the very best, they base the passage of these laws on outdated misinformation the correction of which is freely available. At worst, and far more likely, they base the passage of these laws on the worst sort of bigotry and stupidity, intending to demonize people who are harming no one, for reasons of the basest sort of political calculation and scapegoating, very similar to what the fascist mindset has done for the last 80 years or so.

And the most hypocritical, the most vicious of all, is the outright lie that our own right wingers always like to pull out of their butts– won’t no one think of the poor, innocent chilluns? And the most ironical of all– a mountain of propaganda that they claim is going to fight a molehill of propaganda that doesn’t actually exist, except in their fevered imaginations or darkest political calculations.

And our right wingers, RIGHT on cue, are applauding this attack on liberty, the scapegoating, and the lies. What the russian government is doing is exactly what the right wingers do regarding gay people, and would like to do in our country, if only they could.

The IOC isn’t any better, becusse as Timothy says, they’re just applying a spoonful of sugar to help the bad medicine go down. They won’t address the attacks on freedom of speech or anything else.

Back in 1982(?)’ I was a part of Tom Wadell’s original Gay Olympic Games. I watched the US Olympic committee sue because of the association of the words gay with the word Olympics, though they had no problem with the crab cooking Olympics, Olympic gas, dog Olympics, and a boatload of other Olympics. I decided then and there that the Olympics was not going to occupy any more of my time. I,ve probably watched no more than 25 minutes of it since then.

It’s all pretty Disgusting.

Gene in L.A.

September 16th, 2013

“Whoever thinks that the Olympics is anything more than a cash cow for corporate powers is a fool.”

Thank you, Lucrece, for joining the ranks of those who are so blindly one-sided they have to denigrate anyone who disagrees with them. The Americanization of the gay rights movement is now complete.


September 16th, 2013

…and not knowing more than 5 years in advance where the next games will be held

Actually, Gene, we know 7 years out. The Tokyo Olympics has been announced.

I did acknowledge that athletes are sold on the notion that an Olympic Games is the height of their endeavours.

The original mission statement of the Olympics was to promote goodwill and harmony through competition and overcome international hostility. Its history has shown that it has proved to be the ultimate in ‘bread and circuses’ politics, used by host countries for PR prestige.

Indeed, the Olympic Charter itself prohibits any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda”, allowing states to ramp up security measures against protest with equanimity. They’re just following the Olympic spirit.

We saw this in London, 2012. 6 years prior, the London Olympics Games Act was passed by parliament instituting a militarised security set up that included surface to air missiles placed on residential housing blocks and a vastly expanded surveillance network. All intended for counter terrorism, effectively used to erase any public protest. Even Critical Mass cyclists were denied access to city routes.

Far from promoting goodwill, athletes across the world have their hopes and dreams exploited in service of state triumphalism. The IOC seems hardly concerned if the state triumphing is Nazi Germany, Communist China or demagogic Russia.

Richard Rush

September 17th, 2013

Surely, the IOC is thinking, “Why can’t these selfish whiny queers stop their petty complaining so the rest of us can all focus on the exalted importance of glorifying humanity’s greatest achievers: athletes.” Humans may talk a lot about glorifying their gods, but nothing in the real world can compare to the relentless 24/7 glorification of athletes. If we must glorify, wouldn’t scientists, for example, be much more worthy of glorification?

Gene in L.A.

September 17th, 2013

Neil, the Tokyo Olympics is 5 years away, and wasn’t it just selected? I don’t believe we’ve known for two years.


September 18th, 2013

Gene, the Tokyo Olympics is 2020. We are now in 2013. 7 years.

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