New Russian guidelines advising visitors to Europe and America to avoid expression of negative attitudes towards gays tell a very different story between the lines.
Putin has deployed a frosty new rhetorical weapon in the cultural cold war between Russia and the West. The Russian Foreign Ministry updated its travel advice for citizens exposed to gays whilst visiting Europe and America.
The guide is barefaced propaganda. A mix of jingoism and xenophobia, it manufactures distrust of foreigners and associates LGBT tolerance with decadence and deviancy. Phrases like “Public expression of negative attitudes towards persons with different sexual orientation are not met with understanding in others”; “not to speak or act abusively to people of non-traditional sexual orientations”. The most illuminating of all the homophobic agitprop is a section on Canada, which states: “there is a serious fixation on sexual equality in Canada… which has long legalised same-sex marriage”.
Rife with loaded language
The implication is not only are queers dangerous, but countries with the audacity to treat LGBT as equals, instead of delinquents, are innately sick societies themselves. The tone of the guidelines, rife with loaded language about the debauched deviants and their equally deluded enablers, reflects the bellicose attitude of the Kremlin. The thinly concealed contempt for LGBT people is equaled only by the condescension towards European and American values. By comparison, here’s what our Department of Foreign Affairs advises about LGBTs in Russia:
Homosexuality is legal in the Russian Federation, but there is still a degree of intolerance among some sections of the population; be careful about public displays of affection. A law banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” entered into force in June 2013; it is unclear how this law will be applied, but it includes tougher penalties for non-Russians including arrest, fines and deportation.
So while Ireland is warning LGBT folk to keep it on the downlow so as not to get beaten up, arrested or worse in Russia, Russia is politely asking its people to try and refrain from beating LGBT people up in countries like Ireland, no matter how much those damn fags deserve it. ‘Wait until you get home for your justified gay bashing,’ the guidelines imply.
‘Us versus them’ dynamic
Including this type of rhetoric in official state instruction intentionally creates an ‘us versus them’ dynamic, which is a major strategic tool in the bare-chested Tsars’ new kingdom, and the feudal leaders of former soviet satellite states and semi-autonomous regions such as Chechnya are following the Kremlin’s lead, employing cultural isolationism, criminalisation of minorities and the suppression of independent media. These guidelines come against a backdrop of mass arrests, internment, torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya with the tacit support of Putin, which I previously discussed.
But we must remember that the majority of Russian people abhor violence and injustice. A peaceful demonstration took place in St Petersburg recently, highlighting the atrocious crimes in Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s concentration camps. These brave activists smeared fake blood on their faces and lay down covered in the Chechen and Pride flags.
Sadly, if not surprisingly, the fake blood was mixed with the real variety as the protest came to a brutal end, with arrests and assaults on Anichkov Bridge. Another protest with courageous activists holding placards demanding that Kadyrov be tried at the International Court of Justice in The Hague also ended in several arrests. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stated that Russia is “failing in their obligation to prevent and prosecute homophobic violence”.
Between the lines
It seems with one hand the Kremlin is squashing its most vulnerable citizens whilst with the other it is pushing Europe and America further away. Apart from the travel guide’s obscene rubber-stamping of homophobia as a traditional Russian value there is another important message written between the lines. The Kremlin is afraid.
If the ordinary, decent Russian people (of which there is a majority) go on holiday and notice that LGBT people are not paedophiles or psychopaths, they might actually see the anti-LGBT law for what it is: the suppression of civil rights through the use of scapegoating, something that hurts everybody in Russia, regardless of sexual orientation.
The Irish guidelines for LGBTs travelling to Russia can be read here.
The Russian guidelines can be read here.