Welcome to Doug’s Darkworld, a blog about war, science, history and whatever strikes my fancy. It’s Doug’s Darkworld, not Doug’s Puppyworld. My intent is to provoke thought and curiosity and debate, often by expressing iconoclastic or contradictory opinions. My opinions on topics can change if presented with new information and/or argument. Polite comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. I’m a stroke survivor, so donations are even more welcome. Custom posts written for a negotiable fee. (Hell, I’ll write a book for a negotiable fee.) — Doug Stych
This is not a complicated situation. We have the ACA, aka Obamacare. It was passed by Congress, signed by the president, and survived a Supreme Court challenge. It’s the law of the land according to the US Constitution, and is being implemented as I type. The Tea Party refuses to pass a budget for government operations, insisting that the ACA be delayed a year before they will agree to do so. And now large parts of the government have shut down because Obama and the Democrats refuse to even consider such. Dafuq? This is indeed screwed up, and is easily the worst government crisis since the decades preceding the Civil War.
The merits and faults of the ACA aren’t relevant here. That many in the media are portraying this situation as a “standoff” or a “disagreement” doesn’t actually make it a disagreement. It is a faction of a minority party claiming it has veto power over any existing law. The Tea Party is basically refusing to accept that the ACA is law, and insisting that it’s “my way or the highway.” This is the antithesis of democracy or constitutional government. And the Democrats and Obama are correct in holding the line, allowing a party who controls one house of congress to effectively veto any existing law would be a disastrous precedent to set. This is extortion, not government.
For its part the media is all over the map reporting on the government shutdown, mostly regurgitating the talking points of their targeted markets. The Tea Party is counting on this, I know hard-core Republicans who are still claiming the shutdown is because Obama refuses to negotiate. And they have plenty of voices in the right wing media to back them up. Many of them actually seem to believe that the ACA is some horrific draconian law that is going to turn the USA into a dictatorship. Five years of the extreme right wing press claiming Obama is the anti-Christ, a secret Muslim, and unAmerican seems to have really affected some people, they are living in a fantasy bubble world. Maybe it’s not charitable, but I guess if one believes in talking snakes and zombie prophets, well, the sky’s the limit. In any event, my point here is that our mainstream media is almost as dysfunctional as our government, it’s not helping.
This whole mess highlights the dangers of dogmatic ideology. A party that can’t or won’t compromise is a terrible threat to anything resembling democratic government. And giving them any sort of concession will just make them make more demands. In normal situations a party like this would be dooming itself, but these aren’t normal times. Sometimes in history parties like the Tea Party have gotten into power. That was Hitler’s secret, no compromise. One powerful politician after another aligned themselves with Hitler’s nascent party to improve their political position, only to find out too late that Hitler wasn’t going to compromise on anything and that Hitler was using them, not vice versa. And when Hitler’s party got strong enough, he simply disposed of his former rivals. I’m not comparing the Tea party to the Nazis, yet, but the fact that they are willing to do anything to get their way should scare anyone.
In some very real ways the Tea Party is carrying on the legacy of the Confederacy and the KKK, these are people who have still not accepted that the South lost the Civil War. In recent decades people like this have been a fringe group, but not any more. I don’t know what the end result of the shutdown is going to be, but the last time a political minority refused to compromise no matter what, the results weren’t pretty.
Yes, I am using extreme examples, and I certainly don’t think, yet, that we will see anything like the Civil War or the rise of Hitler. I use extreme examples because what the Tea party is doing is extreme. It’s a minority party willing to hurt millions of Americans and gut constitutional government to get their way. I urge the Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Obama to hold the line. The ACA is not on the table. If the Tea Party gets their way, the Republic will pay a terrible price.
(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law as it was painted around 1865. Credit: Watercolour. The Burning of Richmond, Alexandre Thomas Francia, Circa 1865. It’s the burning of Richmond at the end of the US Civil War. Another extreme example, but the Tea Party is an extremist party. One can only wonder what other countries think of this mess.)
“The illegals are trying to hijack the cockpit of America’s government! Let’s roll! —William Gheen and The ALIPAC Team”
Isn’t that just lovely? Let’s use the most terrible crime in American history to compare immigrants to mass murderers. Yes that’s the message of the anti-immigrant group ALIPAC. Lovely, just lovely. It’s bad enough that 9/11 has been used to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment, strip us of our rights, support overseas wars, and the creation of a vast mind-numbingly wasteful and counterproductive police and security state … now it’s being used to foment racism in the USA! Merika!
Sigh. This is an example of why I’m having trouble blogging lately. The Religious Right in the USA is going further off the rails every day. If you aren’t a white, Evangelical Christian, heterosexual, male American … you aren’t really an American. That’s the platform of the Religious Right now, it scares me, it should scare any decent person. I’d write more posts about it, but it would just upset me more. People who want to keep up on the brain-dead antics of this formerly fringe movement should follow Right Wing Watch. A lot of it is the usual crap, trying to get religious teachings back into school, etc. Some of it is a lot worse. Tell gay couples to die on their wedding day, gays wear special rings to infect non-gays with HIV, Obamacare is designed to kill conservatives. The sort of stuff that used to be limited to flyers stuck under windshields is now mainstream fare. Jesus wept.
What does this have to do with 9/11? A lot, 9/11 really seems to have pushed a lot of right wingers over the edge. A friend of mine was calling for the USA to blanket Afghanistan with neutron bombs after 9/11. He came back and later admitted it’s a good thing he wasn’t in charge of the country that day. Many kept right on going as evidenced by the Religious Right’s every widening gap between themselves and reality. The rest of the country is trying to move forward to an America with justice and fairness for all Americans, the Right wants to return to a day (that never existed) when American was synonymous with white Evangelical Christian. And I am most definitely talking about Republicans and the Tea Party, though there are plenty of conservatives who think it’s gone too far. They are being purged from the Republican party from what I can tell. This is the legacy of 9/11, Republicans have turned into a party of hatred and divisiveness.
Then there’s the whole war monger thing. Sigh. 9/11 was indeed blow-back from our murderous foreign policy, but few if Americans know that. The propaganda that 9/11 was purely caused by America hating religious nuts who only understand violence and can’t be negotiated with is pretty much stock-in-trade for most Americans. With the full and enthusiastic cooperation of most of America’s atheists too. Sigh. Again. Yes, 9/11 was a terrible thing. And we’ve used it to justify endless 9/11s against Muslim lands. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as we set our military loose to “protect” America by murdering foreigners. And we wonder why foreigners hate our foreign policy, if “kill as you please” can even be described as a foreign policy.
The there’s the other 9/11, one that I didn’t even realize was a 9/11 event until recently. Yes, 40 years ago today with the full backing and aid of the CIA and USA government the democratically elected government of Chile was overthrown by a military coup, ushering in nearly two decades of repressive military dictatorship. I guess it’s only fitting that we used our own 9/11 to strip Americans of their rights and energize our efforts to overthrow governments overseas. It’s an American tradition now, like football, mom, and apple pie. And now due to Obama’s beneficent influence, even the Democrats are the party of foreign wars!
To me this is the greatest sadness and shame of 9/11. A terrible event that could have triggered a national debate and reflection on the role America plays in the world was hijacked by war mongers, war profiteers, and haters from the beginning; and we now have a country that wages war constantly abroad and spies on and restricts its citizens at home. We could have followed the Prince of Peace, instead we pledged our souls to Satan. To commemorate the loss of loved ones by killing foreigners and stripping Americans of their rights isn’t commemoration, it’s sick. America lost its way in 2001and went enthusiastically down the dark path Bin Laden wanted us to follow. Maybe someday we will wake up from the dystopian police state nightmare that has been evolving in the USA since then, but I’m not seeing many bright spots on the horizon.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and it is the best image I could find to illustrate my feelings about 9/11. I have no idea who to attribute it too. “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” —John Lennon)
Well, Washington and Obama are making noise about attacking Syria. Quelle surprise. Kerry was saying today that the evidence of a Syrian chemical attack was “undeniable.” Please, spare me. Washington has been lying about this sort of stuff since the Mexican War in 1848, and it’s hard to find a 20th century war they didn’t lie through their teeth about. Our economy and political system is based on war forever, Syria is just more of the same. The main reason we know this is a lie is simple. Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons would trigger US intervention. Why in the name of God would Syria do the exact thing that would trigger US attacks? They wouldn’t of course, no one is that stupid, especially considering that chemical weapons are essentially useless on the battlefield unless your enemies are using World War One style human wave attacks. So Syria has no conceivable reason to use chemical weapons, and excellent reason not to use them. Kerry’s claim should be taken for what it most likely is, a lie.
So if the Syrian government didn’t launch an attack, who might have? Well, let’s see, who has to gain from US intervention? Bingo in the Elf Lounge. The rebels. Yes, a chemical weapons attack was launched by the Syrian government conveniently near a UN inspection team even! How lucky was that? And snipers even tried to slow the team down as it approached the stage of the purported chemical weapons attack. Stage as in staged. It’s more than likely the rebels faked an attack of some sort, it wouldn’t take much. For all practical purposes Obama asked them to stage an attack, who can blame them? Even the public evidence is suspect. There are photographed bodies of claimed sarin gas victims. Assuming these are real pics (yes, the rebels have tried crude fakes before) it’s been pointed out that if these people really did die from sarin gas, the people wandering around the bodies without protective gear would also quickly be succumbing to the intensely lethal substance on the bodies. They aren’t.
Sadly the truth doesn’t really matter. The USA attacks whomever it pleases whenever it pleases, and manufactures whatever justification is needed. Most Americans don’t want another war, but their opinion hardly counts anymore. Even Congress isn’t even trying these days, this time they might not even bother to pass a resolution supporting the attack. What will be the results of the attack, aside from more profits for the military industrial complex? Who knows, it often takes years for the blow-back from this sort of nonsense to fully realize itself. It stands a good chance of bringing down the Assad regime, one of the only remaining secular regimes in the region, and replacing it with a Islamic fundamentalist government aligned with Al-Qaeda. How would that help the USA or Syria? Damned if I know.
What I do know is that there is nothing “humanitarian” about an American attack on Syria. Yes, that’s part and parcel of the endless propaganda flowing from Washington and the mainstream media, we’re all concerned about the plight of woman and minorities and democracy. Yes, unlike every other empire in history, the USA’s motives are pure! Spare me. Anyone who believes that may have pure motives themselves, God bless em, but the facts on the ground consistently belie the idea that we are trying to make the world a better place. US intervention almost invariably makes things worse for the people in a region, especially the ones we kill and maim with our “well intentioned” bombs and missiles. It does however prevent the rise of modern secular nation states, which would be far less pliable to American influence and meddling. They might even have radically dangerous ideas like those pursued by Saddam for example … he thought that the profits from the sale of Middle Eastern oil should be invested in the Middle East! One can see why he had to go.
So many lies, when it’s all just about western militarism and colonialism. European armies have been marching through the Middle East since Alexander the Great. The excuses change but the end result is the same. Death and destruction for the locals. That’s what wars do on the receiving end. Our current Alexander in Chief hasn’t shown any qualms about that before. And of course wealth and profits for the west. Follow the money as they say.
Lastly, a point about chemical weapons. They are not WMDs. They in fact aren’t anything special, just another one of the myriad evil ways humans have devised to kill each other. Like nuclear weapons, they have few real military applications and are more a political and propaganda weapon than anything else. And to make the hypocrisy complete, not only does the US cheer on such weapons when they approve of the regime using them, the USA has utterly no qualms about using them itself. So the idea that Syria has crossed some sort of moral boundary by using (purportedly) chemical weapons doesn’t pass the laugh test.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Its a photograph entitled “Viktor Bulla’s Pioneers in Defense Drill, Leningrad (1937)” It appears on page 79 of a book of photographs called “Propaganda and Dreams” by Leah Bendavid-Val. While a lovely ghoulish photo by modern standards, it was very much meant as a propaganda picture showing how prepared the Soviet Union was for self defence.)
What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, this picture is a bigot test. If you agree with the meme expressed, you’re a bigot. It’s that fucking simple. Bigotry isn’t hard to understand, it’s making wild generalizations about people based on things like their race, religion, gender, etc. In the case above, the generalization is so wild it’s almost breathtaking in its stupidity. The meme above comes out and says there is something so hateful and intolerant about Islam that it sets it apart from other religions. And I know damn well many people think that, even the majority of atheists think Islam is the “worst” religion, which shows atheists are just as prone to bigotry as anyone else.
OK, a few facts. It should go without saying that a religion with over a billion adherents is going to be all over the map, just like in any major religion. However, let’s look at specifics. Malaysia. 61% Muslim. Secular constitution, rights of religious minorities are guaranteed. And in fact most Malaysians are proud of their multicultural and multireligious society. Let’s go to Bosnia. Muslims are the majority at 45% of the population. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Third one I checked, Indonesia. Muslim majority. Religious minorities rights protected by the constitution. So factually speaking, the meme is already garbage. It’s safe to say that in numerous Muslim countries there will be religious rights for minorities in their constitutions.
Of course the bigots will claim that even though they have these rights on paper, there are still problems with some Muslims wanting to trample the rights of non-Muslims. News flash, all religions have tendency to trample the rights of minorities when they are the majority. In some countries, like the one I live in, a religious majority whines about having their rights trampled. Well, not all of them, just the holy rollers stuck in the Bronze Age. I’ve kind of had it with people who think their religion means they get to decide the law of the land for everyone. Even people who don’t follow their religion! Yes, dear readers, I’ve wandered near another point. And I’m going to make it. Many religions exhibit a nasty tendency to persecute minorities under the right conditions, it kind of comes with the territory. How is Islam different from, say, Christianity in this regard? It isn’t, Christians have a long proud history of suppressing the rights of those that disagree with them. To this day many Christians are working tirelessly to turn the USA into a theocracy and trample the rights of non-Christians. And sadly even Judaism, long a trampled upon minority, has shown a nasty tendency in this persecutory regard now that they are a majority in one country. So singling out Islam in this regard is hypocritical at best, bigoted and hateful at worst.
That’s another point that needs to be made about this image. How, exactly, is making this hateful generalization about Islam helpful? Will this encourage people in America to be more tolerant of their Muslim neighbours? No, the opposite in fact, it encourages fear and loathing. That may not be bigoted, but I sure think it’s evil. We’ve even got such paranoid dogmeat as state legislatures outlawing Sharia Law. The chances of any Muslims enacting Sharia Law anywhere in the USA are zero, so this is ridiculous on the face of it. And if some Muslims wanted to use Sharia Law to adjudicate civil affairs among Muslims, who gives a shit? We don’t care about Orthodox Jews, Quakers, or numerous other religious groups that chose to live by their religious code within the framework of secular criminal law, why the hell would anyone care if some Muslims did this? Hint: The answer starts with b. And no, I’m not suggesting we let Muslims stone each other to death, any more than we would let a Christian cult stone its members to death for blasphemy. (Lev. 24:16)
The sad thing about images like this is how effective they are. If one wants to have a bad view of Muslims (or anyone) in general, it’s easy to find all sorts of stuff on line to reinforce one’s prejudices. And the mainstream media as well as hordes of amateurs are only too happy to generate and spread hateful images. It’s by no means limited to the right or conservatives as well. I know I’ve pilloried some hateful images by atheists and liberals in previous posts, I find propaganda hateful no matter who is targeted. I think this is a terrible failing of the modern media and online world, it’s making people more divided, not less. I’ll expand on this train of thought in a future post.
Hope everyone is having or had a great weekend. I’m having a BBQ.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Pretty sure that unless the author actually took the trouble to file a copyright, images on Facebook are public domain, correct me if I’m wrong.)
Ah, the Obama rodeo clown controversy. At the Missouri State Fair a rodeo clown donned an Obama mask, helpfully imaged above, and mocked President Obama. The full video, such as it is, can be viewed here. Reaction was swift, the clown in question was banned for life from performing at the Missouri State Fair. It went downhill from there. Conservatives defended the clown’s shtick as freedom of speech and art. The NAACP called the clown’s antics a hate crime. Will it bring down the republic? Unlikely. Can we learn anything from it? Possibly. Can we be amused or at least face palmed about it? One can only hope.
OK, a few points here. Some people have claimed this was just satire and poking fun and it wasn’t racist. There’s a word for people like this. The word is racist. I know, difficult to understand, but one can be a racist and not think they are a racist. OK, it’s racist (and the whole crowd’s reaction was racist) for several reasons. First of all. look at the mask. the lips and teeth are wildly exaggerated. Does Obama have large lips and teeth? No. Why would the lips and teeth be exaggerated? Because those are nigger characteristics.
Moving right along, he made a joke where he didn’t out and out say that Obama was a nigger in the president’s clothes, but he implied it. And the crowd got the “joke.” (For my non racist readers, that’s a classic racists joke. “That’s not a cop, that’s a nigger in a cop suit.” etc.) He also made fun of Obama’s “nigger lips.” Of course Obama doesn’t have prominent lips, in any event nigger lip jokes are also a common trope among racists. The “clown” also references running trampling Obama with a bull, I’m not sure why that was funny, but the crowd laughed.
Lastly, satire is funny. poking fun at people is funny. There was nothing funny or humorous or good matured about the clown’s act, it was just some lowbrow and racist insults. There are plenty of ways the clown could have spoofed Obama and been good-natured about it, he chose the low road. And people complained, because a State Fair is a publicly funded celebration of America and American values, and they didn’t this it was an appropriate venue to crudely mock the president. And it wasn’t, there are plenty of times and places where insulting the president is acceptable, a publicly funded celebration of American values isn’t one of them.
Then there’s people screaming “freedom of speech” and “artistic impression.” I am really tired of those types of people because they invariably don’t have a clue what rights are. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can say whatever you please wherever you please without consequence. Try telling your boss he’s an asshat and see how well freedom of speech protects your job. The clown chose to publicly mock and insult the president while he was on the state’s payroll, if it didn’t occur to him that might not be wise, he’s an idiot. There are all sorts of things a rodeo clown could say that would get him or her fired, how could he not know that?
That all being said, yes, some of the reaction on the part of the State Fair officials and the left as well was over the top. I don’t think the guy should have been fired for one thing, that’s just stupid. A suspension and a warning would have been fine, no need to make a martyr out of the guy. And both clowns in the act should have been corrected, though the one that was fired was certainly the major protagonist. Some have even called for the Secret Service and the DOJ to investigate the act as a “hate crime.” Oh please, spare me. We already have a huge problem in this country with authorities insanely over-reacting to threats, people just make their own cause look silly when they over-react. Oh well, political theatre has always been a tradition in the country, it’s just moved into theatre of the absurd these days.
Lastly, and the only real point to this post, tens of millions of Americans don’t really understand what racism is. Worse, they hold racist attitudes but are in complete denial about them. Like the Americans who don’t think there was anything racist about this clown’s act. Or the tens of millions of Americans who think whites are now a discriminated against minority in the USA. Anyone who thinks that doesn’t even begin to understand the barriers faced by non-whites in this country. It’s as absurd as the “War on Christianity.” Right. In Egypt mobs are burning Christian churches and homes and businesses as I type, when was the last time a mob burned a church in the US? Fortunately at least the USA is doing something about the war on Christianity in Egypt. They are calling for the people waging this war to be put back in power! As my Egyptian friend puts it, now even the Christians in Egypt hate America.
That’s a topic for another post. I hope everyone had a great weekend.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. it’s not being used for profit and is arguably an historical image. I have no clue as to who the image copyright belongs to. And yes, sometimes now one of the links in my posts are fun weird links not really related to the post. Enjoy!)
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
The Hannah Anderson kidnapping. Some weird shit, eh? For those who weren’t following, a family friend kidnapped a 16 year old girl, torture-killing her mother and brother in the process, and fled to the Idaho wilderness. The FBI tracked him down and rescued the girl, the perpetrator dying in the shootout. (And while I am often a harsh critic of law enforcement killings, in this case, good going guys. A murderous monster with a hostage was killed, sometimes the good guys are the good guys.) So, sick fuck dead, is there more to this story? Yes, yes there is. Here on Doug’s Darkworld we thrive on sick stuff, and this unpleasantness has some curious aspects.
So, the authorities are still mystified as to the perpetrator’s motive. Ah, the wonders of living in a puritan country. It’s not all that mysterious, he wanted to fuck her. And he likely did, although I haven’t found that anywhere in the news yet. Of course rape would be the operative word, she was a victim in every sense of the word. So what causes a man to kill his best friend’s wife and son, and kidnap the daughter? Was DiMaggio insane? In some senses, almost certainly. It was a crime with essentially zero chance of “success,” so clearly he wasn’t thinking rationally. He might have had a brain tumour or other organic problem that destroyed his judgment and impulse control. Maybe he was always a sociopath, but until then had never encountered a situation that brought it to the surface so to speak. Whatever the trigger for the crime was, it did develop over time, as there are reports he was acting strangely towards the girl long before the kidnapping. At the very least the man had a troubled past that more than likely contributed in some ways to his crime.
However, it’s easy to say some guy was “crazy” and let it go at that. Alas, nothing occurs in a vacuum. So one can at least speculate about what influences might have led to this tragedy. The first thing that comes to my mind is rape culture and the objectification of women. Men are programmed from an early age by innumerable societal forces to think of women as “prizes” that they can obtain somehow. Hell, there’s a whole genre of popular “asshole gets the girl” movies. Don’t even get me started on the bible and fundamentalist religion. Then there’s advertising. Basically this guy looked at the girl as a sex object despite overwhelming factors that should have dissuaded him. Or think of it this way, if the victim hadn’t been a classically cute blonde girl, would the crime even have happened?
In a more general sense, men kidnapping girls to be their brides has a long history. It was widely practised throughout the world throughout history, and continues to be practised to this day in some parts of the world. It’s fair enough to say that this was a normal part of human mating for much of the specie’s history. This of course doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but it may explain the urge on an atavistic level. IE there was likely an evolutionary advantage to stealing brides from neighbouring tribes, so the behaviour may be at least someone instinctual. Any atavistic behaviour might be, and one has to speculate how many men might engage in the behaviour if the circumstances encourage it? Sadly the evidence is that many people are easily enough induced to do bad things.
As a codicil, Stockholm Syndrome. This is where a prisoner or a hostage comes to identify so much with their captor that they may even defend him. It was named after a bank hostage case where it was discovered that two of the three women taken hostage in a bank robbery for several days had subsequently married their now jailed captors! About a quarter of people taken hostage appear to show at least some Stockholm Syndrome symptoms. And there is very much scientific speculation that the syndrome is an evolutionary adaptation to women being routinely kidnapped by other tribes. The women who acquiesced to enslavement were far more likely to survive and have children. Curiously, there seems to be little research on my hypothesis, that men may be evolutionary prone to bride kidnapping. Not sure if it means anything, especially in my shallow level of analysis, but it is interesting.
Many kidnap victims don’t exhibit the Stockholm Syndrome. Hannah Anderson, the victim in our case, was back on a social network within days of her release! And she had no sympathy whatsoever for her captor, saying being shot to death was exactly what he deserved. And it’s an interesting footnote to this case, the victim using a social network to share publicly her experience! The mass media played a role in her rescue, and it now plays a role in her recovery. The implications there alone are fascinating, it’s a brave new world.
(The above image was taken in Central Asia in 1871 -72, so it is safely in the Public Domain under US copyright law. It may show a traditional bridal “kidnapping” in progress, the women gesturing with the whip is facing her four “abductors.” I use parenthesis because as cultures evolved, the distinction between bridal kidnapping and arranged marriage gets fuzzy. In this case the Kidnapping appears to be more symbolic than real, one can speculate all they want about what is going on in the photo. Which it is why it made such a great photo for this very much speculative blog post. I am trying to provoke thought, not reach conclusions.)
Russia’s leader, Putin, has begun a major persecution of gays. While being gay in and of itself has not been re-criminalized, pretty much any mention of the topic in public is illegal. Basically any sort of LGTB activism is now illegal in Russia. And of course this rising tide of anti-gay sentiment has encouraged all sorts of people to persecute gays on their own initiative. It’s an ugly situation that has caused some to call for a boycott of the upcoming Russian Olympics, and generated criticism from many international quarters, including Obama himself. On the flip side, many of America’s religious leaders are praising and encouraging Putin’s anti-gay stance! Yes, Putin is now more popular than Obama in some US demographics, go figure.
So, what the hell is going on here? In no particular order, my snarky didactic take on the situation. For starters, I don’t think this is completely random, Putin is a clever man, and he must have decided this was a good time for this. And from a domestic sense, it can only solidify his position. It gets him more in bed with the Russian orthodox church, the military, and just conservative religious Russians in general. So he’s got a domestic win politically. Secondly, this is going to allow him to identify and persecute internal opposition to his rule. These laws will very much be a threat to political activists of all stripes. So just in general this will help keep the lid on secular democratic and human rights dissent. These are pretty big gains for the cost of forcing gays back into the closet.
Then there’s the 2014 Russian Winter Olympics coming up. If one is an authoritarian regime hosting an Olympic game, democratic dissent during the run up to such games is a threat. Pro-democracy advocates brought down the South Korean military dictatorship in 1988 by taking to the streets before the Olympics. Granted Putin doesn’t face the kind of general pro-democracy dissent that the South Korean generals faced, but he’s not a man to take chances when he can avoid them. Internationally it gets even more complicated. The whole issue of LBGT rights is really big in the west, especially the USA, right now. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Basically Putin is setting it up so that almost any sort of “problem” around the Olympics will strengthen his hand domestically.
So what’s the west to do? There has been a lot of talk, but nothing concrete. A few boycotts have been launched, but there doesn’t appear to be any chance now that the west will boycott the Olympics. Which puts a lot of western leaders, including Obama in a position where they have no really good realpolitik options. Actually boycotting the Olympics would get Obama a lot of cred in some quarters, but hurt his cred in others. Others with big money. Putin was likely betting that Obama and the west simply wouldn’t calculate that gay rights was an issue they wanted to get into a tiff with Russia about. It would be bad for business. So far Putin seems to have calculated correctly.
Domestically the US religious right is going nuts over this, falling all over themselves praising Putin’s “moral” stand. Granted they were already foaming at the mouth over Obama, but this just gives them more venom to stir up trouble with. Yes, by persecuting Russia’s gays Putin is encouraging even more divisive politics in the USA, and maybe even encouraging extremists to commit anti-gay terrorism. As a codicil to this, at the very least, Putin knows that American intelligence and security assets will be occupied dealing with the fallout from this. Anything that complicates and divides your enemies is a good thing.
Lastly, since resources will be devoted to this situation in the west, one has to wonder if Putin’s anti-gay crackdown is a distraction of some sort. Is Putin planning something he wants to divert attention away from? Many in the west have forgotten, but in 2008 Georgia tried to use the Olympics to cover up a fait accompli military re-annexation of a breakaway province. An ill advised action that resulted in a swift and brutal war with Russia and a confrontation between Russia and the USA. Putin hasn’t forgotten this by any means, and even if he’s not planning something, someone else might be. The world is not exactly a stable place right now.
(The above image is all over Facebook so I am claiming it as Fair Use under US copyright law. And it is the joke I usually hide in the copyright notice.)