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Comment: The Russian vodka boycott is an example of passive gay activism

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  1. What do you suggest people do instead?
    Words are powerful and change things, so tweeting and facebooking and online petitions create a climate and are increasingly reported on by national media. If these are, in your view, doing nothing, what do you suggest?
    I could pop round to Putin’s I suppose and strong arm him into changing his mind, but, oh, wait a minute, I can’t do that because my sphere of influence doesn’t extend that far.

    1. Southern Gentleman 29 Jul 2013, 8:15pm

      “David” – I was going to post a comment, but your first sentence was exactly what I was going to open with. If people are going to criticize the efforts of others, they should at least offer realistic alternative action. The author did not offer anything other than pen a snarky send up of the efforts of those who would like to do something.

    2. Ok how about stop going on cruises to countries in the carribbean where you can get locked up for having sex? It just goes to show that black lgbt people are not important enough

      1. Yes, boycotting Jamaica is really going to make Russia quit persecuting its citizens. You moron, no one is objecting to boycotting cruises to countries in the caribbean, but that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

  2. Get over yourself.

    Not everyone can be the heroic ‘active’ militant true and brilliant defender of LGBT rights like you must be. You must care so much more than everyone else because you’re ‘active’ in your activism. What a beacon of humble ‘active’ activism you must be. Or maybe you’re just getting a bit grumpy in your old age?

    1. While I don’t agree with his post how is his age relevant? He doesn’t look that old to me.

      Comments like that just show shallowness and are vacuous.

      1. Whereas your comment is truly ‘deep’ and meaningful’. Are you going to scrutinise everyone else’s comments for their shallowness and vacuousness and leave a reply for them? No, thought not.

  3. RoughRugger 29 Jul 2013, 6:56pm

    …and writing smug blog posts about “passive activism” is actively doing what, precisely? What exactly would the author propose that gays “actively” do re: Russian LGBT oppression? If he doesn’t have an alternate proposal, I’d say he’s doing nothing more than bitching.

    1. He may be writing smug blog posts, but at least he’s doing it from a dialectically correct anti-Orientalist and anti-Imperialist position, comrade! And as far as doing something about Russia’s homophobic policies is concerned, surely you understand that even to raise the issue reveals your hegemonist privilege. Tut tut.

      1. GulliverUK 29 Jul 2013, 7:15pm

        you talk funny.

        1. Meant to be funny. Irony. I think.

  4. Benny Rees (bohemicus) 29 Jul 2013, 6:57pm

    Better passive gay activism than nothing at all.

    Things going viral in the cyberspace today make news go front page where before they would have been ignored by mass media.

    Take it from someone who was banging on the drum of gay rights since he was 20 – as Peter Tatchell and others could confirm, it was a very lonely thing to do – being the only out person at my uni, in my hometown etc. Thank God for every little action that gets taken – this is how history gets made.

  5. Going to largely disagree here. Sure, for some it works as described in the article. But let’s not forget the large group of people who won’t/can’t otherwise take action and help this way to raise awareness? I know in my social networks 80% I guess is straight (but ally or I’d boot them). Most of them had the impression our oppression was not so bad. With me and some others constantly pointing it out how we are spoken about and which actions are taken against us they wake up. This is extremely vital. We need the support from other groups. I don’t see it as passive, rather as an additional form of action which we have the tools for nowadays and it proves effective. Is it enough? No. But no one is making that claim. Yet, it helps and is therefore worthwhile. I doubt we would be where we are today without the internet and social media. We still have an extremely long way globally but at the same time the progress of the past 15 years globally is massive.

    1. Like the author of this piece I write professionally. Yet, what I do is telling my story and those of other people who are somehow oppressed or underdogs. Often queer folk but not always as we’re not the only group having a rough time (where are the boycotts to support them?).

      I rather spend my forums and time pointing out the reality of our lives, presenting a mirror of society than bitching about efforts, however small; insincere and useless they may be perceived. I am happy when people share my work as actually people may read a story that helps them become aware of something and get into action (if only being more careful casting votes in elections).

      This article, however, does not contribute in any way (as it presents zero ideas) and directly attacks people who do their little thing. Even if they can do more, which may be the case for some but let’s also not forget social pressure here, I am grateful for that. So, if you tweet for equality or whatever: cheers!

  6. Richard seems very bitter and cynical. What an arsehole.

  7. GulliverUK 29 Jul 2013, 7:08pm

    Firstly thanks for this, and thank you for “fagburn”, which I occasionally read. But I’m slightly struck by the irony of someone suggesting our efforts to bring about some change, or register our protest, by boycotting Russian Vodka, or Russian products, or perhaps the products of the sponsors, like Coca-Cola and Visa and Samsung and McDonalds, won’t have any effect and we should just give up, when you write political-style pieces designed to bring about change. Otherwise, what the fcuk do you write them for? To vent? What’s the point if your pieces achieve nothing.

    We all want to do what we can, and online petitions and boycotts do work, we know they work, some are successful, some not. You piece sounds quite bitter and I’n wondering why you critise others when you don’t suggest an alternative – except to do nothing, which is not an option.

    We want to feel involved, even if it is just signing a petition, or not buying McDonalds. You piece isn’t helpful.

    1. GulliverUK 29 Jul 2013, 7:27pm

      ps. Your fagburn bit on the co-op was spot-on. Whenever I go in to the Co-op I make a point of going to look through their magazines, looking for Gay times, or Attitude, but I never find them. I’ve never found them there, and I don’t think I ever will. The Co-op wants to be known as a sponsor of LGBT rights, and very, very LGBT friendly, but they won’t even stock Gay Times or Attitude – and yet Sainsbury’s stocks Attitude, and I get Gay Times from Tesco. I’ve looked in several Co-op stores and never found it. May be I’m not family friendly.

  8. We could always skip diplomatic and economic measures, and just go straight to the war option. Russia would never throw it’s entire population under the proverbial bus for the ideological satisfaction of it’s uncrowned king.

    1. They would and have done many times before. They would crown Putin if he asked.
      They do believe he and the holy Russian church can do no wrong.
      The country including government and the church is ruled by a small unbelievable rich group of men – nothing changes much in Russia – who use hate and fear to maintain their status.
      Nothing short of the oil, minerals and gas running out is going to shift the current corrupt regime. Sorry.
      Russian and its sattalite countries are just not safe for not only LGBT but other minority groups that can be used to sidetrack people into believing their superior and these groups are the issue. It’s been done by those who wish to take and maintain control throughout history.
      You can only beat corruption with even better corruption and I don’t think anyone can do that to Russia.

      1. I don’t mean to be rude, but I think your repeated use of the word “they” here conveys the sort of western-centric quasi-racism that Mr Smith was criticising in his opinion article. The Russian people are not a single unitary entity with a singular will. They are a patchwork of millions of different people, of many different faiths, ethnicities, sexualities, and political persuasions. Sure, a majority are conservative individuals who support the Orthodox Church and Putin’s United Russia party. But there also millions of Russians who oppose these opinions, and who have voted against them, and marched against them. Sure, Russia has a lot of problems. But don’t tar all Russians with the same brush.

        1. .....Paddyswurds 30 Jul 2013, 9:52am

          Smiths piece was nothing but a bitter rant at those who are willing to do something, anything, no matter how insignificant to raise awareness. No this “opinion piece” is just a silly bitter rant at everyone and anyone who has trod on this little toads toes in his miserable life. “a wobbly pink blancmange” indeed. Have you looked in the mirror lately “Smith”?

        2. The theys in question – probably could have been better put – have two meaning – they as in those corrupt and controlling white rich men who rule the country from furthest corner to furthest corner and the they meaning the general populous who have been so beaten and downtrodden by a range of people throughout history who promise a new utopia for all but really seek their own empowerment.
          Russia is a massive country but it is and always has been controlled by a select few in Moscow. These controllers will do anything to subjugate even murdering their own countrymen and women.
          The ordinary people struggle to change because their media and church are so hell bent on maintaining the current ‘elite’. Mother Russia has always given her best teats to those who trample over everything to get to them. Throughout history change in Russia and elsewhere – has been driven by the few with the many being forced to fall in and not always in the name of equality and freedom.

  9. Like the author of this piece I write professionally. Yet, what I do is telling my story and those of other people who are somehow oppressed or underdogs. Often queer folk but not always as we’re not the only group having a rough time (where are the boycotts to support them?).

    I rather spend my forums and time pointing out the reality of our lives, presenting a mirror of society than bitching about efforts, however small; insincere and useless they may be perceived. I am happy when people share my work as actually people may read a story that helps them become aware of something and get into action (if only being more careful casting votes in elections).

    This article, however, does not contribute in any way (as it presents zero ideas) and directly attacks people who do their little thing. Even if they can do more, which may be the case for some but let’s also not forget social pressure here, I am grateful for that. So, if you tweet for equality or whatever: cheers!

  10. As with all who have posted I fundamentally disagree with this article. The fact is that e-petitions do work and there have been numerous examples of where that has been seen to be the case (no women on banknotes anyone?)

    Suggest the writer is a little less self righteous and applauds us for getting into any sort of activism whether ‘passive’ or not

    1. RoughRugger 29 Jul 2013, 7:39pm

      …and if he gets such a horrible case of heartburn over “passive” activism, he could be a lot more constructive by suggesting methods of “active” activism that are accessible by the masses. There’s no Russian embassy or consulate in Nashville, Tennessee, so speaking for myself, there’s not really a chance to go demonstrate there, nor am I likely to be allowed to speak before the Duma (even if I were willing & able to take time off and fly to Moscow.)

      One does what one can, and small efforts can add up to big results.

  11. Hmm, made me sit up and think!
    Passive gay activism – the new praying.

  12. Robert in S. Kensington 29 Jul 2013, 7:47pm

    I strongly disagree with him. President Obama was the first president to use the internet as part of his campaigns in 2008 and 2012 using social media. Look what happened, elected twice.

    So in Richard’s view, the government conducting public electronic consultations don’t count for anything? How does he think part of the Marriage Bill campaign was so successful through lobbying MPs and the Lords as well as the Out4Marriage campaign, among others?

    He’s wrong on this one.

    1. Hold on didn’t out for marriage start off as a petition? never underestimate the power of social media. What are the alternatives?

    2. Raymond H Hilliard 29 Jul 2013, 8:26pm

      Wow, lots of good points here. When I first heard of the boycotts of Russian vodka I was not supportive. Like you Richard I didn’t see the point and believed it to be one more attempt failing to make a positive statement about LGBT causes. And I’m tired of seeing well meaning people building more walls of separation between us and them in any forum.
      Couldn’t we all just lay down our weapons of words and instead use our words to bring harmony and understanding. It sounds naive in todays world, yet love is still the answer for the world today. Mock and laugh all you like, I still believe it’s true.
      God is Love. And the lack of love in the world is the direct result of the rejection of our loving Creator. My heart breaks for the lack of love in this world and so how much more must Gods heart break for this world today.
      So i say let’s lay down our weapons. Stop fighting each other. And let Love reign in our lives! Oh, what a joyful world we would live in then!

      1. In my humble opinion, your God is the cause; not the cure. You talk about love, but to your God one man’s love is another man’s sin and there you have your divisions and your separations.

        He’d make it a whole lot easier to have a sensible conversation about humanity being equal if He’d just bugger off. A joyful world it then truly would be.

      2. RoughRugger 30 Jul 2013, 2:41pm

        Time has proven over & over & over again that if we lay down our weapons, people like Putin, Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, and the rest of their ilk will just hit us over the head with theirs. Even the Bible says there’s a time for peace AND a time for war.

      3. PC (Belgium) 30 Jul 2013, 2:51pm

        It’s always better to leave god (or any other religion) out in these discussions. Like Sven mentioned, most wars in the past were fought in the name of your (or somebody else’s) god. Furthermore, he is not at all our creator…
        I love the idea of a world full of love though but god has nothing to do with that!

  13. Well Richard Smith, I’d love to be able to act out my long-time dream of organizing and mobalizing an army of LGBT volunteers who travel around the world protecting vulnerable people from attack during protests, pride parades etc. while enacting my empowerment iniatives based on individual and crowd psychology but unfortunatley I’m an unemployed 22 year old with about 10 friends and no money or means of travel whatsoever.

    I long for a time of activism remenisent of the 60’s, and that time will come, but unfortunatley activism costs quite a bit of time (and) money most of us simply don’t have.

    One day you’ll change your mind, the revolution is coming…

    Mr. Pink

    1. Well said. And that’s a great idea. My constant upset is the number of homeless LGBT people – that really pisses me off. I mean all homeless yes, but more so those people who may have ended up by being estranged from their parents, or having felt they had to run away.

      And I long for a way to pull every gay person in the country together, so that we can effect a powerful change. Imagine if a petition had 3 million UK signatures against Russian government homophobia. Imagine if we could picket every church in the country that is preaching homophobia.

      I’ve rather have a quiet life, I’m a pretty private person, but this needs to be done, we need to make sure others who come behind us don’t find any homophobia left.

  14. Of course “soft” tactics like e-petitions and small-scale boycotts of vodka aren’t going to get the Russian Right to turn around and reverse all of their anti-LGBT laws. You’d have to be living in a fantasy world to genuinely believe that. But at the same time they have value as part of a much wider effort to undermine anti-LGBT prejudice in Russia.

    Look at the case of the anti-apartheid movement. Sure, apartheid would never have been overthrown if it wasn’t for the militant attacks, the mass strikes, and the international boycotts that crippled South Africa’s stability and administration. But at the same time the struggle gained solidarity from foreign activists signing petitions, writing to their MPs, and initiating small-scale boycotts. Though their contribution was small, they helped liberate South Africa. On this basis, I’d ask Mr Smith not to belittle “passive activists.” Sure, they’re not in the activist vanguard, but their solidarity has utility in the struggle.

  15. Lewis Constant 29 Jul 2013, 8:34pm

    As People Keep saying there is nothing much else we can do sept write to our Mps about our disgust with Russia and how we feel as a country,And yes i am a vodka lover i have been to Russia it is good but no longer will i be Drinking it,( Finnlandula is a good alternative ) and i think the winter Olympics should be a Boycott Also un twin us with st Petersburg

    1. “Finlandia”

      Tsk. So much for brand marketing!

  16. Beelzeebub 29 Jul 2013, 8:37pm

    This “comment” is such a self important smug piece of sh!t I don’t know where to begin.

    The “author” is as bad as many of the anti-gays in that he fails to see outwith his own little bubble of existence.

    How dare he criticize anyone’s efforts.

    You have made no friends here.

    Smug self important @rse.

    Some of us were creating the environment you live and have your “activism” in when you were getting your backside wiped for you.

    Blinkered arrogant fool.

    1. Absofeckinlutely!

  17. Wow, what a whiner you are Richard!

    I’m sorry that we don’t all wear rainbow badges and seek out fights. I’m sorry we’re not all Peter Tatchell and can afford to be professional protesters. I’m so sorry we don’t meet with your expectations of what a protester is!

    No, wait, I’m not actually sorry at all. You see, it seems that you’re just very backward and, dare I say, old fashioned. You don’t seem to understand what a boycott is capable of doing, nor that social media has amplified the power of the boycott a million times over.

    That passive activism you are so critical of actually sends a message to millions of people who would otherwise not even know there was a problem.

    One celebrity picks up a tweet and before you know it their million strong audience is tweeting it too…

    I think you need to spend less time bitching, and more time learning about the power of the technology you have at your fingertips.

  18. Don’t always agree with him, but this is a welcome voice of sanity. I also like how another blogger spitzenprodukte put it. Why boycott Russian vodka? Why couldn’t it have been furry hats, matryoshka dolls, communism, natural gas and all of the above?

    There is no logic to any of this and what came as most of a surprise to me (or almost did) was Tatchell competely ignoring the advice of his old friend Nikolai Alexeyev and putting his name behind this farcical campaign. But in a way, I suppose it’s partly Alexeyev’s fault for not knowing Tatchell as well as some of us do. This was a decision made without the input of a single gay Russian, who this campaign treats as passive subjects to be rescued by their Western saviours. In sum, it’s not about them, it’s about us.

    1. “This was a decision made without the input of a single gay Russian, who this campaign treats as passive subjects to be rescued by their Western saviours. In sum, it’s not about them, it’s about us.”

      This is probably the most insightful comment to this entire thread. Thank you for voicing it.

      1. Thank you kindly. FWIW, for any American readers, I do think this petition to strip Vitaly Milonov (hatemonger and sponsor of the ‘gay propaganda’ bill) of his travel visa is worth the few seconds it will take to sign it.

      2. Except that it isn’t true. Why let facts get in the way. I read numerous articles, and all reputable sites, like The Advocate, and I know one of them mentioned that Russian LGBT activists had welcomes the boycott and asked for it to be extended.

        And I know for a fact that in some African countries LGBT activists fear a backlash and don’t want financial aid restricted, whilst in others they do want it restricted, knowing that in their situation this is the only way.

        1. Interesting point Gulliver, however I fear that you have misrepresented El Gabal’s position here. El Gabal was critical that this campaign was *initiated* by western activists without any input from Russian activists. Conversely, you have pointed out that some Russian activists have expressed support for the campaign *after* its introduction. These are distinct points, and should not be conflated.

          I don’t know all the facts on this particular situation, so I’m not going to pretend I fully understand the entire development of this particular campaign. But, from the select facts which I have come across, it does seem that many well-meaning western LGBT activists are embarking on campaigns that are not coordinated with our Russian counterparts. To me, this smacks of western privilege: westerners acting as if they know what is best for people in non-western countries. That attitude of cultural superiority, however benevolent, is rooted in western imperialism.

          1. “more than 20 other Russian activists who issued an open letter endorsing efforts to boycott Russian goods and companies, as well the Sochi Games.”

            Obviously there will be mixed feelings, as we would have mixed feelings here on some issues, tactics.

            The entire campaign is entirely grassroots, and depends upon individual people making a decision to boycott this or that. Somebody might have suggested it, but it relies on individual actions, on a massive scale, to be successful.

            Nothing the UN do will make any difference at all. China could say something but won’t, they have their own issues. The simple fact is you’re telling people about what’s happening there, and asking them if they would boycott something. You aren’t forcing anyone, just suggesting a large-scale effort which might work.

            We are free to organise a boycott of McDonalds worldwide – whether people join in is up to them.

      3. Well said comrade! High time somebody exposed the hegemonist orientalism and orientalist hegemonism that is hegemonic in orientalism of the so-called orientalist hegemonists!

        Russian homophobia mustn’t addressed by middle-class imperialists! It won’t be addressed by wannabe class rebels high on imagined nostalgie de la boue either, especially if they base their thinking on comic-book Chomsky and misunderstood, translated Foucault, but at least their refusal to stand up to the oppression of gay people is well-founded in dialectal logic and Tescos Value rosé-infused dreams of solidarity with hard-handed toilers.

        1. Good satire Thorgeir :p ! Admittedly though, I don’t agree with your scepticism of El Gabal’s position. I don’t think you have to be a banner-waving anarchist or communist to realise that westerners (particularly those of a middle-class background), have a pretty privileged position on the global scale, and shouldn’t act like they know what’s best for people in less privileged positions.

          Of course, I think that it’s great when western activists show their solidarity with underprivileged people across the world, whether that be LGBT people, indigenous communities, or whatever. I would never say “no you’re too white to support the plight of gay Ugandans!” But at the same time, what right do they have to act like they know better than others; this is something that I have personally observed among western LGBT activists. There’s a definite attitude of “Oh those savage Ugandans/Russians/Muslims!, why can’t they be more westernised and liberal ?”

          1. Surely being westernised and liberal is better than wanting to kill gay people?

    2. Haha! But everything we do is all about us.

  19. I don’t see why you have to be so negative, at least people are doing SOMETHING, there’s no point doing nothing at all like you are offhandedly suggesting. The smallest things can have the biggest impact, not everyone is a prime minister, president who has amazingly powerful influence, were just normal people doing what we can in our power, for our peers around the world

  20. Activism comes in many forms – formats like Twitter are an excellent way to raise awareness, as at the click you have access to so many individuals.

    e-petitions, getting involved with consultations be that online or attending consultation meetings are all fairly easy ways to get involved requiring differing degrees of committment.

    What really frustrates me are those who appear to be passionate about a particular issue yet are not prepared to even engage in passive activism.

    So called “passive activism” should not be underestimated, as social media has huge potential to bring about change.

    When I see the levels of activism that were witnessed during the early HIV era I do wish we had just 10% of the drive they had back then to hold the Government to account on some of the big issues such as health inequalities.

    1. The problem is, my generation (i’m 22) are just so, SO lazy about everything.
      They’ve been de-sensetized to violence and suffering on a systematic scale, and they think signing a few petitions and tweeting a few times is them doing their fair share.

      Back in the 60’s and 80’s I imagine people were much more “active” and had much fewer distractions, and much more contempt towards human rights abuses.

      Everyone suffers from the bystander effect -” If it’s happening somewhere else, to somebody else, then it’s not my problem. It’s not my responsibility, so I’ll let someone else deal with it. Surely someone else will deal with it so I don’t have to?” etc.

      1. I’m 22 too, but respectfully I disagree with your assertion that people of our generation are more apathetic than those of previous generations. In fact I’d argue that the opposite might even be true. Look back over the last decade; we saw massive anti-war protests before the Invasion of Iraq even began, we’ve seen Occupy, and mass demos against cuts to public spending. These are actually on a greater scale that the protests of the 60s, 70s and 80s ever were; for instance large anti-Vietnam War protests only kicked off when the draft was introduced, several years into the conflict.

        I agree that a huge segment of our generation are apathetic. But that has always been the case. The majority of students did not get out and protest in 1968. The majority of women did not join the 70s’ feminist marches. The majority of LGBT people did not take part in the early Pride Marches. It was only ever a vocal minority, yet due to the glamourisation of hindsight it seems like everyone was involved

      2. Be careful not to over-Romanicise the 60s and 80s. Mass apathy has always been with us.

  21. Steady on Richard! The kind of people spinning this story thirty years ago were the Tories about South African goods!

    Still, I agree on a few points. The Ku Bar ad – we are dealing with lynching, bullying, torture and murder of LGBT people as young as 12. I don’t think it is in good taste to use lots of muscle boys in an overt sales ad. Poor taste.
    We are not at war with all Russian people, many of whom also suffer under Putin regme’s thuggery. I hope folks can make that distinction.

    We aren’t all professional protesters, we do our bit when we can. the protest at the embassy is an important initiative, we need to get the media there, it needs to be internationally coordinated and it needs to be more than once. Well done on the initiative and keep applying the pressure.
    And Richard – never trust consensus either x

    1. I also recall more-political-than-thou types condemning us for boycotting French goods and Nestlé products in the 90s. We may not have stopped the practice we were protesting about, but we certainly raised issues into the public consciousness.

  22. That articles reads like he was still at school – maybe part of his GCSE coursework? He has said nothing about the problems for LGBT people in Russia to raise any awareness himself – just bitchy comments about his ex-flatmate and queeny gays…. and threw a few wordy bits in at the end, brilliant journalism…wow! (as he would no doubt say)…

  23. ….if only my Gay friends even bothered to fb or sign an online petition. Its as if they don’t care anymore.

    I bothered to go along & join the crowd, sadly rather small, outside parliament the other Monday to wait to hear the result of the lords vote on equal marriage….i also signed endless online petitions, we can do both after all.

    A rather sour article.

  24. Many of us are criticising this article but I share something of Richard’s frustration about internet activism.

    Forums on social media websites or on Pink News make us feel like we are making a difference but in reality we can’t stop there.

    Facebook is best for spreading the word – that’s where many of us first saw the horrific images of violence from this year’s Moscow and St Petersburg prides.

    I also agree about the vodka – commercial interests get in the way of the real politics.

    However, we need to support those who make the first step and encourage everyone always to make the next one.

    Every positive contribution adds to an atmosphere of dissent and pushes the issue of gay oppression in Russia closer to the ears of those who can make a difference.

    —- Attend a demonstration, write a letter, politicise your pride event. —-

    1. That’s your view. For me twitter is best at making an impact. And that is about who you follow and who follows you. I absolutely despair at trying to make viable comments in 140 characters, but just re-tweeting certain stories can make others sit up and take notice.

      And don’t rule out YouTube – one of the most potent and powerful mediums available. Combine tweeting a youtube video and you can have an unbelievable effect. Take “Same Love” and the stories and lives of gay people, in person, in front of you, talking about their lives. Videos of our allies. Videos showing the haters.

    2. lostinfrance 30 Jul 2013, 9:02am

      I agree Cameron
      As I have previously posted to an abundance of red arrows, I think of course the internet is a powerful medium against oppression, however, it does seem to end there. If GayPride was used as a political vehicle rather than a mass party I would attend, if everyone signing online petitions and posting youtube videos on facebook joined OUTRAGE or FEMEN perhaps we would see some ACTIVism

  25. Many of us are criticising this article but I share something of Richard’s frustration about internet activism.

    Forums on social media websites or on Pink News make us feel like we are making a difference but we can’t stop there.

    Facebook is best for spreading the word – that’s where many of us first saw the horrific images of violence from this year’s Moscow and St Petersburg prides.

    I also agree about the vodka – commercial interests get in the way of the real politics.

    However, we need to support those who make the first step and encourage everyone always to make the next one.

    Every positive contribution adds to an atmosphere of dissent and pushes the issue of gay oppression in Russia closer to the ears of those who can make a difference.

    —- Attend a demonstration, write a letter, politicise your pride event. —-

  26. The column has a point. These days political activism for most people has been replaced by a ‘like’ on Facebook. It’s the perfect type of protest for the narcissistic social media generation, because the only thing it achieves is to make you feel good about yourself.

  27. If people are going to boycot Russian Vodka they need to think… am I already boycotting Jamaican rum, Carribean cruises, Saudi oil, Morroccan dates, Kenyan coffee and the numerous minerals from the Congo that make up the component parts of virtually every modern day electronic device or Smartphone.
    Boycotts are well and good and I understand that they are meant to be viewed as an act of solidarity with others, but if we pick and choose which items to boycott then we are tacitly condoning the ruthlessness of those regimes whose products we do not boycott.
    In the end only real campaigning and fundraising can be change, not arm chair solidarity…
    And for those of you that “simply don’t have the time to get involved” or “feel powerless to do anything else” have you even taken the most simply of steps and contacted you local MP or donated money to Russian LGBT charities, such as “Coming Out”, if the answer is no then you must be one of the busiest or laziest people out there.

    1. GulliverUK 30 Jul 2013, 1:09am

      So we need a site somehow coordinating what we buy and don’t buy. Keep it to LGBT issues otherwise it’ll go mental – there are 100 reasons to boycott anything. I’m anti-vivisection (testing on animals) but if we added that we’ve have dozens of unrelated companies to boycott. So you are right, we should boycott Rum which originates from Jamaica, and many other things.

      The new law would, I think, make it illegal ti give to LGBT charities or organisations in Russia, as that would be considered foreign influence.

      Good point about coffee – I will have to review that myself as I would like to buy from many African countries – love coffee – but I need to be more discriminating. And, same goes for fruit and veg. We need a site listing what and whom we should boycott and why. It’s about ethical living.

    2. That assumes morality is binary – you either protest everything or nothing. Which is clearly cobblers. Morality is like a see-saw where your point of balance moves according to what you are prepared to put up with.

      By all means try to hit governments and companies in the only place they care about – the wallet! And if all you are doing is a drop in the ocean, remember that trite old phrase: an ocean is made up of drops.

      Or moan about people who aren’t prepared to camp in Putin’s fridge as not committed enough. Your choice.

  28. Who is this guy? apart from being yet another blogger. What is he doing for the persecution of lgbt in Russia apart from writing a very passive critique of those who are attempting to garner support of Russian products.
    This article is weak and I believe just an excuse at attention and a bit of exposure for a shoddy wannabe journalist, rather than anything else.

    1. “garner support for a boycott of Russian products”

  29. I think, rather than attacking each other, why do we (as a community of sorts) not listen to our Russian brothers and sisters (and genderqueer relatives). Listen to what they are saying, and they disagree with this boycott. They are saying that it won’t affect the politicians, we need to hit them where it hurts- place travel bans, get governments to speak out against this oppression and torture of LGBT people.

    A misguided boycott called for by an American activist with no first hand experience or knowledge of the needs of Russian LGBTs is, in my opinion, misguided.

    1. Twenty-three Russian activists at great risk to themselves have endorsed the boycott of all things Russian, including vodka and the Winter Games in Sochi. So much for your knowledge of the need of Russian LGBTs.

  30. Here’s some points that I can’t help but raise.

    If Russia started ordering the death of gay men and women then I do hope that we would help take up arms and aid any internal rebellion which the people would mount or aid those who flee.

    In this day and age we cannot just storm into a country because we do not agree with their political views, we scream for tolerance but shall not give it to others when the people have spoken.

    You forget our history. Barely 60 years ago we’d be arrested and habitually abused for living openly as gay men and now our country rally around us, wanting us to have the same rights as them, having outrage when LBGT people’s rights are taken away instead of increased.

    We live in the UK, a liberated country, soon enough every man, woman and child regardless of creed, colour, sexuality or anything to separate us as anything but humans.

    You may see this as ‘passive’ activisim but it’s not, we as a people are sending a message that the rest of the….

  31. ….Rest of the world says no! This is not right!

    If every person who does not agree with Russia’s activities boycott every Russian product then yes they will take notice. If every person stood together and said no to every country which abuses their people because of something they cannot change and did not choose then yes they would take notice.

    I don’t think this vodka boycott is silly, it’s not enough. We should say that we will not buy ANYTHING Russian. They may live the way they want but we shall not support a country that wont support it’s people.

    Don’t look down on any form of activism for that makes you as bad as the oppressor. Inaction is as bad as committing the crime yourself. I cannot afford to go to Russia and protest, but they people there can and we can support them by sending the money we’d spend on Russian products to LBGT right activists to aid them in their struggle. It is NOT stupid. I do give a f*ck.

  32. johnny33308 30 Jul 2013, 2:15am

    Sadly, not everyone is able to go to the Russian Embassy in whatever country they might live in order to protest this indecent treatment of LGBT people. Signing our names to petitions is sometimes all that we can do, no matter how motivated we might be. Yes, the Internet DOES make a difference. It lets those to whom the petitions are addressed see that millions of people are watching their actions and are in disagreement with them. Online petitions have saved lives, reunited survivors of disasters and moved some governments away from negative actions. Shining light upon Crimes Against Humanity is never a bad thing. The bucket fills one drop at a time, as The Buddha said.

  33. Pretentious tw*t.

  34. Daniel McGrath 30 Jul 2013, 3:43am

    I just can’t get past

    “…mainly from queens who are about as radical as a wobbly pink blancmange.

    Oddly. And boy, are they pissed.”

  35. This would be a good point with regards to some other issues but in the case of Russia specifically it’s a bad example. Being that very few of us live in Russia and that they will arrest you if you actually go there to help, there is essentially nothing we can do. Boycotting vodka might be silly but the alternative is to do absolutely nothing.

  36. .....Paddyswurds 30 Jul 2013, 6:20am

    It is all very well for Richard Smith, …..Richard who? to come on here poo poo GLB efforts to publicise the vile anti Gay laws in Russia, but what is he doing to combat these homophobes; precisely nothing, other than badly written ranting about those who feeble or not are doing something, mouse clicking or not. and he will fade away back to the obscurity whence he came to wallow in his obvious homophobia…is Smith even his name one wonders. Exactly what is he doing that is any better?

    1. .....Paddyswurds 30 Jul 2013, 6:38am

      …. No he is just another self loathing little toad who, because he has nothing to offer himself, feels the need to diminish others efforts in order to assuage his own obvious inadequacies. He speaks of ex flatmates… no surprise they are ex flatmates; imagine spending one minute in the presence of this poisonous little toad, and his mission to diminish that flatmates efforts smacks of bitterness, especially as he himself offers not even one word of support for our Gay brethren in Putins Russia. What does he expect us to do; raise a Gay army and storm the Kremlin a la the Crusades , and arrest Putin. Grow up Smith, and until you have something constructive to say, shut the phuck up.. … .. .

  37. Is passive activism a new option on Grindr? A pretentious synonym for versatile?

  38. Considering no one has announced a ban on cruises to places where it is illegal to have sex it seems a bit of a double standard. Like lets only protest when it doesn’t interfere with our lives or only protest when it involves white people

  39. Jock S. Trap 30 Jul 2013, 9:05am

    Wow.. a put down piece.

    There will be people who protest in whatever way they feel helps. From top to bottom of protesting, I don’t think attacking those who may protest towards the bottom of the scale should be critised for it.

    With a country like Russia the people of power don’t care what anyone thinks on the issue and those that do are attacked, usually violently for doing so.

    It’s Putin and the Communists of Russia. Any message against this vile legislation should be welcomed and praised. People are standing up and taking note from individuals to companies.

    It doesn’t matter how we do it, it’s the doing it that matters.

    This article is just an angry piece by someone rather bitter in their outlook.

    Active or passive… activism is activism and rather than attacking maybe Richard Smith should try to get more people contributing by praise not by sarcasm.

  40. Mark Breedin 30 Jul 2013, 9:19am

    Better to do nothing, which is what most people would do

  41. Oh Richard, you moron. People do what they can within their power, and if that is boycotting a product, then so be it. It is not ‘passive’ in the slightest. What do you want us to do, declare war? Refuse to use their gas and then freeze ourselves to death over winter?

  42. Agreed. Even I am guilty of this. Internet postings [like this one] and blah blah blah… no concerted, co-ordinated direct action!
    *Reminder: 1980s and 1990s AIDS and ACT UP direct action protestations and silent marches, memoriam-quilts for loved ones etc.
    The Russian embassies world-wide can and should be subject to more than just ‘clicks’ and ‘likes’ and ‘+1s’ my LGBTI brothers and sisters!

    1. It’s the coordination bit which is missing. Faith groups have churches and hundreds of web sites, they have mailing lists, and they can whip up hate and fear like nobody else. Perhaps we’re missing what is in front of us, perhaps Peter Tatchell has advice on how we can fix this. He has more experience of coordinating action than anyone I know.

      Petitions do coordinate our action when they are promoted on social networking, and if enough people see it, and click on it, then that can work.

      Lastly, we were deprived most of our childhood, and for many can’t be free and open in society in the way we would want, at work, etc., we have our own lives to lead, we are not professional activists, we don’t even need to be, we can make a difference to help others without making it something we spend a significant proportion of our day doing. And that’s the point, … it’s not a big ask to get someone to sign a petition or write a letter.

  43. Probably the worst article I’ve ever read on pinknews. So to summarise, “You’re all useless, all-talk, I’m better than you, the end.” Was there actually any point to this article??

  44. At the moment it’s just Russian Vodka, but as I pointed out there are other possibilities, VISA, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Panasonic, McDonalds, etc. These are Olympic sponsors, and there are more. They must be looking at the Russian Vodka ban and wondering where this might lead. The Russian government will tell you they have no concerns but I bet they do. What if hundreds of thousands do decide not to go to the games?.

    And by sitting in our comfy chairs penning a letter to the local council, advising them about this appalling law, and to ditch their twinning with Russia, or by signing a petition to that effect, our individual signature can add up to considerable pressure.

    We will not get the UK government to do much, it’s a matter of international relations taking priority. Advice not to travel, possibly, travel bans – no, it would be immediately met with tit-for-tat. We have to pragmatic and realistic about that.

    Poo-pooing other peoples efforts seems a bit mean really.

  45. Everything all adds up to make a possible difference. A vodka boycott is something that many people, straight or gay, can take part in. Some people will simply never march or protest or picket embassies, or cannot because they don’t live near one.

    London based Diageo is the producer of Smirnoff. It is the world’s largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine. If enough people boycott Smirnoff it may at the least stir up awareness of the problems in russia and encourage other forms of activisim, political or civil.

    I think it is a good idea. Of course it cannot be the only idea.

    It is much better than writing an opinionated bitchtrip that offers no solution.

    1. Although Smirnoff is historically Russian in origin its owner Diageo is a British company who make Guiness, Johnny Walker, etc. However, Smirnoff is a joint venture between Russia’s Alfa Group and Diageo, the owner of the Smirnoff brand.

      So perhaps you have a point. Frankly if something even sounds Russian that’s a good reason to consider whether it can be used to put pressure on the Russian government to end this horrible legislation.

      1. Aggggrrr, sorry, posting this in the wrong thread. :(

        1. Nope, scrub that, it was in the right place ! This is what happens when you have multiple windows on multiple threads all open at the same time. My poor little brain !

  46. Yeah, it’s so terrible that people who previously wouldn’t have done/known anything about this are having their awareness raised and making it a subject of international conversation and are taking the spotlight away from ‘real’ activists like you.

    If only they’d go back to not caring then nothing would change but at least they wouldn’t be getting fake credit and you could go back to looking like a lone voice fighting the tide.

    Probably the best thing to do is some good old fashioned in-fighting, right?

  47. Robert in S. Kensington 30 Jul 2013, 11:44am

    Richard, you underestimate the power of social media and the internet in general. Some oppressive regimes in the middle east and elsewhere clamp down on internet activity, filtering out this and that to stop information from reaching the rest of the world or blocking signals on mobile phones. Call it passive activism if you like, but we’d be a lot worse off without it. Just look at the Wiki-leak and Snowden debacles all because two individuals had access to the internet. You are very much mistaken in your assessment.

  48. At least it’s honest!!! It’s all to easy actually to just go into a bar and say “I’m drinking Abslolut – no Sotli for me!” & feel righteous & like you support the LGBTQ community in Russia . 1000’s of posts on the Net advocating boycott, distract from the actual support Russian activists on the frontline need.
    “Nikolai Alekseev, leading LGBTQ in Russia has said it will have little effect on the ‘gay propaganda’ law.”
    He called it a ‘symbolic gesture’ & said he couldn’t see the point.
    “if people around the world want to do something that will actually help – then they should target the homophobic lawmakers.
    He said: ‘Three or four persons on the visa ban list of the EU, USA, UK and other countries will dissuade other Russian politicians to follow this path.
    ‘This is the only thing which can effectively work.
    ‘Pressure governments to put the authors of those laws on the black lists for visas”
    Not as easy as changing your drink order is it? Shame if you can’t be arsed!

  49. Chealsea Football Club is Russian owned.
    How much passive activism will be applied there?

  50. It’s easy to expand this boycott beyond stoli to Jamaican/caribbean/African states which persecute LGBT. I have been boycotting puma/red stripe beer for years and Jamaican rum and wonder where ku bar and other boycotters etc are on this? or is there a pick n choose element on who to boycott.
    Never the less, I think that the boycott of stoli campaign is good as it will increase awareness and hopefully people will expand their boycott of products from other primitive , anti gay countries.

  51. @marcbatez 30 Jul 2013, 1:18pm

    what a dull, pointless article.

  52. As smug pieces of arrogant ego-centrism go, that article is pretty impressive.

  53. This guy makes me so angry, he is so smug and full of himself, anyone trying to help in anyway is wonderful! to sit there and sneer at others attempts but then not offer an alternative is shameful this swill about “passive activism or armchair activism” is repugnant nonsense spouted by people who feel they are superior. I tried to bite my tongue with this but this has infuriated me.

  54. This is surely the most stupid comment piece I have read in PinkNews. It is so uninformed in so many ways that it beggars belief. Beyond that, I can only describe someone who would complain “I’ve got so many tweets about this Russian anti-gay thing – mainly from queens who are about as radical as a wobbly pink blancmange” as a snotty little pansy. Mary, get over yourself.

  55. Nice to see that Richard Smith has a soapbox to blather on about whatever nonsense rolls around in his little bean.

  56. We all know some dipstick who fills up their social media presence with these sanctimonious, patronising e-petitions about gays in other countries which -let’s be honest – do little else than give the oppressors a chance to puff their chests up to some ‘pressure’ and defend the *insert country/religion* way of life.
    We should all be concerned about our brothers and sisters in *insert country* and appreciate the freedoms we have that they don’t. We also need to be respectful and listen, rather than assuming we know the best medicine because we have the privilege of living in a more liberal society.

  57. What a d*ckhead this guy is! Hey – at least some of us do give a f*ck, and if it takes a click of the mouse – which DOES influence then we are doing our bit. Some of us live in rural places and can’t go to London to picket the Russian Embassy. Your piece is nothing but a bitter whine coming from a bitter old queen.

  58. Ahh, so of course this man would preffer it that the gay community did nothing then?

    One of the petition’s i signed is to the UK government, if it reaches over 100,000 signitures, it has to be brought up in the house of commons. Will the UK government do nothing on this at a time when other governments are being critical of russia?

    I personally don’t get the russian vodka boycott, the only people it will hurt are the companies that make it, that will still have to pay taxes and have no political power on what laws the contries leaders will put in place.

    Facebook and twitter help to raise awareness to the issues in russia at the moment and at no time should we be bickering about “they only did this” or “they only did that”, the point is, they did something, no matter how big or small.

    This blogger clearly needs to give his head a wobble.

  59. I would just like to say to the author I hope he didn’t take any offense from these comments as he raised a lot of points, but maybe next time offer some alternative solutions or methods to tackle the problem because without which it’s just moaning, and nobody likes a moaner!

    Mr. Pink

  60. Daniel McGrath 30 Jul 2013, 6:12pm

    It seems Richard is directing a lot of anger at all the “queens”…I think that’s what he called us. I guess we could see that as “passive homophobia.”
    I don’t really see name-calling or critiquing anyone’s attempt to protest what is being done to LGBT People in Russia as useful. It’s divisive. It’s not new or radical. It’s been going on in our community for decades. Our strength is our diversity. The best place for us to unite and become a formidable force in numbers-be it boycotts of commerce or pressure on our own politicians to represent us-is on the Internet through social media. We are here. Our allies are here. And this is the best place to organize and throw around ALL ideas-some of them good, others creative. Some work. Others don’t. But, let’s not criticize one another, or bully one another or devalue any LGBT Person.
    I understand Richard’s frustration, his outrage and his anger. Let’s use that energy towards Russia, not one another.

    1. I haven’t responded to any of the other comments, but for the record I use “queens” as a term of endearment.

      1. Daniel McGrath 30 Jul 2013, 10:09pm

        It’s wasn’t really clear that “queens” was being used as a term of endearment. I’ve never read Pink News or Fagburn, but came to the article by clicking on a link on FB (beleive it or not). Interesting. Take care.

      2. It was obvious that Richard WASN’T using it as a term of endearment.

  61. I have no idea who this Richard Smith guy is, but agree with all the previous comments – the guy’s an asshole – and I don’t understand why Pink News is printing sh*t like this.
    I shall be organising a boycott of Pink News and starting an online petition.

  62. Staircase2 30 Jul 2013, 9:44pm

    What a load of complete bollocks

    To suggest that there is something ‘passive’ about doing something like online campaigning merely because it takes less effort is to completely misunderstand what activism actually means.

    His derogatory use of the world ‘queens’ kinda sums up his world view

    There is nothing inherently ‘active’ about marching/sit ins etc. they are only TOOLS which are/were appropriate for their time and place.

    There is nothing inherently ‘passive’ (and let’s face it, combined with his weoghted use of the word ‘queens’ he’s effectively meaning ‘weak’) about online campaigning.

    The sheer BEAUTY of online campaigning is that even those people who DON’T usually campaign CAN AND DO.

    It also tends to attract major Press and Media attention which is good

    Personally I think he needs to grow up

    1. Why is saying “queens” derogatory?

  63. Leonard Stevens 30 Jul 2013, 11:30pm

    Just another inactive cynic writing ‘controversial’ copy to get noticed – probably reads the Mail on Sunday…

  64. kevin Hickey 31 Jul 2013, 10:53am

    lets remember the most famous/powerful/important example of gay activism, the stonewall riots, were not led by straight acting militant radical homosexuals, but by the queens.

    1. Okay, but what’s that got to do with anything I wrote?

  65. Totally unhelpful article. Horribly cynical tone as well.

    I take it he’ll be flying out to Russia next week to chain himself naked to Putin.

  66. John Morrissey 3 Aug 2013, 12:48am

    Aren’t you guilty of exactly what you criticise? Depressingly cynical. So come on what’s this super effective protest you recommend? Ah .. Nothing

  67. I strongly suspect that none of the people the writer criticizes has an all-over feeling of smugness to compete with the writer’s.

  68. Jason Feather 4 Aug 2013, 11:07am

    Really? Social media means we are more engaged with friends, we are more literate, more connected, more open to creating new relationships, and generally more interested in the world around us.

    If one person recycles a plastic bottle you don’t berate them for doing too little. It might be a drop in the environmental ocean but that misses the point.

    Each engagement, FB, google+, twitter like etc, each petition signed, each comment responded to creates a ripple that becomes a wave that becomes a tsunami.

    So don’t stop being politically engaged on social media because some hack couldn’t think of a better subject for their latest opinion piece!

    Get angry, use those online petitions, call someone out when they’re being homophobic, write to your MP online, boycott those products etc

    You are much more powerful than you think when you are passionate about your views even if it does just involve a few clicks on the web you are part of the zeightgeist! :-)

  69. As a manager of one of these bars who are “banning vodka they don’t sell anyway” I would like to ask what else he suggests we do? By advising our customers that we do not sell Russian products (we checked everything) we have highlighted their attention to the issue. Not just the gay customers either but our straight allies who use these bars. Yes it is a passive thing but at least we are doing SOMETHING

  70. Glen Jankowski 5 Aug 2013, 1:59pm

    I liked this article. Clicktivism has it’s merits. But we need tough love. I’ve noticed friends posting on this but when I showed them a donate button they quickly went quiet.

    Clicktivism is something. It is. But it’s not all we can realistically do (donating is a step further) and I welcome a bit of shaming if it gets people to be more active.

    Now isn’t the time for in fighting anyway. We all condemn Russia’s LGBT stance. Let’s do something about it.

  71. This is satire, right?

  72. wehn we didnt have the net we didnt know so much about what is happening around the world. But it has also bread armchair prostest and apathy.

    It is easier to FB or twit a protest than to get out there and stand up.

    We have reached a level of equality here which is a great step forward, but that has lead to apathy politics.

  73. I can kind of understand the point you’re trying to make – sitting around getting angry and not buying things won’t stop what’s happening. But I think you underestimate how powerful social media is, and by making more people aware you are helping build opposition. And active activism is very hard for most. Young people, and older people otherwise closeted, can really struggle to do something helpful without outing themselves. As Stephen Fry said very recently, a boycott severe enough to impact the Russian economy is likely to be the only way to make Putin react. Don’t visit Russia. Stop them hosting the Winter Olympics. Stop buying their produce. Tell your MP to fight for us. One person on their own can’t do much, but when we all fight together and raise our voices loud enough, people will then start to listen. Don’t criticise online activism. It is more powerful than you realise.

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